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Walz and Louisville hope to beat UConn twice in season

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30: Head coach Jeff Walz of the Louisville Cardinals instructs his team against the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs during the second half in the semifinals of the 2018 NCAA Women's Final Four at Nationwide Arena on March 30, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Jeff Walz knows that it’s extremely rare for a team to beat UConn twice in a season. Only one school has done it over the past decade and that’s Notre Dame.

He hopes to join his ACC counterpart in that small club when the Cardinals face the Huskies on Sunday in the Albany Regional finals.

Louisville has confidence after beating the Huskies in January. It was the Cardinals first win under Walz after losing 14 against their former Big East foe.

“I think it’s really important. I think that just to have that knowledge of, ‘hey, we can do this, we’ve done it in the past.’ They were at full strength when they came to our place. And at the same time, you can’t be overconfident,” Walz said. “I’m sure it’ll be out there somewhere, but when is the last time someone beat them twice in one season? Was it in ’13 maybe? Did Notre Dame beat them twice in ’13? It hasn’t happened very often.”

Actually, the Fighting Irish twice beat UConn in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

A win on Sunday would be Louisville’s second straight trip to the national semifinals. UConn will be trying to extend its record Final Four run to 12 consecutive years. It’s a streak that coach Geno Auriemma thinks is remarkable.

“It’s probably something that should be impossible to do in the real world of competitive sports,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “It should not be possible to go that many years in a row. And it’s going to get much, much more difficult each and every year from here on in.”

UConn will be trying to reach Tampa as a No. 2 seed for the first time since 2006. Walz said his team was the underdog despite the higher seeding. Betting lines concur with UConn a slight favorite. Auriemma found the whole thing amusing.

“Any time I hear these stories, I get a kick out of it. You know, I mean, I don’t remember the last time we’ve been an underdog,” Auriemma said. “Can anybody remember that, the last time somebody said Connecticut is the underdog? So maybe he’s going by that. We’ve just been the favorite so often. But I think we’re sitting on the wrong bench tomorrow, though, if we’re the favorite. They need to change the benches. And I think we’re wearing the wrong uniforms.”

HEALTH STATUS: Katie Lou Samuelson deflected talk of the back injury she suffered toward the end of the season. She had an off-game in Friday night’s win over UCLA, scoring six points on 1-for-6 shooting. She didn’t score a point until the third quarter and had her lone basket in the fourth quarter when she converted a steal into a three-point play.

“At this point in the season, it’s all mind over matter,” the senior said. “There’s people all over the country that are playing still that have injuries and have little things that are bothering them. Stuff that’s going on with me, I’m not letting it affect me. I’m doing whatever I can to feel my best, but mentally if I feel good, then that’s good enough.”

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