The newly minted No. 1 in the land Connecticut Huskies, traveled to Freedom Hall in Louisville to take on the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals in a classic match-up of the top two teams (as ranked in preseason) in the Big East Conference.
It was also a showdown between the two hottest teams in the country. Both teams entered the contest riding nine-game winning streaks. Louisville (17-4) began playing their best basketball right after losing to UNLV in non-conference play. From there they went on to play undefeated ball through eight games in the Big East and defeat in-state rival Kentucky.
So the two teams were hot, they were amped and the house was rocking. Let’s get to the game.
Breakdown: The game changed when UConn forward Stanley Robinson picked up a quick second foul about three minutes into the game. From there the Huskies went to a three guard lineup that featured three of the following four for the rest of the game — A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker — which handled the Louisville press defense perfectly and attacked the lanes for easy points in the paint. The UConn frontline, led by Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, intimidated that of the Cardinals who looked timid by the late first half. That left Louisville playing from the outside and they just couldn’t get the job done from out there. If you take away Terrence Williams who was 11-of-19 from the field for 26 points, the Cardinals were 11-of-45 shooting the entire game.
Turning point of the game: After Louisville answered a 10-0 run with an 8-0 run of their own to take a 22-21 lead with about nine minutes to play in the first half, UConn got out in transition for an easy bucket and continued to assert themselves defensively. After it was 28-26, the Huskies went on to score the final 11 points of the half, building a 13-point lead.
Player of the game: With all due respect to Hasheem Thabeet (14 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks and held Samuels scoreless) and Terrence Williams (26 points and 5 boards), it was Jeff Adrien. He was 7-of-12 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line for 18 points while collecting seven rebounds. He dominated the paint and hit a big shot every time the Cardinals got a bit of momentum.
Stat of the game: How about this for dominance — the Huskies allowed the Cardinals to shoot just two free throws the entire game at home! Two. They committed just nine fouls. They remain the team that commits the fewest fouls per game in the country.
What it means: The Huskies put on a performance worthy of their ranking and truly showed that they are the best team in the country right now. If the Huskies continue to play at this level, they will cut down the nets April, no question about it.
Next up: The Huskies take five days off before hosting Michigan. Then they go back to conference play with rival Syracuse.