When the UConn women’s basketball team takes the court on Monday night against Louisville, it marks the end of the Huskies’ rigorous non-conference schedule that featured eight ranked teams. But it may be their final test that is the toughest.
“I don’t know that we’ve played anyone as good as Louisville is right now,” said head coach Geno Auriemma. “I don’t know if we’ve played against a players as good as better as the two players Louisville has with Asia Durr, (Myisha Hines-Allen). They’re as good as any two players in the country. This will be a different kind of challenge.”
The task of guarding Durr (19.8 points per game, 46.6% from three) is too much for one singular player. Instead, it’s going to be a team effort in order to keep the 5-foot-10 guard in check.
“They’re a well oiled-machine,” said sophomore Crystal Dangerfield. “They run their offense well and mainly through one player. We’re going to have to play good team defense on her for 40 minutes.”
Not only will the Huskies be challenged on the court, Auriemma will have his hands full going against Louisville head coach Jeff Walz.
“He gets his teams to play hard,” Auriemma said. “They always come up with something. They always come in with an idea like ‘Hey if we do this, then we can take this away from Connecticut.’”
UConn holds the all-time series lead at 16-1, with the Cardinals sole win coming back in 1993. Since then, the Huskies have won every matchup, including the 2009 and 2013 national championship games.
“We’ve had some great battles with them both in the regular season, Big East Tournament, NCAA Tournament, Final Fours, it’s been great,” Auriemma said. “We’ve had a great run with them.”
When Louisville left the AAC after the 2013-2014 season, the series was put on halt for a few years before being reignited for this season. Auriemma was willing to add the Cardinals to their non-conference schedule but the interest was mostly one-sided for a few years.
“We’ve tried to get (Walz) for four years and once he called the provost office and made sure Stewie, Tuck and Moriah graduated, we couldn’t get him off the phone,” Auriemma quipped. “He was so desperate to play us.”
For UConn, the conference season can certainly drag on. But since this game comes in mid-February, it gives the Huskies one final measuring stick before the postseason.
“This is our last game like this before the tournament starts so this is going to be a really good test for us,” Senior Gabby Williams said. “We know they want to beat us really bad and they’re going to come after us so how we respond will a good test for us.”
While the game gives each team a chance to see where they stand with a few weeks left to go in the season, it doesn’t change either side’s outlook going forward.
“You don’t worry too much about what the outcome proves because I don’t know that the outcome proves anything other than we were really good that night,” he said. “I don’t know that if we win against Louisville they’re going to concede the national championship or if they beat us, we say ‘Oh there goes our chance.’”
Instead, it will just be a really good night for the sport.
“It’s a great game for women’s basketball, for our fans, for everybody,” Auriemma said. “Our building will be rocking Monday night.”