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UConn and Louisville advance to AAC Final

AMER 600The inaugural American Athletic Conference semifinals played out Friday night at FedExForum and moving on are the Louisville Cardinals and the University of Connecticut Huskies.

The two schools met in the 2011 Big East Conference Final and played two regular season games, with Louisville winning both contests (76-64 and 81-48).

Louisville, the conference's second seed, flew pass the University of Houston, blowing out the Cougars 94-65 in the Cardinals' semifinal match-up.

The No. 2-seeded Cardinals were led by guard Russ Smith, who dropped a career-high 42 points on 14-of-22 shooting, with 27 points in the first half. Smith was on the floor for 31 minutes.

"We weren't sharp defensively tonight and when you're not sharp defensively, you need a great offensive performance and certainly we got that from Russ (Smith)," said Louisville's head coach Rick Pitino.

"He was brilliant, penetrating, passing, getting in the lane shooting the ball. He's done it all his senior year. ... I think he's made four or five first team college All-Americans, you saw why tonight."

Luke Hancock and Montrezi Harrell each scored 12 points for the Cardinals.

Brandon Morris and TaShawn Thomas led Houston with 13 points.

"They made it tough on us, defensively they were a little more physical than we were... , once we got behind in double digits, we could never make a run at them," said Houston's head coach James Dickey.

The other semifinal was a testament of two teams that both desperately wanted to advance. The UConn Huskies (26-7) found themselves neck to neck once again with the Cincinnati Bearcats (27-6).

UConn's guard Shabazz Napier hit a free throw with 11.1 seconds left to play, leading Connecticut to a 58-56 win. With 13:47 left in the second half, the Bearcats took a four-point lead (41-37). Connecticut responded and the two teams battled it out until the end.

Napier led the Huskies with 15 points, followed by DeAndre Daniels, who added 14 points and nine rebounds. Ryan Boatright pitched in 13.

Sean Kilpatrick dropped 14 points for Cincinnati, with Justin Jackson and Jermaine Sanders pitching in 10 points apiece.

"This is a players' game and my players stepped up tonight and took over the game and they matched (Cincinnati's) intensity and then we brought it up a notch," said UConn head coach Keith Ollie.

"We got down by 7, wasn't anybody pointing fingers. We just came together and stayed connected and everybody did their job tonight."

Saturday's final tips off at 5 p.m.

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