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NCAA women's basketball final: Can Louisville beat UConn?

April 09, 2013
  • Louisville players celebrate after knocking off California to advance to the NCAA championship game.
Louisville players celebrate after knocking off California to advance… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Louisville is a No. 5 seed that beat a No. 1 seed (defending champion Baylor) and a pair of twos (Tennessee and California) on its way to a date with another No. 1 seed, women's basketball powerhouse Connecticut, in the NCAA championship game Tuesday night.

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss whether the Cardinals can pull off one more upset to claim the national championship. Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment of your own.

Mike Hiserman, Los Angeles Times

Can they? Sure. Will they? No.

Louisville’s best shot at defeating Connecticut is to do what it did when it felled top-ranked Baylor and Brittney Griner: make a bunch of three-pointers and get away with second-degree assault around the basket.

The Cardinals made 16 three-pointers against Baylor, and the three-point shooting of Antonita Slaughter was the difference in Louisville pulling away from California at the end of the national semifinal. Slaughter made six three-pointers against Cal, though the Cardinals were only eight of 21 from long range and leading scorer Shoni Schimmel was one of eight.

Schimmel and Slaughter must be on target for Louisville to have any shot at winning Tuesday, and UConn’s many scoring options will have to be contained, or, as with Baylor, mugged.

Schimmel and Slaughter were a combined three-for-14 from three-point range when these teams met in a Big East Conference game at Storrs in January. UConn won, 72-58 -- and that was without super freshman Breanna Stewart, who was held out because of an ankle injury.

Stewart, a 6-4 forward, was a handful as the Huskies advanced by beating Notre Dame on Sunday. She had a career-high 29 points and also four blocked shots. She’s averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.

John Altavilla, Hartford Courant

There is a distinct possibility Louisville could beat UConn on Tuesday night for the NCAA women's basketball championship.

Didn't the Cardinals chop down Brittney Griner, the sequoia of the game, in the Sweet 16?

Didn't they push aside iconic Tennessee in the Elite Eight?

Didn't they recover from a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off California in the national semifinals?

Yes, yes and yes …

And no. Taking down UConn is a different deal, even with the Louisville Slugger, Shoni Schimmel, on your side. Too many things need to happen for the Cardinals to win. And beating teams like Baylor and UConn in the same tournament just don't happen in the women's game.

Iliana Limón Romero, Orlando Sentinel

Perhaps the question should be can UConn do enough to beat Louisville, which has collected upsets of powerhouse programs this NCAA tournament.

The Cardinals knocked down 16 three-pointers against Baylor, prompting Bears coach Kim Mulkey to say, "Compliment and credit Louisville.  If Louisville can hit 16 threes a game, good Lord, they'll win a national championship."

The Cardinals have relied on aggressive, physical defense and a strong transition game to build big leads and erase deficits during their tournament run.

And forget about Louisville's 72-58 loss to UConn in January. The Cardinals are a different team now. Point guard Shoni Schimmel started the year about 20 pounds over her normal playing weight. It took longer than usual for her to get into top physical form and shake off turnover problems that hounded her in December and January.

Now Louisville sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel are in top form and should truly challenge UConn.

Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune

So how can you write off Louisville after it beat Baylor? Here’s how: Connecticut has won 12 straight over the Cardinals, including a 14-point January victory without an injured Breanna Stewart -- now the country’s hottest player. 

The Huskies will get up on Louisville’s Antonita Slaughter, who feasted on uncontested looks to ring up seven three-pointers on Baylor and six more on Cal in the semis. UConn’s Bria Hartley appears to have regained her confidence, and the defense of Kelly Faris and Moriah Jefferson made life miserable for Irish star Skylar Diggins. 

Louisville coach Jeff Walz said Monday, “We're gonna have to play 40 minutes of pretty much perfect basketball, which I think we can." But not against a UConn team that has peaked in the tourney.

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