12,086 see Louisville women pound Notre Dame again

 ^ Mykasa Robinson never stops – Mike DeZarn photo ^

Dana Evans’ smile says it all after a second straight win and still another thrashing of Notre Dame within three weeks. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Probably at least another season before the rivalry between the University of Louisville women’s basketball team and Notre Dame becomes unpredictable and scorching hot again. For now, however, UofL fans are content to enjoy still another 30-point-plus win over the Irish.

Muffet McGraw looking for signs of hope but finding none in Notre Dame’s second loss to Louisville this season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Some 12,086 people showing up at the KFC Yum! Center for the “Pink Out” on Sunday to see Coach Jeff Walz’s Cardinals coast to an 82-49 win over Muffet McGraw’s Irish. Just three weeks ago UofL had shellacked Notre Dame 86-54 at South Bend.

Notable that post-game “handshakes” are always interesting, with the coaches barely making incidental contact. A wonder if the hands connect at all, because the coaches haven’t made eye contact in a couple of years. Pre-game formalities are out of the question.

Should have been competitive, with Louisville having lost two of its last three games and Notre Dame winning three of four since the January to the Cardinals. And it was competitive for a while, at least during the early going, with UofL clinging to a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Hall of Famer Denny Crum, popular with young and old Louisville fans, is greeted by admirers at the game (Mike DeZarn photo).

Louisville would quickly take control in the second quarter, with Mykasa Robinson finding Yacine Diop early and often on four assists for eight points. Owning a 40-26 lead at the intermission, never to be seriously threatened again.

A much smoother experience with Elizabeth Balogun in the lineup, the UofL sophomore adding 11 points, three blocks and an assist. A favorite with her teammates, sometimes needing encouragement from Dana Evans to shoot the ball. Evans, meanwhile, leading all scorers with 18 points, including four 3-pointers and seven assists.

The Ladybirds, always on fire, always winning, carrying on a great UofL tradition (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“We never lost any confidence during the losses,” said Walz. “Overall I am very pleased with where we are today. I know how good our team is when we’re at full strength. When you lose some people for a few days, it can have an impact.”

Mykasa Robinson may some day in the future be the leading scorer in a game but for now she seems content to prefer playing defense and finding her teammates. Making a total of nine assists while grabbing seven rebounds and adding six points.

Robinson always cool running the offense, the first on the floor for a loose ball, and inescapable on defense. Nothing gets by her or past her, constantly  in motion, pure energy. The spark never goes out and it’s contagious. Twenty-nine minutes and 45 seconds of excitement on Sunday.

McGraw admitting her troops were not ready for Louisville, with her team committing 23 turnovers. “We could  not compete with them, they’re the best team on our schedule,” she said. “We’ve still learning, and it could take a while.”

Jazmine Jones her happy self after another decisive victory over Notre Dame, poses with Elise, Noreen, Holland and Adele after the game (Mike DeZarn photo)

Louisville women make Valentine’s Day a happy day

What a nice way to start the day, waking up to a sweet Valentine greeting, a  double-layered box of Whitman’s candy, and tickets to a dinner playhouse production. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

Adding to that the University of Louisville women’s basketball team handling fourth-ranked North Carolina State 66-59 the night before. The Cardinals moving back up to a tie for a first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in possession of the tie-breaker.

The UofL women snapping a two-game losing streak, serving notice that they will be in the hunt for a second ACC championship. Moving back into contention for a highly coveted seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

And how about Kylee Shook, shaking the nice girl role, scoring 10 points and 10 rebounds? Even more impressive was Kylee’s defensive domination of NC State’s 6-foot-5 Elissa Cunane, averaging 17 points per game entering the contest.

Shook would totally contain Cunane, limiting her to only 10 points, one field goal and seven free throws. Totally out of rhythm, Cunane lowering her head at one point only to have the ball batted back over her shoulder. Looking lost and desperate, that was Cunane. Shook had a whopping total of seven blocks for the night.

Jazmine Jones, meanwhile, back at her best, leading all scorers with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. She would also corral eight rebounds and make three assists. Dana Evans was looking more like her old self as well, with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

“We had a great week of practice,” said Jones. “The intensity was great. Everybody was dialed in and focused. We knew this game was a must-win for us. We knew we were coming into a hostile environment and had to bounce back … We came out, we played tough, we played hard and we got the job done.”

Elizabeth Balogun, back from her Serbian sojourn, adding nine points and grabbing seven rebounds. Most importantly, returning the chemistry to a team that needed her much more than she would have ever guessed.

Louisville can’t get motivated for Georgia Tech

Poor guys just couldn’t get excited about playing Georgia Tech and it may have cost them dearly.

Four days after the University of Louisville basketball team turned in one of its best performances in a decade, the Cardinals sank to a new low against Wednesday  in Atlanta, losing to Georgia Tech 64-58.

The lack of concern, the restrained exertion, finally caught up with them against Georgia Tech.

Georgia who? The worst thing a team on a 10-game winning streak can do is not respect an opponent. Louisville had won the last nine games against Georgia Tech, not having lost to the Yellow Jackets since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.

