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    UConn Women's Basketball
    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    UConn, Louisville women's teams were destined for a rematch

    UConn senior Katie Lou Samuelson answers questions in the locker room on Saturday in the NCAA Albany Regional Saturday, March 30, 2019 at the Times Union Center in Albany. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Albany, N.Y. — There is a parallel between these teams, No. 1 seed Louisville and No. 2 seed UConn, that will now play each other for a coveted spot in the Women's Final Four.

    Each boasts a senior 2,000-point scorer (UConn has two), that does more than just score. Louisville's Asia Durr and UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier can all find an open teammate, rally a roster, carry a team, all of that.

    Each has a head coach, Louisville's Jeff Walz and UConn's Geno Auriemma, who revel in being the wise-guy sometimes, who are capable of distracting media attention from their players with their witticisms and with their comfort level. Both are men who can flat out coach.

    Each has been affected by injury in the postseason, with Louisville falling to Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game without senior guard Arica Carter and UConn missing Samuelson for the duration of the American Athletic Conference tourney, which the Huskies won anyway.

    And both programs like to win, need to win the Elite Eight matchup between the two which begins at noon Sunday (ESPN) at the Times Union Center.

    "We know going into it, we're going to be the underdog and that's fine," Walz said in a press conference Saturday afternoon. "I know we're the No. 1 seed here, but everybody has got we're going to be the first No. 1 seed to lose. The big talk about why in the world was Louisville a No. 1 seed and UConn not. So we're OK with that."

    "Any time I hear these stories, I get a kick out of it," Auriemma said in response to Walz's assertion that UConn is the favorite. "I think we're sitting on the wrong bench if we're the favorite. And I think we're wearing the wrong uniforms. ... We're on a losing streak with them, you know?"

    About that: UConn is 17-2 all-time against Louisville. That includes a couple of big ones, with the Huskies beating their former Big East Conference counterparts in the national championship game in 2009 and 2013.

    But Louisville won perhaps the most important meeting of all heading into Sunday's game, the most recent one. Durr scored 24 points for the Cardinals, 14 in the fourth quarter, and Dana Evans added 20 as they beat UConn 78-69 on Jan. 31 in Louisville. UConn shot 38 percent in that game, played before 17,023 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.

    Now, here they are again for the right to continue the season.

    "I think it's how competitive UConn plays and how competitive we play," Louisville junior forward Bionca Durham said of the excitement the game brings. "Both teams play hard and I know since last year when (UConn lost in the Final Four), they're playing like they got something taken from them. We just have to come in focused and ready to play."

    Forget a potential upset in Friday night's Sweet 16 round in Albany. UConn and Louisville both played to their personalities in setting up the rematch against each other.

    UConn (34-2) used equal parts, defense, poise and mettle — read: the Huskies have been there before — to come from behind late and put away No. 6 UCLA 69-61.

    Later on, defensive-minded Louisville (32-3) held No. 4 Oregon State to 30.4 percent shooting and forced 12 turnovers in a 61-44 victory, led by 17 points each from Durr and Sam Fuehring, who finished 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

    UConn is vying to get back to its 12th straight Final Four, having won 16 straight games since the loss to Louisville. Louisville, meanwhile, is a No. 1 seed for the second straight season and is attempting to get back to the Final Four.

    The programs respect each other.

    "I grew up ... like, everyone wants to go to UConn because of how good they are," Fuering said, asked her take on the Huskies. "They're a great program, great team. They are the winningest. And yeah, I feel like everyone, every young girl would want to go there."

    "They've pretty much reached the place where most people hope to go," Auriemma said of Louisville's success. "You know, they have a great program, they have great crowd support. They have great support from the university. They win. They go to the Final Four."

    Auriemma said whether UConn was the No. 1 seed or whether Louisville was for Sunday's game, this is the matchup he's been anticipating.

    "This is probably the matchup that was going to happen anyway," Auriemma said. "And we're anxious for it to get started."

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

    UConn senior Napheesa Collier answers questions in the locker room on Saturday in the NCAA Albany Regional at the Times Union Center in Albany. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    UConn junior Molly Bent works on a class assignment in the locker room on Saturday in the NCAA Albany Regional at the Times Union Center in Albany. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 2 UConn

    NCAA Elite Eight

    Location: Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y.

    Tip: noon (ESPN).

    Records: UConn 34-2 overall; Louisville 32-3.

    Last game: UConn beat No. 6 UCLA 69-61 in the Sweet 16 Friday; Louisville beat No. 4 Oregon State 61-44 in the Sweet 16 Friday.

    Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 F Megan Walker (12.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg), 6-3 G Katie Lou Samuelson (18.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg), 6-2 F Napheesa Collier (21.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.6 bpg), 5-5 G Crystal Dangerfield (13.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.6 spg), 5-11 G Christyn Williams (11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

    Louisville, 5-8 G Arica Carter (8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 apg), 5-10 G Adia Durr (21.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.2 apg), 6-0 G Jazmine Jones (7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.4 apg), 6-4 F Kylee Shook (7.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), 6-3 F Sam Fuehring (10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.0 apg).

    Noteworthy: UConn's players were watching the film of their first matchup this season with Louisville, a 78-69 loss at Louisville on Jan. 31, when UConn was No. 2 in the nation and Louisville was No. 3. "Well, we need to improve on everything," UConn leading scorer Napheesa Collier said. "We played just not our game at all. We were watching the film and we were just like, 'What were we doing?' That doesn't look like us at all, how we're playing now and how we know that we can play. So just staying composed and knowing that we need to run our stuff and not kind of getting so flustered as we did in that game." Collier had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists in that game and Crystal Dangerfield had 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Asia Durr had 24 points to lead Louisville and Dana Evans 20. Each of them had five 3s, as well. "I think we're a better team than we were when we played them the first time," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I guess they are, too, for that matter. So I think the game will reflect that." Auriemma said that Durr, who has 2,464 points in her career and is a national player of the year finalist, presents a problem with her versatility in that she can create a shot for herself or for a teammate at any time. "I think the NCAA tournament is about great players and if you happen to have one of them who's used to being in that situation - and I think Asia certainly is - I think you spend so much energy trying to defend her that you hurt yourself at some other positions. I think you've just got to be careful that you don't get caught up in watching Asia play and forget about the rest of the team." ... Both teams lost in the national semifinals last year, with Louisville falling to Mississippi State and UConn to eventual champion Notre Dame. ... UConn defeated Louisville twice in national championship games previously, winning 76-54 in 2009 and 93-60 in 2013. UConn played Louisville three times in the 2013-14 season while both were still in the Big East Conference, then went three seasons without facing the Cardinals until 2018, when the teams resumed their series. ... UConn lost multiple regular season games for the first time since 2012-13. That team, which dropped four games, won the NCAA title.

    — Vickie Fulkerson

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