UConn and Louisville Round III Monday night.
UNCASVILLE: Well, Louisville got their wish.
The Cardinals will get a third shot at the UConn women again on Monday night, this time with the inaugural American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship on the line.
In semi-final action on Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the top ranked team in the nation from Storrs put on an absolute clinic in dismantling of Rutgers by an 83-57 score while Louisville may have been guilty of looking forward a bit in getting by USF by a 60-56 final.
Twice over the past two weeks, Cardinal players have come out and said in essence that they thought they were very close to getting the better of a team that has now won 33 in a row this season and beat them by 20 at home just last week.
Maybe and why not. Why not think you have a shot, if you don’t just hand the hardware over Monday afternoon so folks can lose a couple more quarters playing “Wheel of Fortune” on the slots.
No coach would ever want his or her team to think they had no chance but do you poke the bear when it’s feeding season?
Last week, Louisville standout Shoni Schimmel felt her team was going to “Get them one of these times, we are close.”
On Sunday, senior Asia Taylor said she felt the Huskies were “definitely beatable”.
Granted, the Huskies did lose the second half against C. Vivian Stringer and company by a 38-33 score but wait, they were up 50-19 entering the last 20 minutes and last time we checked, winning half’s counts for about how much I usually win at that “Wheel of Fortune” slot.
Now if we look at the two players who have made said statements, the previous two meetings this year don’t exactly hold massive, confidence building stats.
In two games, Schimmel, who hit the game winner with six seconds left on Sunday to take care of the Bulls, has scored 18 points on 8-29 shooting.
Taylor was impressive in the first meeting with the Huskies, scoring 18 points but was shut down at home in front of her home crowd and ended with but two points.
Rivalries and drama are two things sorely missing from most of the UConn schedule so far this season.
Most look ahead to a possible matchup with Tennessee and Notre Dame late in the NCAA Tournament for the next time Geno Auriemma and company may get pushed.
For the sake of the AAC Tournament, most hope it’s going to be a good game on Monday night, the regular season has been less than dramatic for the players from Storrs.
But, dear friends, if the Huskies show up and do anything close to what they did against the Scarlett Knights on Sunday afternoon when they jumped out to a 13-0 lead before the Knights could find the bottom of the rim at the 16:41 mark in the first half.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis nailed a pair of three’s on her way to a 19-point game that saw her make five of her nine long ball attempts.
All this while not yet playing at the top of her game after battling injuries or illness all season, an issue that her coach addressed after the win.
“Kaleena is still nowhere near as consistent as she was in her freshman year or last year,” Auriemma said. “On a scale of 1-10, I’d say she is no more than a five right now.”
That can never be good news for teams facing UConn down the line. KML is looking to get better. Good luck with that.
Anything and everything was working superbly in the best first half the Huskies have played all season and at the best time.
On defense, the Scarlett Knights were forced to go right up against the shot clock numerous times in the half and even when they did commit a turnover, their defense bailed them out, Breeana Stewart in particular.
Stewart appeared out of nowhere to block a fast break attempt by Betnijah Laney that blew the home crowd out of their seats, swatting the ball out of bounds just before Laney was to lay it in.
Mind you, her team was up by 25 at the time but every possession is important to a team who play as much against themselves as their opponents.
“I thought I got there too late,” Stewart said afterwards. “We don’t like to give up any easy points.”
Before you knew it, it was mercifully halftime and the score told the story of just how dominant the No. 1 ranked team in the nation had been for 20 minutes at 50-19.
Stewart would lead five scorers in double figures with 22 while Stefanie Dolson (15), Bria Hartley (12) and Moriah Jefferson (10) pitching in.
Auriemma is ready for the challenge that lies ahead on Monday night and understands the Cardinals will come ready to play.
“It’s never easy playing a team twice within a span of a week,” Auriemma said. “They do things that we struggle against and we do things they struggle with.”
That being said, have the comments by the Louisville players given a team that needs no motivation a little more? Isn’t there a rule about poking the bear?
That question should be answered by about nine o’clock on Monday night.
Will the No. 1 team in the country continue this roll or will the Cardinals come away with a very important win for them as both teams prepare for the tournament?
It’s why they play the games and it should be a good one. Stay tuned.