Lowly Georgia Tech is No. 74 in the Sagarin Ratings, No. 81 in the NET rankings, No. 91 in ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index (BPI) and No. 81 by Ken Pomeroy. A team sucking tail in every important barometer.

What reason would fifth-ranked Louisville have had to take Georgia Tech seriously?  Well, for one thing, the Cardinals barely defeated the Yellow Jackets by four points at home a couple of weeks ago.  UofL was lucky to win that one, and Josh Pastner’s troops were propelled by adrenaline, playing way above their heads and talent level.

In its two games against Louisville, Tech held the lead for 64:59 of the 80 minutes. The Jackets never trailed on Wednesday.

What this UofL team has proven, time after time, is that it will play up or down to the level of the competition. That, in fact, is the only consistent thing one can expect from them. Get excited, play tough against the traditional toughies, i.e., Duke and Virginia. Take it easy, survive against teams like Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.

The lack of concern, the restrained exertion, finally caught up with them against Georgia Tech. The loss may well have cost them UofL’s first regular season ACC championship, as well as shots as No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

That should have been enough to motivate most teams to get excited about playing Georgia Tech. But not this one, and the odds of a conference title and a top seed are fairly remote for now.

At long last, Louisville gets some payback against Virginia

Lead Photo by Mike DeZarn

Coach Tony Bennett’s team may have played its best game of the year in the loss to the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one doubted that Virginia would be able to overcome an early 15-point deficit in the game, least of all the members of the University of Louisville basketball team. 

Jordan Nwora would lead Louisville with 22 points, including four 3-pointers. (Mike DeZarn photo).

Most in the crowd of 19,250 at the KFC Yum! Center knew it was going down to the wire. Many having witnessed those incredible mini seconds two seasons ago when Virginia overcame a four-point lead for an unbelievable win at this very location.

Virginia had defeated the Cardinals nine straight times since the 2015 season and was a consensus pick to win this game. UofL’s last win in the series came on March 7, 2015, on a highly unlikely shot from Mangok Mathiang at the buzzer. Even Mathiang still can’t believe he made that shot.

Louisville having to play almost perfect basketball to end that losing streak, finally beating Virginia 80-73. Probably one of the best games in college basketball this season, with only 12 combined turnovers. The Cardinals committing only five of them. One more could have been a crusher.

Despite its 15-6 record coming into the game, Virginia had the best defense in the nation, holding opponents to 50.6 points per game. The Cavaliers were third in fewest fouls with only 13 per game. UofL would put up 80 on them and go to the free throw line 24 times.

“Virginia is a very smart team,” said Coach Chris Mack. “They always seemed to know exactly how to handle everything we attempted. They are a good team and will only get better.”

UofL needing every one of the eight 3-pointers it made in the first half because the Cardinals would make only one more in the final 20 minutes. The Cavaliers were making 11 of their own, including eight 3-pointers in the second half.

Virginia would get the lead on two free throws following a technical foul on Coach Chris Mack following a questionable possession call. UofL would tie the game on a jumper by David Johnson.

Couldn’t have come at a better time  with offense having stalled. UofL would reclaim the lead for good on Steven Enoch’s two free throws at the 2:47 mark. Johnson would add three free throws while Louisville was making its last 10 points from the foul line.

Next up at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, a team UofL edged by only four points at home two weeks ago.

Louisville fans would not be disappointed on Saturday, expecting the nine-game losing streak to come to an end. (Photo by Mike DeZarn)

 

Sue Semrau with another win over Louisville women

Dana Evans runs the gauntlet – Cindy Rice Shelton photo

One should not have to look up the name of the Florida State women’s basketball coach. Her FSU teams have only defeated the University of Louisville five of the last seven meetings.

The name is Sue Semrau, winning five out the last seven games against Louisville.

But there she is, roaming the sidelines, her latest team frustrating the Cardinals again, this time by a score of 67-59 in front of a crowd of 8,314 at the KFC Yum! Center. Her team in a familiar spoiler role even though UofL seemed like an easy college basketball pick.

Guessed that name yet? Probably not. The coach is Coach Sue Semrau (sim-rour, as in sour). She’s been in charge of the Florida State program for 23 years. Entering the season with 423 wins, her team is now 17-5 overall and 8-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Her team will never win the all-airport team, not blessed with any superior athletes or that great a tradition. No big or recognizable athletes. Not great shooters or rebounders either. All they do is grind Louisville to a stop and defeat Coach Jeff Walz on an all-too-frequent basis.

Dana Evans with one of more challenging games but getting recognition for those lashes (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Walz warning his team before the game to take Florida State seriously, cautioning that the Seminoles would bring their best game. Challenging his team to be aggressive, wanting his players to take control early.

May have been too convincing about the threat. The Cardinals struggling offensively, managing only 17 points by half time. The Seminoles, loaded with adrenaline, making good and bad shots with equal aplomb, taking full advantage of UofL’s inadequacies. Dana Evans, Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook connecting on only 12 of 41 shots.

And there was an incredulous Sue Semrau, not believing her luck. Once again making things miserable for the UofL women. Making a name for herself at Louisville’s expense.