On the back of a career performance from Katie Lou Samuelson, No. 2 UConn women’s basketball earned a gusty win over the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals, 80-73. The senior dropped 29 points while hitting 7-of-12 from three. Samuelson hit big shot after big shot as well as a pair of three throws in the final moments to seal the win.
With 1:47 remaining in the fourth quarter, UConn seemingly had the game in hand, up by 11. About a minute earlier, it looked like Samuelson iced the game with a three-pointer where she was also fouled.
But she missed the free throw and Louisville mounted a furious comeback, scoring 10 points in less than a minute to cut the Huskies’ lead to just two points with 26.6 remaining. UConn held on, making key free throws down the stretch and holding Louisville without a bucket the rest of the way.
At a sloppy start for both teams, the Cardinals took a four-point lead on a three-pointer from Kylee Shook seven minutes in. UConn bounced right back with a furious 10-0 run to close the first quarter leading 22-16. The threes were falling for the Huskies in this one early and often.
The UConn defense completely shut down Louisville star Asia Durr in the first quarter, holding her scoreless on 0-8 shooting.
Durr scored her first basket on the Cardinals’ opening possession of the second quarter but it was UConn’s Megan Walker who stole the show. The sophomore made her first four three-pointers while grabbing eight rebounds in the first half along with a big block of Sam Fuehring.
Once again, Louisville fought back, scoring three straight baskets to cut the Huskies’ lead down to four points. Samuelson stopped the run in its tracks by hitting a big step-back three-pointer. The teams went back and forth in the final minutes of the half but UConn went into the break with a 41-34 lead.
The Huskies were hot in the first half shooting, draining 9-of-16 threes. They also rebounded the ball well, holding a 25-19 margin on the boards and limiting the Cardinals to six second-chance points. While Louisville limits teams in transition, UConn scored 15 fastbreak points in the first half.
In the second half, the Cardinals started to find the basket easier but couldn’t stop the Huskies on the other end.
UConn pushed its lead to 10 points thanks to a three from Samuelson but shortly after, the senior picked up her fourth foul, which forced her to the bench with 2:57 left in the third. After that, Louisville went on an 8-2 run to cut the Huskies’ lead to just four points after 30 minutes.
The two teams went back and forth for much of the fourth quarter, with UConn maintaining a consistent 4-6 point buffer. The Cardinals had a chance to get within two but Fuehring’s shot was blocked and the Huskies made them pay as Christyn Williams converted an and-one on the very next possession to put UConn up seven.
Durr scored back-to-back baskets to bring it to a one-possession game but Williams extended the lead back to five points with a layup that hung on the rim and went in.
Samuelson returned after a timeout and soon thereafter converted a huge three where the was fouled but Collier grabbed the rebound, which turned into two more points for the Huskies. Despite the Louisville comeback, and the sinking feeling that the Huskies might have been collapsing, UConn held on for yet another trip to the Final Four.
All five Huskies’ starters reached double-figures. Walker earned a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Collier also notched one with 12 points and 13 boards, along with six assists.
UConn advances to its 12th straight Final Four, where they will play the winner of Notre Dame against Stanford. The national semifinals will be on Saturday, April 5th and the finals will be on Monday, April 7th.