Louisville’s star coach Jeff Walz has never beaten legendary UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s Huskies during his tenure with the Cardinals. And Auriemma is happy to remind him of that.
“Those guys are good, really good, and they are really good at home. How many times do you think Walz will remind them that they never beat us? A couple times? I might call him and remind him myself,” Auriemma said with a wide smile after the team’s win against UCF.
No. 3 Louisville (19-1, 7-1 ACC) are an offensive juggernaut, there is no doubt about that. They outscore its opponents 80-60 and Asia Durr is a huge reason for that. The senior excels with the ball in her hands, scoring 21 points and hitting on nearly 35 percent of her 3-point shots. Auriemma, who compared her to Kemba Walker, and his team have taken notice of her offensive prowess.
“(Durr) has the ball in her hands a lot,” Auriemma said. “So what makes it hard is she doesn’t necessarily need someone to get her the ball. She already has it. You gotta guard her right from the start of the possession and she can do a lot of things. She scores a lot of different ways.”
One of her strengths is drawing fouls from the defender. She has made 83 percent of her 89 free-throw attempts. Last year it was Kia Nurse who was tasked with limiting Durr, but this year it will be Crystal Dangerfield.
“Keep my hands off, move my feet,” Dangerfield said of what she has to do against Durr. “She does do a great job of keeping her dribble, so it’s just going to be a matter of staying down and keeping a hand high.”
No. 2 UConn (18-1, 7-0 AAC) beat the Cardinals 69-58 in Storrs last season. Durr was able to score 20 points, but she hit only 3-for-12 of her 3-point attempts. Katie Lou Samuelson got it done for UConn, scoring 26 points, including hitting on 4-for-9 from 3-point land. Dangerfield had an ‘off’ night, shooting only 2-for-10 from the field, scoring five points and dishing one assist.
Senior Napheesa Collier has been on an absolute tear this season and is only getting better as the season continues. She was named The American Conference Player of the Week for leading the Huskies against SMU and UCF. Collier scored 22 points, blocked six shots and hauled in eight rebounds against the Mustangs, while scoring 23 points and getting four steals, which is a season high.
Collier, who is averaging 18.6 points and 10 rebounds per game, is only two rebounds away from her 1,000th in a Husky uniform. She will be only the eighth UConn player to reach the milestone.
While all eyes will be on Durr, Auriemma said the team as a whole can really defend and bring a certain level of physicality to the floor.
“The same thing that made them really good last year and (they) made it to the Final Four,” Auriemma said of what makes Louisville great. “They really guard you. They play really hard. They are physical defensively. They force a lot of turnovers. They got a little bit of everything, you know.”
This will be the Huskies third top-10 matchup of the season, all on the road. UConn is 1-1 in those games with a win coming against Notre Dame, but they suffered a devastating loss to Baylor. Samuelson said Louisville is different than Baylor, but they have to remain focused on themselves as a unit.
“The main thing is just us. We were the issue when we played against Baylor,” Samuelson said. “It wasn’t necessarily what they did … The point of this game we’re focusing on is making sure we know what we’re doing, we know what we’re gonna be ready for. I think everyone is excited to play.”
Sophomore Megan Walker has been a force for UConn ever since she scored a career-high 34 points against Tulane on Jan. 16. Since then, she has scored in double-digits each game and Auriemma has said the main reason has been that she is working harder than she has in her entire life.
The game will tip-off in Louisville at 7 p.m. and can be watched on ESPN and heard on ESPN 97.9 radio.
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.