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women’s basketball Huskies’ season is far from over

February 1, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Geno Auriemma thought his record against Louisville — 17-1 — was almost too good to be true.

Thursday night, everyone saw why.

Like UConn, Louisville is a Final Four contender. And the No. 3 Cardinals played up to their potential in a 78-69 victory over the No. 2 Huskies at the KFC Yum Center before a crowd of 17,023.

The Cardinals (20-1) led for all but 8 minutes and 41 seconds, handing the Huskies (18-2) a rare second loss.

Forward Napheesa Collier led UConn with 20 points and also had eight rebounds and six assists.

Here’s five takeaways from the Bluegrass State:

THE BIG PICTURE: First, some facts. The Huskies are 18-2, meaning they’ll end this season with more than one defeat for the first time since 2012-13. (They won their eighth national championship that year, by the way.) The two teams that beat them will likely be ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in next week’s Associated Press poll.

Now, some perspective. This isn’t a vintage UConn team. The Huskies at the moment lack a game-changing player, a Breanna Stewart- or Diana Taurasi-type talent capable of winning a game by herself. They lack depth, and at the same time, have watched freshman Christyn Williams go into a deep freeze offensively.

And, believe it or not, they still have as good a shot as anyone at capturing their 12th title in a few months. Notre Dame? Baylor? Louisville? Oregon? Mississippi State? They all have flaws, just like the Huskies.

The NCAA Tournament is looking to be a crapshoot. Thursday’s loss didn’t change that.

DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM: In their loss to Baylor, the Huskies missed a flurry of open shots. They shot only 29 percent — their worst in 20 years.

While the Huskies fared better from the floor against Louisville, shooting 38 percent, including 8-of-21 from 3-point range, there still were far too many missed opportunities. There was too much one-on-one play, too many ill-advised shots that had little chance of going in. There was too little ball movement.

The Huskies had only 14 assists on their 22 field goals.

STAR POWER: Asia Durr scored 24 points, including 14 in the second quarter as Louisville took a 40-38 lead into halftime.

Meanwhile, the other All-American on the floor just couldn’t find her rhythm. Katie Lou Samuelson had a relatively quiet night, notching 16 points (5-of-13).

In the Huskies’ three games against Top-10 opponents this season, Samuelson’s averaged 14.3 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

WHERE’S THE BOOST?: Olivia Nelson-Ododa provided some help in the paint, recording six rebounds across 14 minutes, but for the most part, UConn’s bench authored the same old story.

They were largely unproductive, getting outscored 20-2. Guard Dana Evans accounted for 18 of those points for Louisville, magnifying one of the Huskies’ biggest weaknesses.

WHAT’S LEFT?: UConn missed a grand opportunity to bolster its resume. Here we are in February, and yet the Huskies still only have one win over a current Top-25 team (Notre Dame).

And, because the American Athletic Conference lacks any sizzle, the Huskies will have only one more marquee game before the postseason: Feb. 11 against No. 16 South Carolina in Hartford.

That’ll likely work against the Huskies’ seeding in March. ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme tweeted that he would drop the Huskies to a No. 2 seed in his updated bracket.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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