LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville women's basketball team overcame a horrendous offensive start, early foul trouble, and a venue where Connecticut had never lost to take a 69-64 victory over the No. 7-ranked Huskies on Saturday in the Naismith Hall of Fame Women's Showcase at the Mohegan Sun Casino.

Louisville got 14 second-half points from Hailey Van Lith, and 11 in the second half from Kianna Smith to come from behind against a UConn team that was playing without National Player of the Year candidate Paige Bueckers.

Even short-handed, UConn hurt the Cardinals with drives to the basket early, taking a 10-point lead midway through the first quarter. Louisville, playing without standout forward Emily Engstler for most of the half after she picked up two quick fouls, stayed within striking distance with the help of Ahlana Smith off the bench.

Her nine first-half points stabilized the Cardinals, who went into the half with a 3-point deficit, then scored the first seven points of the third quarter to put UConn on its heels.

While timely shooting will draw the headlines, Louisville coach Jeff Walz credited his team's defensive effort, which kept things from getting out of hand early and held Connecticut to just 28 first-half points.

"We've talked about it all year how our defense has to fuel our offense," Kianna Smith said. "And we talk about getting three stops in a row often. So I think that was our focus, getting rebounds, and then just keeping our composure on offense. We knew that they were going to make a run and we were going make runs and we just had to have poise on offense."

Van Lith hit a pair of jumpers to open the second half, and made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to take the Cards from down one to up five in a decisive swing in the fourth quarter. She also made four free throws in the final 26 seconds to help seal the win.

Louisville shot 43% for the game from the field, and 52% in the second half, while making 8-of-15 three-point tries and 17-of-20 from the line.

UConn got a game-high 24 points from Carolina Ducharme and 10 from Christyn Williams, who had seven points at halftime but managed only a single 3-pointer in the second half.

"I know what everybody's going to say," Walz said. "They're short-handed and everything. They've had some injuries, no question about that. But they're still a pretty good ball club. I was really pleased with how we fought, how we hung in there. We took their punch in the first quarter and instead of panicking, just continued to execute and got it back to where it was a seven-point game. In the first quarter, we scored nine points. And then we started to get some things in transition. Big baskets and Ahlana Smith played a great first half for us, a great game. Kianna Smith made some big-time shots as well in that third quarter where they're just chipping away and chipping away. But to come up here and get a win, I mean, it's nice, it's a great feeling."

The Cardinals trailed for more than 26 minutes, and were outscored 38-12 in the paint, but they outscored UConn 24-9 from 3-point range and by 10 from the line.

Louisville has finished the non-conference portion of its schedule. It's next game comes on Dec. 30 against Boston College in the KFC Yum! Center.

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