The No. 18 Louisville Cardinals marched into Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT and showed absolutely no nerves, finding themselves composed and in control of their own game throughout the Saturday night, primetime game on ESPN. They ended up defeating the Connecticut Huskies 76-64, and showed doubters, like myself, that they are still an incredibly dangerous team and deserve respect as the defending National Champions.
With the win, the Cardinals improve to 16-3, while the Huskies fall to 14-4. In a game that included physicality, disbelief, and frustration from the UConn point of view, the Gampel Pavilion crowd made their presence known, especially to the referee trio of Brian Stuart, Brian O’Connell, and Ted Valentine, who absolutely butchered a variety of calls in favor of Louisville. One non-call in particular, when Niels Giffey drew obvious contact on a three-point shot fake, led Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie into an absolute rant-like tizzy, where he got in the face of the official who missed the call and received two technical fouls in a row and was therefore ejected. If Rick Pitino had the same response, I highly doubt he would have been tossed.
As for the game itself, the Huskies looked like they were boys playing against men. They got out-rebounded 45-30, including giving up 16 offensive rebounds. To add, Louisville held UConn to 35.2 percent shooting and just seven team assists in the entire game. The Huskies committed 24 fouls on the game, at least five of which were in question.
The trio of Russ Smith, Montrezl Harrell, and Luke Hancock controlled the game for Louisville. Smith scored 23 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the free throw line. Harrell was unstoppable down low, scoring 18 points and bringing down 13 rebounds. Hancock had 13 points and five rebounds, and remained a threat on the perimeter all game.
As for the Huskies, only one guy showed up to play: as usual, Shabazz Napier. Napier scored a game-high 30 points on 7-of-15 shooting and 11-of-13 from the free throw line. DeAndre Daniels had only three points on 1-of-9 shooting.
If this team wants to go anywhere, Daniels and Ryan Boatright, who had 10 points but was largely ineffective, have to be more consistent and show up on a nightly basis.
Lets see if the Huskies can rebound, literally and metaphorically, in their next game against the Temple Owls on Tuesday night.