For nine seasons, they faced off in February, March, or even April.
But when Louisville left the American Athletic Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, its women's basketball rivalry with the University of Connecticut that saw the teams play 16 times -- including two national championship games and three league tournament finals -- in those nine seasons went with it.
Even before the Cardinals' departure for the ACC after a year in the AAC and eight seasons in the Big East, there had been talk of getting back together. After four years apart it will happen Monday night as fourth-ranked Louisville travels to Storrs to take on No. 1 UConn in a nationally-televised game at Gampel Pavilion.
"I don't know that we've played anyone as good as Louisville is playing right now," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't know that we have played against a particular player that is as good or better than the two kids that Louisville have in Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen. They are as good as any two players in the country. I don't know that we have faced that so this will be a different kind of challenge. But we have played some of our best basketball against the best teams. So this is kind of like the South Carolina game or the Texas game where you play and then you come home and get back into the conference and move on."
UConn (24-0) tuned up Saturday with a 124-43 rout of league opponent Wichita State at the XL Center in Hartford. Monday's night game will be the first time the Huskies have played back-to-back home games since Nov. 17 and 19. Louisville (25-1) has been off since a 65-46 ACC win over Clemson last Wednesday. The Cardinals will actually stay in New England after the contest as their next game is Thursday at Boston College.
It will be the first UConn-Louisville game since March 10, 2014, when they met in the AAC tournament championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena. They also met in the 2008 and 2009 Big East tournament finals and the 2009 and 2013 national championship games. The Huskies lead the series 16-1, with Louisville's only win coming in the first meeting in a 1993 NCAA tournament first-round game at Gampel Pavilion. That was the last time UConn lost back-to-back games as it was coming off a loss to Providence in the Big East tournament semifinals.
For the current Louisville players, it will be their first time facing UConn and playing at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies will make the return trip to the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville next season.
"There's not much to tell them about it," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "We'll watch enough film and they'll be quite aware of how good they are. We're going to know what we have to do and how well we need to play. It's a good opportunity for us and that's one of the reasons that I wanted to reschedule with them and get things going with them again. Hopefully we can come up there and have a good time and make it a great game. It's always a fun place to play, and our fans love when they come back to our place. So we're looking forward to going there and they come to us next year."
Why did it take so long for the teams to reunite? Auriemma joked that he could not reach Walz until after Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck graduated in 2016, and then "we couldn't get him off the phone" to put a series together.
"What do I enjoy coaching against him? Watching him lose his mind and complain to the officials on every call," Auriemma said with a laugh. "He gets so animated with the officials. He gets his teams to play hard. They always come up with something. They always have a plan. They always come in with an idea, 'If we do this, we can take this away from Connecticut.' So it's never that they just come out and say, 'Let's go play and see what happens.' We've had some great battles with them. We had some good ones in regular season, the Big East tournament, the NCAA tournament and Final Fours. It's been a great, great run with them."
UConn and Louisville have one common opponent -- Notre Dame. The Huskies needed a game-closing 22-3 run to erase a 10-point deficit and beat the Irish 80-71 at the XL Center on Dec. 3. The Cardinals, meanwhile, walloped Notre Dame 100-67 on their home court on Jan. 11.
While the teams haven't played in four years, there is some familiarity. Redshirt junior Azura Stevens faced Louisville in her two seasons at Duke. UConn junior Katie Lou Samuelson and Louisville junior Asia Durr were USA Basketball teammates in 2013 and 2014 and won two gold medals together. They were considered the top two recruits in the country coming out of high school in 2015 though it was Samuelson that swept postseason honors their senior year.
"She's a great player," Samuelson said. "Since we've been younger we have played together on teams. She is really talented. This year especially, she is having such a great year. I know she dealt with injuries before but this year she is really playing as well as she could be playing right now. I'm excited to play against her. It will be fun to have our teams face off."
Durr, Louisville's leading scorer, opened the season with a 47-point performance in an overtime win over Ohio State at the Countdown to Columbus. She had 36 points in the rout of Notre Dame. Hines-Allen is averaging a double-double. While they give the Cardinals a strong inside-outside combination, they have a solid supporting cast that includes forward Sam Fuehring and guard Arica Carter. Hines-Allen is the only senior.
UConn welcomed point guard Crystal Dangerfield back to the starting lineup Saturday after missing two games with shin splints in her left leg. The Huskies placed five in double figures -- with All-Americans Napheesa Collier (26) and Samuelson (22) combining for 48 points -- as they beat Wichita State with the second-largest margin of victory in program history and the second-most points in a game.
"The first and most important thing about matching up with UConn is that you've got to be able to score with them," Walz said. "They have six players in double figures. They are so efficient. We're going to have to do that. We're going to have to figure out ways to put the ball in the basket. Then we're going to have to figure out a way to stop them in transition. They run as well as any UConn team that I think he's had. They are very good passers. If you collapse in the post, they kick out for threes. We need to get it into a game where it's 5-on-5 and we're doing everything we can to stop them from scoring in transition."
UConn is 12-0 in non-league games with a 7-0 mark against ranked opponents. The Huskies have won 75 straight at home since a loss to Notre Dame in the 2013 Big East tournament final and have won 36 consecutive games against ACC opponents since a loss at North Carolina in 2007.
The result may not mean anything in March, but the reason UConn and Louisville are playing the game is to prepare for March.
"We know how talented they are," UConn All-American Gabby Williams said. "We know how hard they work so we're expecting a challenge and we're really excited for it. It will be a good taste of the tournament for us. I think we need this game. You still can't prepare for the Final Four until you have been to the Final Four, but this will help give us a peek at the tournament and how teams are going to play us."
Dangerfield didn't reach double figures Saturday as she had nine points. Her four assists and three steals were also modest but the sophomore point guard was a difference maker in her time on the floor.
"When you have somebody like Crystal, you can't underestimate the impact she can have on your team because of what she can do with the ball," Auriemma said. "She can go wherever she wants with it, and she's very creative. She's like a great soccer player that sees things one or two passes ahead. She's really smart, and she can go places nobody else on our team can. The difference was evident right away as she set the tone, as did that whole group in the first quarter, and it just carried over."
Auriemma hoped to get 20 minutes of action for Dangerfield. Her exact total in three stints on the floor was 18:30. In that time, the Huskies scored 61 points and she was a plus-41.
"It wasn't just that she played well, she started a spark and we fed off her energy a lot today," Williams said.
Dangerfield was at her best on back-to-back plays in the first quarter with a no-look pass to Williams and a behind-the-back rocket to Samuelson for layups following turnovers.
"The time off did help," Dangerfield said. "It's always going to be kind of a nagging thing so it will always be something I have to play by ear. Today I felt great."
How did she plan to spend Sunday?
"Ice, pain meds, do my rehab," Dangerfield said with a smile. "Do what Janelle (athletic trainer Francisco) tells me to do."
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2018 at halftime of the UConn-Louisville game. UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey is among 10 finalists for the honor. A minimum of four to a maximum of seven will be selected, according to Hall rules. The induction ceremony will be in June in Knoxville, Tennessee ... Samuelson's 6-for-8 performance Saturday made her the top 3-point shooter in the country entering Sunday's action at 47.82 percent. She passed teammate Kia Nurse, who went 1-for-5 from behind the arc to fall to second at 47.69 percent ... A victory Monday night would give UConn its 25th consecutive 25-win season. In 22 of the previous 24 seasons the Huskies have gone on to win 30 games, including the last 12 straight ... Samuelson needs 11 points to reach 1,500 while Collier needs 10 points for 1,400. Williams is 75 rebounds away from becoming the seventh player in UConn's 1,000-1,000 club.