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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Louisville Cardinals remain steadfast in their belief that they can beat UConn.
They might get another chance in a week in the American Athletic Conference tournament championship game if both make it that far.
The third-ranked Cardinals played UConn tough for about 15 minutes before the top-ranked Huskies took over en route to a 68-48 victory Monday night.
"We know we're capable of beating them," said Sara Hammond. "I think if there's any team in the country, I think we're the most capable because we've played them so many times."
Shoni Schimmel, who had nine points but was 1-for-6 from the three-point line, echoed the sentiment.
"We're going to get them one time, I promise you that," she said. "Whether it be a conference championship game, or a national championship game, whatever it may be we're going to get them."
Told of Schimmel's declaration, UConn's Breanna Stewart responded: "She said she was going to get us, but we just won the conference. If we see them in the conference tournament, which we might, I think it's going to be a difficult game again. But I'm glad I play on this team."
Louisville has a lot to improve on if the Cardinals plan to back up their conviction.
Like many UConn opponents this season, the Cardinals (28-3, 16-2 American Athletic Conference) have yet to find a winning formula against the Huskies (31-0, 18-0), who beat Louisville in last year's national title game. UConn has won 14 straight since Louisville won the series' first meeting in 1993.
Louisville's home loss was its first since falling 73-62 to South Florida on Feb. 20, 2013. It spoiled the home finale for four Cardinals seniors including Gibbs — who had a team-high 16 points.
Hammond added 12 points as the Cardinals' five-game win streak was snapped.
UConn meanwhile extended its win streak to 37, the third longest in school history.
As in previous matchups with Louisville, Stewart was the playmaker. The forward had a team-high 22 points and 14 rebounds.
The Huskies outrebounded the Cardinals 47-30, outscored them 15-2 on second chance baskets. UConn also scored 18 points off 16 Louisville turnovers.
"We got some really good looks, the problem is you have to play pretty much not a perfect game, but real close on the defensive end of the floor," he said. "That's what killed us."
Louisville had the momentum early. The Cardinals raced to a 7-0 lead and were energetic on the court, sharing high-fives and urging the school-record crowd of 22,163 to cheer.
The Cardinals maintained an advantage until the Huskies took their first lead, 21-20, on a three-point basket by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (13 points, 10 rebounds) with 12:29 left in the first half.
Louisville kept it close until UConn went on am 11-0 run for a 32-22 lead and eventual 43-31 halftime advantage. Louisville got within 10 in the second half but was unable to keep pace with the Huskies afterward.
Whether the Cardinals can secure a No. 1 seed remains to be seen, but they have UConn coach Geno Auriemma's vote.
"Absolutely. I think they're a No. 1 seed," he said. "They've done everything they're supposed to do. They don't have any bad losses. Usually, that's what hurts you in the NCAA tournament, if you had a bad loss or two."
The 28-3 regular season record is the best in program history for Louisville. The Cardinals were 27-3 in 2008-09.
As part of Senior Night festivities, Schimmel, Gibbs, Asia Taylor, Antonita Slaughter were recognized prior to the game and a video of their career highlights was shown.
"It's a bittersweet moment, to know we've made it this far and we've been through a lot," Gibbs said. "To know that our college careers are coming to an end is a sad day, but we still have a lot of basketball to play. The season isn't over for us."
It was also Native American Appreciation Night. Shoni Schimmel and sister Jude, a Cardinals junior guard, are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in Oregon.
Musicians and dancers representing 17 different tribes performed at halftime. Fans from more than 40 states made the trip despite wintry weather and showed their support for the Schimmels with homemade signs. Fans met the sisters during a postgame autograph session.