UConn ends Cards winning streak, 68-51

Top-ranked Connecticut (21-1, 10-1) handed Louisville (17-4, 8-1) its most lopsided loss of the season, 68-51 in front of 20,069 fans, and a national television audience, at Freedom Hall.

The University of Louisville had been playing its best basketball of the season. The Cardinals flew through January without a loss.

But Monday night they ran into a buzzsaw.

"We ran into a team that was much better than us tonight," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "They were a much better basketball team, and totally out of our league tonight."

Both teams came in carrying nine-game winning streaks, but the newly-minted No. 1 Huskies (21-1, 10-1) continued their surge, while the fifth-ranked Cards (17-4, 8-1) suffered their first Big East Conference setback.

UConn forward Jeff Adrien scored 18 points, while guard Jerome Dyson added 14 points, as did 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet, who also grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked four shots and altered countless others.

"(Thabeet's) presence was overwhelming," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "Samardo Samuels, we recruited him like crazy, terrific player, but I don't think he enjoyed the evening because of Hasheem...he owned the paint."

Samuels, UofL's second-leading scorer coming in (13.1 points per game), was held scoreless and took just two shots in 19 minutes.

"There's a very big difference between a fifth-year senior and a freshman," Pitino said.

And there was a big difference between this Louisville team, and the one that ran off eight straight wins to begin Big East play.

The Cards shot just 34.4 percent, including 29.4 from three-point range (5 of 17), and were outscored 40-18 in the pain.

"We're a cutting, slashing team, but we were playing like a bunch of guys from South Dakota who are great shooters," Pitino said. "Thabeet intimidated us."

Senior forward Terrence Williams scored 26 points - he was the lone Louisville player in double figures - while junior forward Earl Clark had just five points on 2-for-16 shooting.

UofL's dynamite defense, which had earmarked its win-streak, didn't seem to phase UConn much. The Huskies, who played three guards most of the game, had 16 turnovers to Louisville's 18 and outscored the Cards 20-13 in points off turnovers.

"The pressure never really bothered us, in fact it helped us," Calhoun said. "I thought that was a great advantage for us, was to attack the pressure. I thought we did a wonderful job."

UofL led 14-9 five minutes in, but then went seven minutes without a point. The Cards went travel-happy - they were whistled for several walking violations and had seven turnovers in that span - as UConn went on a 12-0 run sparked by Adrien (six points) and Kemba Walker (four points, one assist).

Edgar Sosa's steal, goal-tended layup and subsequent free throw at 7:59 ended the Cards' scoring drought and started an 8-0 spurt as T-Will followed with a three and a dunk off a Sosa steal.

"Thabeet was a big force, he was just blocking every thing," Sosa said. "Our only opportunity to get layups was to get out on the break, but we couldn't do that...him sitting in the lane, not letting us pick and roll, it was real hard for us."

Later T-Will's layup gave Louisville a 24-23 lead, but UConn outscored UofL 15-2 the rest of the half, including 10-0 in the final 3:21 when T-Will was on the bench with two fouls.

UofL shot 34.4 percent (11-for-32) from the field in the first half. Clark was the picture of the Cards' futility, shooting 2-for-13. Samuels didn't attempt a shot and played only 10 minutes because of two fouls. T-Will had 14 of the Cards' 26 points.

UConn shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26) in the first 20 minutes led by Adrien's 15 points. The muscular senior hit 6 of 9 shots, including three dunks, as the Huskies outscored the Cards 26-10 in the paint.

UConn scored the first three points of the second half and UofL couldn't get closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

UofL plays at St. John's at 1:34 p.m. Sunday.

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