UConn notebook: Cardinals’ stop the 3-ball; Smith plays like All-American

Some news, notes and quotes from Saturday’s 81-48 No. 19 UConn loss to No. 11 Louisville.

WOW MOMENTS!: The Cardinals dominated the series at the end of the Big East days and that has carried over to The American. However, not even coach Rick Pitino expected to beat the Huskies by such a margin in the final regular-season conference meeting between the schools. Louisville leaves for the ACC after this season.

“Yeah, it was surprising, but they have had trouble of late scoring,” Pitino said. “We played a match-up trapping zone, and it was really tough to score against us.”

The Huskies have thrived on the perimeter all season, but were just 3 of 22 from 3-point range, which resulted in a season-low 13.6 percent. Shabazz Napier was 1-for-10 and Niels Giffey, who came in shooting 57.1 percent in the last three games, was only 0-for-1.

“We took away the three-point shot completely until the end of the game,” Pitino said. “When you have great players like Shabazz with no points and you look at their team and the volume of threes they shoot, and you don’t give up a three, it was a pretty special defensive performance.”

Napier’s lone 3-pointer came in the second half, where the Cardinals outscored UConn 51-30.

“It’s a tough match up because they play zone,” Napier said. “We always have trouble with guys who play it. They understand that Connecticut is guard oriented, and if they can stop the guards, make the forwards and the centers be the reason why you lost, you are going to have an easier battle with them.

“Just the zone, that’s the biggest thing.”

TOURNAMENT TIME: The AAC Tournament tips off Wednesday in Memphis with two first-round games.

No. 10 South Florida plays No. 7 Rutgers at 7 p.m. while No. 8 Temple and No. 9 Central Florida meet at 9:30.

Cincinnati, which split the regular-season title with Louisville, won the postgame coin toss for the top seed. It will play the winner of UCF-Temple at 7 p.m. in one of four quarterfinal games Thursday.

No. 6 Houston and No. 3 SMU meet at 1 p.m. and No. 2 Louisville plays the USF-Rutgers winner at 3 p.m. No. 4 UConn and No. 5 Memphis play the night cap, which is slated to start at 9 p.m.

MR SMITH COMES THROUGH: Louisville senior Russ Smith scored a season-low three points, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a factor in the win.

In 30 minutes, Smith dished out a career-high 13 assists to go with four steals.

Russ is a great player, he played the game,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “He let the game play him. If everyone is loading up (on him), he passed. That’s what great players do. That’s what All-Americans do. And he’s an All-American.

“When you load up, you pass.”

William Paxton