Women's Basketball: UConn tops Louisville for a third time this season to win AAC crown
UConn's Breanna Stewart attempts to block a shot during a game against the Louisville Cardinals Monday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. The Huskies topped the Cardinals 72-52 to capture the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament championship.
UNCASVILLE- It is extremely hard for a team in any sport to beat their opponent all three times they match up. The two opponents know each other too well, and it's easy for the dominant team to slip up. However, the UConn women's basketball team did not waver against Louisiville in the American Athletic Conference tournament finals, as they defeated the Cardinals 72-52.
Breanna Stewart drained a three pointer 21 seconds into the game while Bria Hartley countered that with a 3-pointer of her own to give UConn a 6-0 lead seconds into the game. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had two steals within minutes as well, adding to Louisville's scrambled performance. Although Louisiville regained their composure, UConn used the Cardinals' hesitance in the first few minutes to gain a solid lead.
"We did some good things but at the same time we didn't do enough to them," Louisville's head coach Jeff Walz said. "It's a 20-point game, but like I told my kids it's not like it was a gradual 20 points. We let them get there too quick, and when we start defending and doing things well, they weren't able to extend it."
Unlike Rutgers who did not take a single three against the Huskies, Louisville did not shy from behind the arc. Shoni Schimmel attempted nine three-point shots and made only two in the first half. Although the Cardinals' frequent offensive play was a 3-point shot, it wasn't powerful enough for the Huskies backcourt. Louisville was 4-15 behind the arc and 9-32 in field goals in the first half.
The game was scrappy at times and hard fought. Antonita Slaughter fouled out of the game late in the second half ,while Schimmel struggled to stay in the game with four fouls of her own. Although backup guard Jude Schimmel played quite a bit due to Louisville's rough play, she was unable to make an impact against the Huskies. The younger Schimmel racked up six points and two rebounds in the 30 minutes played.
Stewart led the Huskies with 20 points, followed by Hartley with 16 points. Stefanie Dolson racked 11 rebounds in the first half alone. She had 16 total rebounds along with 10 points to gain her twelfth double double of the season. Four of the five UConn starters were able to get double-digit points.
"(Stewart and Hartley) are unbelieveable. They are 34-0 for a reason," Walz said. "They are two of the top ten players in the country. I personally think you had three of the top-ten players in the country on the floor today, Shoni being one of them, and you know Stewie and Hartely are great. They are talented players."
Although Schimmel did her best to keep the Cardinals in the game she was the only player to make a dent in the UConn backcourt. Schimmel racked up 20 points in the game while the rest of the team did not make it to double digits. Combined, the team scored eight points more than Schimmel's 20.
"It's going to take 40 minutes of very good basketball in order for anybody to beat them," Walz said. "You can't play for 20, you can't play for 30 it takes 40 minutes of good basketball."
Hartley, Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis were named to the All-Tournament team, while Stewart was named the Most Outstanding player in the American Athletic Conference. These four players made a huge impact on the team as they continued to dominate the court. When the players are flowing together, it is hard to contain the Huskies.
"Things are definitely clicking and we went out there and played extremely well as a team," Dolson said. "We executed on offense, we played great defense. There's always room for improvement because every team is going to keep getting better. We can't stay complacent and not get better ourselves."
Although the team is clicking at the right time, UConn has to stay grounded and continue to execute the way they have been in the past few games. The Huskies and Cardinals are bound to match up again in the remainder of the postseason, however Walz has not lost confidence from the three UConn losses and remains confident in his team's abilities.
"We know that we very well could play them again. I believe we can beat them, I mean hell, what do you play the game for?" Walz said.
Although Walz realizes what the rest of the league is up against, he said he believes that it is possible for someone to upset the Huskies.
"If nobody thinks that they can be beat, lets save a bunch of money not have the tournament and give them the trophy now. Everyone thought the same thing about Baylor last year. It might not be us that (beats them)," Walz said.
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