U of L women: All eyes on men's final

Several reporters tried to ask the University of Louisville women’s basketball players if they took any inspiration from Villanova’s famous 1985 upset of Georgetown in the national championship game after the Hoyas had beaten the Wildcats twice during the regular season.

“Who?” U of L freshman Gwen Rucker said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

No, the U of L players weren’t interested in parallels with the ’85 Villanova men (who lost by just 2 and 7 points in two losses to the Hoyas, not the 28 and 38 that UConn beat U of L by, though that Villanova team did lose its regular-season finale by 23).

What U of L’s players are intersted in is tonight’s men’s championship game in which Michigan State, which lost to North Carolina by 35 in the regular season, will face the Tar Heels again for the title.

“If we don’t have film, I’ll be watching and I’ll be very interested,” U of L senior Candyce Bingham said. “I’m sure Michigan State feels the same way we do, that they’re a better team right now and that they have a chance.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after Sunday’s semifinal win over Stanford: “I wish we were playing anybody but Louisville Tuesday night. Anybody. I don’t care who. . . . The last team you want to play is a team that you beat the way we beat them the two times we played them. And especially the last time.”

The last meeting was a 38-point UConn win in the Big East Tournament championship in Hartford, a game in which the Huskies led by as many as 43 and in which U of L coach Jeff Walz said “we just quit.”

“Obviously,” Auriemma said, “we’ll be interested to see how tonight’s (men’s championship) game goes between North Carolina and Michigan State. They’re not in the same league, but they played once and the game was really one-sided. I think if somebody asks me, woul dyou take Michigan State at 30, I would say, ‘Yeah, I would.’ Not that I would do anything like that. But if somebody asked me, I would.”

The Vegas line for tomorrow’s women’s title game has Connecticut anywhere from a 13 1/2-point to a 16-point favorite.

Walz said he has heard many of the things he’s said to his team in the past day said by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and his players.

“Carolina men, they’re a great team, Michigan State is doing some things that not everyone expected them to do,” Walz said. “But they’re playing hard, executing a game plan and playing with heart, and htat’s what we’ve done. We’re not the most talented team on the floor each night, but we are tough and have been willing to follow a game plan. That’s why we’re here. And against UConn, we’ve got to find a way to be better for 40 minutes, and that’s all that matters.

“Look, it’s not necessarily about who is the better team, but about who is better for 40 minutes. It’s not going to be us coming out and playing straight man-for-man for 40 minutes and saying ‘We’re better than you are.’ Without a doubt, they’ve got the best team. We’ve got to figure out a way to play the game in segments, and try to win a few segments and try to keep a few other ones close and see what happens.”

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