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Louisville 71, Connecticut 61

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The No. 5 Louisville Cardinals continued their dominating run to win the first American Athletic Conference tournament championship, defeating No. 21 Connecticut, 71-61, Saturday night at FedExForum.

Forward Montrezl Harrell led Louisville with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Russ Smith scored 19 points with three assists and five steals and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Guard Chris Jones added 11 points.

Louisville (29-5) will not have a chance to repeat next season because the school is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. But the Cardinals, who were the No. 2 seed, left their mark. They beat Rutgers by 61 points in the quarterfinals and defeated Houston by 29 points in the semifinals.

The No. 4 seed, Connecticut (26-8) went 0-3 against Louisville this season and never led Saturday night. A 14-point deficit at halftime became a 20-point margin at 15:37 of the second half when Cardinals guard Terry Rozier hit a 3-pointer for a 48-28 lead.

The final 10-point margin was close as the Huskies got in the second half.

DeAndre Daniels led UConn with 17 points and seven rebounds. Guard Shabazz Napier finished with 16 points and center Amida Brimah scored 14 points.

Louisville had a 13-4 edge on points off turnovers and a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points. The Cardinals shot 44.4 percent from the floor and UConn shot 41 percent.

Louisville closed the first half on a 10-2 run. Five of the points came in the last 34 seconds as forward Luke Hancock knocked down a three, and a steal by Smith led to a transition layup for guard Terry Rozier just before the buzzer. That gave Louisville a 37-23 lead at the half.

Smith and Harrell each had 10 first-half points and Rozier seven. Center Amida Brimah led UConn with eight points in the first half and Napier had seven.

Louisville shot 48.5 percent from the floor and UConn 38.5 percent. The Cardinals had an 18-14 edge in both rebounds and points in the paint and a 9-2 advantage on second-chance points The Huskies never had a first-half lead but the score was tied three times, the last coming at 6-6 with 16:17 to play.

NOTES: Louisville G Russ Smith’s 42 points in the victory over Houston in the AAC semifinals was the third-most in school history, the most by a player in 52 years, and three short of the school record of 45 set by Wes Unseld. … In 10 previous conference championship games, UConn was 7-3. … In the two regular-season meetings, the Cardinals beat UConn 76-64 and 81-48. … Louisville’s 92-31 victory over Rutgers in the quarterfinals was the Cardinals’ largest margin of victory since a 104-40 win over Morehead State in 2004.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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