By Dom Amore, Hartford Courant
MEMPHIS – The Huskies aren’t coming home empty-handed. But, at least until they get on the court again, they will have an empty feeling.
With wins over Memphis and Cincinnati, two ranked teams, to reach the final, the Huskies (26-8) can look forward to a niche in the NCAA Tournament when brackets are announced on Sunday night. Generally, bracket analysts have them as a No. 5 seed.
But Louisville (29-5), ranked fifth in the nation, which got 22 points and 11 rebounds from Montrezl Harrell and 19 points from Russ Smith, is playing as well as anyone in the country. The defending champs beat UConn for the third time this season, all by double-digit margins, and could get a No.1 seed as a result of its romp through this first-ever AAC Tournament. The Cardinals, who beat UConn by 33 in the regular season finale March 8, beat Rutgers by 61 points and Houston by 29 in Memphis.
UConn stayed reasonably close for much of the first half, but Louisville forced a series of turnovers late in the half and opened a 14-point lead. The Huskies, outrebounded 38-33, never got within single digits again.
DeAndre Daniels scored 17 for UConn, but much of that coming late. Shabazz Napier had 16 and Amidah Brimah scored 14 for the Huskies.
UConn started out a little better than last week, handling the Cardinals’ press better and contesting Louisville’s shots. But Montrezl Harrell, an unmatchable force against UConn for the third game in a row, hurt them inside for eight early points and Russ Smith, who passed up scoring chances last week, scored 10 early in here.
Toward the end of the half, Louisville’s press finally took its toll on the Huskies, and a flurry of late turnovers and easy baskets extended the Cardinals’ lead to 37-23 at the half.