all scores

UConn falls to Louisville as Paige Bueckers looks on

(Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UConn women’s basketball continues to feel the absences of some of its top stars, falling to No. 6 Louisville 69-64 on Sunday.

Hailey Van Lith and Kianna Smith each recorded 16 points, four rebounds and three assists for Louisville. Of her 16 points, Van Lith scored 10 in the fourth quarter to lead the Cardinals (11-1) past the Huskies (6-3) in Sunday’s Women’s Hall of Fame Showcase.

“I know what everybody’s going to say, that they were shorthanded and everything,” head coach Jeff Walz said after the game. “And they’ve had some injuries, there’s no question about that. But they’re still a pretty good ball club and I was really pleased with how we fought, how we hung in there.”

Ahlana Smith contributed 11 points as the third Cardinal to finish the game in double-digit scoring.

While the Huskies are undeniably not the same team without the likes of Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd on the court, UConn has shown flashes of being a contender, taking down UCLA 71-61 on Dec. 11. They still have senior Christyn Williams, who contributed 10 points Sunday, and transfer grad student Dorka Juhász, who has put up double digits in each of her last two games, including 15 points and eight rebounds on Sunday. There’s also freshman Caroline Ducharme, who had 24 points and eight rebounds in Sunday’s loss. Following the game, Auriemma commended Ducharme on her “mental toughness.”

“I don’t think it was her blazing quickness or her ability to get off her feet and play above the rim,” Auriemma said when talking about what he liked about Ducharme during the recruiting process. “There was a mental toughness part that I find very rare in today’s players. She has it. And then she has a sneaky way of getting points on the board.”

Despite leading for the entire first half, UConn let the Cardinals get back in the game in the second. Withe loss, the Huskies have dropped three games before January for the first time since 2004.

Bueckers, who is out for at least eight weeks after having surgery to repair an anterior tibial plateau fracture in her left knee, was seen glancing up at the scoreboard after the game.

Until players return from injury, UConn’s depth is an issue: Louisville had 22 bench points, led by Smith’s 11, compared to UConn’s four.

“We needed more contributions from more people for sure, and we didn’t get them,” Auriemma said. “You’re not going to beat a really good team without that. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I guess I’m supposed to have the answers, but I don’t.”

The good news is that Fudd and Nika Mühl could be returning soon. On Friday, Auriemma said the two players “are coming along great” and the hope is to start working them back into the lineup after the holiday break.

UConn, which fell to No. 11 in the nation on Monday and out of the AP Top 10 for the first time since 2004-05, returns to the court on Dec. 29 against Marquette. Louisville is back in action against Boston College on Dec. 30.