- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Louisville knocked off a pair of top seeds, Oklahoma and Maryland, to get to its first national title game in its first Final Four appearance.

That’s nothing compared to the challenge that awaits the Cardinals.

Undefeated and top-ranked Connecticut is one win from its third undefeated season and only the fifth in women’s basketball history after ending Stanford’s 20-game winning streak with ease in an 83-64 rout in Sunday’s second semifinal Sunday night.

The first all-Big East final, and only the fourth title game matching teams from the same conference, has the feel of a major mismatch. Connecticut (38-0) has already beaten Louisville by 28 and 39 points, the latter blowout on March 10 in the Big East tournament championship game.

That’s been UConn’s calling card all season, with an average winning margin of 31 points overall, and four earlier NCAA tournament blowouts by an average of 27.5 points.

So what might be different the third time around?

Attempting to emphasize a positive, Louisville coach Jeff Walz thought his school was competitive for 12 minutes in the first meeting at Storrs, Conn. Only 28 minutes shy of a full game.

The Cardinals’ other hope is that the championship game setting will trump the track record. They advanced to their first Final Four with a 17-point victory over top-seeded Maryland in the Raleigh Regional final before ending Oklahoma’s title hopes with a 61-59 victory in Sunday’s first semifinal.

Louisville trailed by 14 points early and rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit behind Angel McCoughtry’s 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“You’re playing for the national championship,” Walz said. “So it doesn’t matter what the scores have been in the past.”

Louisville is trying to become only the third No. 3 seed to win it, and the first since Tennessee in 1997. The Cardinals have won 13 of 14 entering the final.

The lone loss _ to Connecticut, of course .

The men’s tournament figured to have a better shot at an all-Big East final with Louisville the top overall seed and UConn and Pitt also No. 1 seeds. But no Big East team made it to the title game.

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