And then there were two! The No.2 seed Louisville Cardinals (28-5, 15-3) will face the No.4 seed Connecticut Huskies (26-7, 12-6) for the inaugural AAC Tournament Championship today at 6:00 PM EST at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Both teams are very familiar with each other after facing each other twice this season with the Cards winning both games. This is also the fourth straight year that Louisville has been in the conference championship game.
In the first meeting, Louisville won 76-64 behind the big games from Russ Smith (23 pts., 4 rebs., 2 ast.) and Montrezl Harrell (18 pts., 13 rebs., 3 blk.). Luke Hancock added 13 points. Uconn’s Shabazz Napier was a one-man-show, scorching the Cards for 30 points and four rebounds.
The most recent game wasn’t much of a game at all. Again, Harrell, Hancock and Smith led the Cards in the 81-48 romp. Harrell, who has evolved into a potential lottery pick, had another double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Hancock celebrated his senior day with 16 points (4-7 from three) and Smith showed his versatility by dishing out 13 assists. DeAndre Daniels was the lone bright spot for Uconn with 17 points while Napier was off of his usual great game. He finished with nine points and nine rebounds on 2-13 shooting (1-10 from three) but also had only one assist compared to six turnovers.
Rick Pitino teams are known to be great tournament teams and that’s a testament to how Pitino doesn’t let them overlook any team.
“The great thing about these guys is they play every team with great respect and that’s why they haven’t been upset this year because the teams they lost to are all good opponents and they play Houston as if they’re UCLA,” Pitino said. “They play Rutgers as if they’re Kentucky.”
You know the Cards will be up for the challenge ahead and Uconn is hungry to get the monkey off their back and stop the Cards recent dominance over them. The Huskies are the last team to defeat Louisville in a conference tournament, winning 69-66 in the 2011 Big East title game en route to its third national title.
Here’s a quick comparison of the two teams:
(NCAA Rank) Bold Italic = Leader
Avg. Points Scored : Cards – 82.1 (8) / Huskies – 72.6 (123)
Avg. Points Allowed: Cards – 60.8 (15) / Huskies – 63.1 (32)
FG %: Cards – 47.5% (29) / Huskies – 44.9 (137)
3-Pt. FG %: Cards – 37.1 (67) / Huskies – 38.8 (28)
3-Pt. FG Defense %: Cards – 29 (6) / Huskies – 32.8 (100)
Free Throw %: Cards – 65.4 (309) / Huskies – 76.0 (10)
Steals per game: Cards – 10.3 (2) / Huskies – 7.2 (58)
Assists per game: Cards – 15.6 (22) / Huskies – 12.6 (173)
Assists/Turnover Ratio: Cards – 1.49 (10) / Huskies – 1.09 (125)
Cards – 81
Huskies – 70
Player of the game: Luke Hancock with 24 points (6-9 from three) with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.