For the third time this season, UConn women’s basketball fell apart in the fourth quarter on its way to a defeat. This time, the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals outscored the No. 7 Huskies 27-19 over the final 10 minutes en route to a 69-64 victory.
Freshman Caroline Ducharme did her best to put the team on her back with a career-high 24 points — 20 of which came in the second half — and scored the Huskies’ first 10 points of the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. Louisville took the lead thanks to a 3-pointer from Hailey Van Lith with 3:55 left and never looked back.
Over the final two and a half minutes, UConn only got within a single possession once — when a Ducharme three cut the deficit to 65-62 — but it happened with just 14 seconds left. The Huskies were forced to foul and Louisville made both free throws to secure the win.
Dorka Juhász finished with 15 points and eight rebounds while Christyn Williams was the only other player in double-figures with 10 points. Evina Westbrook had six points and five turnovers.
Ducharme got UConn out on the right foot at the start of the game with an impressive sequence in which she blocked a shot, picked up the ball, took it the length of the floor and finished with a Euro-step. After Louisville answered to tie the game at 2-2, the Huskies scored the next 10 points to take an early double-digit lead.
UConn’s run started on the defensive end. UConn held the Cardinals to 1-11 shooting to start the game and didn’t allow the visitors to capitalize on second chances early on. Juhász also played a part, picking up where she left off against UCLA with a team-high seven points in the first quarter and a strong effort on the glass.
The Ohio State transfer also continued to come up in big moments. In the second quarter, Louisville got the Huskies’ lead down to four, which prompted Auriemma to take a timeout. Out of the huddle, Juhász scored and Williams followed it with a jumper to push the gap back to eight points.
At that point, the Cardinals deployed a more aggressive press defense and forced UConn into poor decisions with the ball. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Louisville’s Ahlana Smith brought the score to 24-22 and even though Aaliyah Edwards stopped the bleeding with a reverse, the visitors hit another triple to get within one point. Ducharme found the basket on a back-cut with 30 seconds left, which sent UConn into the locker room with a 28-25 lead.
Out of the half, Louisville quickly flipped the game around. The Cardinals scored the first seven points while the Huskies couldn’t buy a bucket, which forced a timeout from Auriemma. Though Westbrook scored to stop the wave, that only proved to be temporary. Louisville scored five straight baskets at one point and took a six point lead — its largest of the day to that point.
Ducharme hit UConn’s first 3-pointer of the day midway through the period, which sparked a 7-0 run from the freshman to re-take the lead. Though the Cardinals briefly pulled it back with two baskets, the Huskies grabbed it again with strong post play.
UConn the. scored six-straight points — all of which were courtesy of bully-ball in the paint — and went into the fourth quarter up 45-42. While Ducharme extended the advantage to six points with a 3-pointer to open the final period, Louisville used a 9-0 run to pull back ahead.
Although Ducharme nabbed back-to-back baskets to retake the lead, Van Lith responded with two straight 3-pointers to put Louisville ahead for good.
UConn dominated the low post with a 38-12 advantage on points in the paint and an 18-8 advantage in second chance points, but the Huskies shot just 3-15 from beyond the arc.
This is UConn’s first-ever loss at Mohegan Sun after winning its first 30 contests at the casino. The Huskies drop to 6-3 on the season.
Next, UConn will have nine days off before returning to action on Wednesday, Dec. 29 against Marquette.