The first game of the Elite Eight was an instant classic that came down to the wire. UConn lost when these two teams met in the regular season, but came out on top in the rematch to punch their ticket to Tampa.
Despite being down by 11 with two minutes remaining on the clock, Louisville was able to climb back within two points to bring the game down to the wire.
“I mean, we fought hard, and that’s what shows,” said Asia Durr of her team’s effort in the final stretch. She added, “That’s what makes us us. We don’t stop fighting. It really doesn’t matter how much we’re down by.”
Louisville's fight gave the crowd an exciting finish, and a nerve-wracking one for the heavily concentrated UConn contingent . But, the Huskies prevailed thanks to a tremendous game from beyond the arc.
It was UConn’s three-point shooting that lifted them to the early lead and allowed them to hold onto it through the final buzzer. In the first half, it was Megan Walker knocking them down as Louisville's defense smothered Napheesa Collier inside. The sophomore started the game 4–4 from three-point range, even hitting one seconds after slipping her missing shoe back on.
“I’ve got to give credit to Megan Walker. Megan Walker was the difference in the first half,” said Jeff Walz. “I thought we did a really good job on Napheesa. But we backed off of Walker at times to help on Collier, and she knocked down shots,” he added.
Walker was the difference maker for the Huskies early on, but it was Katie Lou Samuelson that really stole the show. After a very quiet night against UCLA, where she had just five points, Samuelson had 29 points for the Huskies in the Elite Eight victory. She fought through her back injury to nail seven three-pointers for UConn, finishing 7–12 from beyond the arc and carrying UConn to the Final Four.
“She made some shots today that only really special players make at this particular time. This is when players separate themselves in these games,” said Auriemma of Samuelson’s performance.
And as UConn heads to a record 12th straight Final Four, Samuelson couldn’t be more excited to take the court with this group of Huskies at least one more time noting, “This team is special. And every single one of these girls are my best friends, and I’m glad that I get this chance to go to the Final Four one last time.”
Key Stats from Friday’s Regional Final:
- Katie Lou Samuelson had 29 points on just 17 true shooting attempts. She scored 1.71 points per scoring attempt, 1.45 points per play and shot 58 percent from three-point range.
- Asia Durr set a new career high in her final game in a Cardinals jersey with 9 rebounds. Durr collected over 25 percent of UConn’s missed shots.
- Megan Walker carried UConn to their halftime lead with 12 first half points. She finished the game 4–7 from three-point range for the Huskies.
- Even in a game where she struggled from the floor in the first half, Napheesa Collier still put on a performance worthy of the Most Outstanding Player of the Albany regional. Collier recorded her seventh consecutive double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. She also had 6 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.
- As a team, the Huskies shot 43 percent from the floor, but scored 1.19 points per shooting attempt. UConn shot the lights out from three, ending the game having shot 54 percent from beyond the arc compared to just 34 percent from two-point range.