ALBANY, N.Y. -- So they'll meet again: Louisville vs. UConn in a regional final that will determine whether the Huskies' supposed vulnerability in this women's NCAA tournament is real or a mirage.
The No. 2 seed Huskies got a scare -- for a little while, anyway -- from No. 6 UCLA before taking over the fourth quarter and winning 69-61 in Friday's first Sweet 16 game in New York's state capital city. That was followed by a defensive battle between the No. 1 seed Cardinals and No. 4 Oregon State that Louisville won 61-44.
Now can Louisville make chalk hold up and get a trip to Tampa, Florida? Or will UConn do what it has done most of the time to its former conference mate? The Huskies lead the series 17-2, with only one Cardinals win coming since the Huskies began their run of 11 national championships in 1995.
But that victory is recent: It came Jan. 31 when the Cardinals won 78-69 over the Huskies in Louisville. Consider, though, that since UConn won that first title in '95, only two programs have defeated the Huskies more than once in a season. Notre Dame has done that three times, and Rutgers once.
Those schools are also former Big East members, as are UConn and Louisville. The Huskies and Cardinals were still in the same league in 2009 and 2013 when they met in the national championship game. UConn won big in both.
But in Sunday's regional final (ESPN, noon ET), the Cardinals go in as the favorite, at least seed-wise.
"We might not have the best five players on the floor every single night," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "But when we all play together as a team, we're a pretty darn good basketball team."
With as much talk as there's been about UConn's No. 2 seed, you'd think it was more like a No. 12. Are the Huskies offended by not being a No. 1? Are they playing on the emotion of being "short-changed?"
"When people talk about you bring a ton of emotion to a game, at some point you're going to have to win the game with how good you are, not how emotional you are," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Still, with the Huskies trailing 50-49 to UCLA after three quarters, was there something more to them turning it around with a 20-11 decisive win of the fourth quarter than just UConn executed better?
"Our kids need to be reminded sometimes, we're still UConn, you know," Auriemma said. "We're not going to die easily. It's not going to be that easy to get rid of us."
Huskies junior Crystal Dangerfield scored 11 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter. Did she feel like she had to make big plays then at do-or-die time? Not necessarily, but she was confident somebody would. It just turned out to be her.
"[Auriemma] kind of said it after the game, we didn't know where it was going to come from, but it was definitely going to happen," Dangerfield said. "And that's the kind of confidence that we've kind of grown to have in each other over the course of this season."
Napheesa Collier had 25 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots to lead UConn. Freshman Christyn Williams had 14 points for the Huskies. The concern coming in was UCLA's rebounding, and the Bruins did win the board battle 41-38. But they shot just 31.3 percent from the field to UConn's 46.6.
Collier said the fact that UConn has lost twice this year and has had to battle to win some other games actually helped the Huskies on Friday.
"We know that we've been there," she said. "As hard as it was to go through it during the year grinding it out, I think it's definitely something that's prepared us for this tournament."
Next up, though, is a Louisville team that has been one of the best defensive teams in the country all season. Ask Oregon State about that. The Beavers shot just 30.4 percent from the field, and they made just 2 of 22 from behind the arc.
Asia Durr and Sam Fuehring both had 17 points for the Cardinals, who are trying to advance to their second consecutive Final Four. In Louisville's victory over UConn in January, the Cardinals held the Huskies to 38 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded them 46-40. Louisville hit 11 3-pointers in that game. Durr said she thinks the Cardinals will need that and more against the Huskies on Sunday.
"We're going to get their best shot," Durr said. "It's going to be a challenge for us guarding them. We're going to accept this challenge and have fun with it."
Walz, who had his share of frustration against the Huskies, said having defeated UConn earlier this year does at least give the Cardinals some confidence.
"I think just to have that knowledge that we can do this, we've done it in the past," he said. "At the same time, you can't be overconfident. We know what's in front of us."