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Post-championship game breakdown: Louisville

GavinKeefe

Publication: theday.com

Published March 16. 2014 4:00AM

UConn’s post-American Athletic Conference Championship game theme focused on moving on.

The Huskies will be selected as an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament come the Selection Sunday show tonight.

Their conference tournament run ended with a 71-61 loss to Louisville Saturday. No shame in losing to the fifth-ranked team in the country.

The Cardinals are playing scary good basketball and deserved to win.

“It’s time to put it behind us and move forward and prepare for the NCAA tournament,” junior DeAndre Daniels said.

 Here’s a post-game breakdown:

 -- For the second time in the last couple of weeks, coach Kevin Ollie talked about winning a national championship.

“We want to win a national championship,” Ollie said in his post-game remarks. “I still believe in this team. … We’re going to go deep in this tournament. That’s our goal.”

-- Overall, it was a great tournament for the Huskies, who beat ranked teams in Memphis and Cincinnati before falling toLouisville.

 -- Saturday’s championship game was basically decided near the end of the first half when Louisville went on a 10-2 run to extend its lead to 14 at the break.

The Cardinals led by as many as 20 in the second half.

 -- For the third straight game in the series this season, UConn struggled to solve a swarming match-up zone. The Huskies started to exploit the middle of the zone in the second half but it was too late.

“We just didn’t find our rhythm,” senior Shabazz Napier said.

 -- The Huskies have lost nine of the last 10 games in the series. The Cardinals are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

“I wish them the best of luck in the ACC and this American Conference is going to be great,” Ollie said.

Tulsa, which is joining the AAC next season, qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning Conference USA.

 -- UConn played better in the second half than first half. The Huskies shot 38.5 percent compared to 50 percent after intermission. They committed nine of their 13 turnovers in the first half. They limited Louisvilleto 32 percent shooting in the second half after allowing 48.5 percent.

 -- Louisville’s backcourt of Russ Smith and Chris Jones combined for 30 points, out-scoring the UConn duo of Napier and Ryan Boatright who had 23 points.

Smith, who averaged 25.7 points in three tournament games, earned Most Outstanding Player honors. Jones and Napier made the all-tournament team.

 -- Daniels scored in double figures for the fourth straight game, finishing team highs in points (17) points and rebounds (11).

 -- Freshman Amida Brimah had an impressive first conference tournament championship game, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes off the bench. It was his second highest scoring output of his short career.

 -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino on winning the AAC Championship: “We’re super excited to win our third straight championship. To win a regular season championship and tournament championship is not easy.”

 -- Ollie on falling short of winning a conference tournament title: “We didn’t come down here to win a semifinal game. We came down here to win a championship. It didn’t happen but I think our guys gave it their all and they played with their hearts and that’s all I can ask of these guys each and every day.”

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