(3) Connecticut 71

(16-1, 4-1 Big East)

(17) Louisville 58

(13-5, 1-4 Big East)

9:00 PM ET, January 21, 2006

1 2 T
#3CONN 30 4171
#17LOU 27 3158

Top Performers

Connecticut: J. Adrien 9 Pts, 12 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Louisville: D. Padgett 27 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

UConn takes out Louisville, in position for No. 1 ranking

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Marcus Williams wasn't about to let Connecticut's chance to grab the nation's top ranking slip away.

Williams scored 15 points and Rudy Gay added 12 as No. 3 Connecticut pulled away late in a 71-58 victory over Louisville (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP). Following losses earlier in the day by No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Florida, the Huskies could ascend to the top spot when the new rankings come out on Monday.

"It's an open door we could step right into," Williams said. "But it's just a ranking in January. I don't think we know how good we are yet. I think we need a couple more victories."

"It means a lot to a freshman to come into UConn and be number one, but it's just a label," added Connecticut forward Jeff Adrien.

It's a label the Huskies (16-1, 4-1 Big East) could wear pretty well if they can dominate the way they did in the final five minutes against the undermanned Cardinals (13-5, 1-4). Connecticut finished the game on a 12-3 run after allowing the injury-depleted Cardinals to keep it interesting for most of the night.

David Padgett scored a career-high 27 points for Louisville, but the Cardinals shot just 2-of-20 from 3-point range and couldn't stop the Huskies in the second half.

"They're just physically more talented," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino after his team dropped its third straight. "They're bigger and better."

And the Huskies showed it over the final 4:12. After the Cardinals drew within 59-55 on a jumper by Juan Palacios, Williams took over. He hit a runner in the lane to push the Connecticut lead to six, then ended Louisville's upset bid two minutes later with a steal and layup that pushed the lead to 12.

"Marcus is not the scorer, but he is the runner of the team," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "He gets the ball to the right people in the right time at the right spots."

There were plenty of spots to be found in the second half, as the Huskies shot 68 percent from the field and attacked the rim after settling for jumpers in a sloppy and lethargic first half.

"[Pitino] really made a decision for us not to run and get in a race, to grind it out," Calhoun said. "I thought we could grind it out. We didn't take a bad shot the last four minutes coming down the stretch and made our free throws."

Louisville kept it close even without leading scorer Taquan Dean, who missed his second straight game nursing a sprained ankle. That left Pitino with the daunting task of snapping a two-game conference losing streak using seven new faces in front of a national television audience.

In the end, the Cardinals simply couldn't keep up with the older, more experienced Huskies.

"What they need down the stretch is experience," Calhoun said. "It's what we have. Our experience and our toughness won this game."

With the Cardinals struggling from the outside, Padgett took it upon himself to keep the Cardinals in it. Using a variety of hooks, layups and pump fakes, Padgett frustrated the Huskies and kept Louisville afloat.

"We played 35 minutes with the best team in the country," Padgett said. "Those guys are just really talented and a really good basketball team. I thought we played pretty well in the first half and like I said, we just broke down a little bit towards the end."

The Huskies appeared to be in control after building a 12-point lead in the first half, holding Louisville scoreless for more than five minutes.

Yet Louisville rallied behind the play of Terrence Williams. His seven rebounds kept the Cardinals competitive on the glass and his energy seemed to rub off on his teammates.

Despite shooting just 31 percent from the floor -- including 0-of-9 from 3-point range -- Louisville trailed just 30-27 at the half by taking care of the ball while forcing Connecticut into sloppy mistakes.

Connecticut turned the ball over nine times, with the normally sure-handed Marcus Williams giving it away twice.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 71 58
FG Made-Attempted 24-46 (.522) 24-66 (.364)
3P Made-Attempted 4-13 (.308) 2-20 (.100)
FT Made-Attempted 19-23 (.826) 8-10 (.800)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 13 (0/0) 18 (0/0)
Largest Lead 13 2

2005-06 Season

» Jan 21, 2006 CONN 71, @LOU 58Recap
Mar 4, 2006 @CONN 84, LOU 80Recap