Asia Durr returns intact, Louisville women edge Duke

A scary few minutes for University of Louisville basketball fans as Asia Durr is carried off the floor in the first half after incurring an ankle injury. She returned a few minutes later to an ovation.

One of those moments in the first half for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team when Asia Durr goes down in pain, having twisted an ankle, banging her fists on the floor in frustration.

Up to that point Durr had already scored 14 points on her way to another big night. Fans in the crowd of 8,101 holding their collective breath, willing her to return, exhaling a few minutes later, giving Asia an ovation as she returns to the court.

Nightmare scenario avoided. Durr would cool off on her way to a 22-point performance in 34 minutes of playing time. Third-ranked UofL would defeat 17th-ranked Duke 66-60 for its 17th win without a loss this season.

Duke would reduce a 14-point Louisville lead to three points at one point, with the Cardinals leaning heavily on senior Myisha Hines-Allen in the second half. The UofL senior would score 10 points and retrieve 13 rebounds for her fifth double-double this season and the 34th of her career.

Sam Fuehring becoming a consistent contributor, adding 12 points and seven rebounds. Her two free throws with 22 seconds remaining giving UofL a five-point lead and some breathing room.

Next up is Virginia Tech (12-3) ON Sunday at 2 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center.

Kenny Payne non-starter for Louisville coaching job

Kenny Payne? No thanks.

Kenny Payne was a contributor on UofL’s national championship team in 1986.

A couple of local sportswriters, taking advantage of the ultra sensitive relations between the two schools, are trumpeting Kentucky’s Kenny Payne to be a candidate for the University of Louisville’s head basketball coach.

One has no reason to doubt that Payne is a sharp individual with an ability to relate to college basketball players. But he will never be seriously considered as a contender for the UofL job for obvious reasons.

Rick Bozich, of WDRB TV, calls several former UofL players about Payne, including Billy Thompson, Pervis Ellison, Rodney and Scooter McCray, Jerry Eaves and Butch Beard. The results are predictable, all of them wanting Payne to have a shot at the job.  What did he expect them to say? Bozich even gets Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, most recently at SMU, to endorse Payne because of his ability to relate to players.

David Padgett’s team has won 11 of its first 14 games but the coaching succession talk has already begun (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Tim Sullivan, a Courier-Journal columnist, tweets that “More than one high-rolling Louisville fan has told me the Cardinals’ next coach should be Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne.” In another tweet he says that a former UofL trustee (Jonathan Blue) says that Payne “checks all the boxes,” to be Louisville’s next coach.

Nice try, guys, generating lots of conversation and controversy, not to mention clicks. However, the last time we checked, David Padgett, with the exception of a bad loss to UK, has been doing a decent job with a 11-3 record in his first season, albeit as interim head coach.  The job is not currently open and may not be unless the season winds up in a total dump heap.

Even more importantly, the last thing UofL basketball needs is to hire another coach from UK. It’s going to take years for UofL to recover from the aftermath of Rick Pitino, a former Kentucky coach, who left under dire circumstances with the program’s reputation badly damaged. Constantly looking to UK for coaches is not a good look for UofL.

Also, with Louisville basketball seeking to earn its way back to respectability, why would the school want to take a chance on an individual tied to a UK program many suspect of questionable recruiting. It is well known that UK has close ties with William Wesley, a powerful influence on college basketball recruiting, and that Wesley and Payne go way back.

Curious that Rick Bozich would contact Larry Brown about Payne when three programs with which Brown has been associated — UCLA, Kansas and SMU — were punished for illegal recruiting practices during his tenure. UK Coach John Calipari, well known for his innovative recruiting practices, has his own bad history, with vacated wins and Final Fours at Massachusetts and Memphis.

With the arrests of some assistant coaches and agents back in September, the FBI warned about”the dark underbelly of college athletics,” and indicated that investigations would be ongoing. If the FBI is to be taken at its word, UofL should steer clear of any individual involved in questionable recruiting practices.

Payne was a good player at Louisville from 1985 through the 1989 seasons, competing on UofL ‘s national championship team in 1986. He had a nice jump shot, players seem to like him, and his teams get recruits (see above). As for leadership and coaching abilities, however, the jury is still out.

All David Padgett needs at this juncture is to have some half serious sportswriters and talk show hosts taking advantage of the rivalry to stir up controversy. He had a lot to learn, obviously, but it is much too premature to be discussing any possible successors.

As with Padgett, Kenny Payne has no previous head coaching experience. Ten games into Payne’s first season, we would be having another conversation about the next candidate from UK to be the UofL coach, with much prompting from writers like Bozich and Sullivan.

Enough with the UK harrassment already.

Blowout too good to last, but Louisville women are 16-0

Nature of the game apparently.

Those leads in basketball games of double digits almost never last. Inevitable that North Carolina State would rally from a 26-1 deficit to scare the University of Louisville women’s basketball team.

The Cardinals, lulled into slumber mode by the all the NC State misfires in the first half, would be fortunate to emerge with the 55-47 win over the Wolf Pack at Raleigh. The win improved UofL’s won-lost record to 16-0, the best start in the program’s history.

Myisha Hines-Allen refuses to wilt in fourth quarter.

No surprise whatsoever that the home team would cut the margin to four points in the fourth quarter with just over three minutes remaining. Myisha Hines-Allen, who was Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year two seasons ago, was not ready to wilt, however.

Hines-Allen would deliver the dagger, blocking an NC State shot, grabbing the defensive rebound and making good on a layup to stretch the lead to six points again.  She would, in fact, score six of her 17 points when they needed most, in that fourth quarter.

Asia Durr, who shared game-scoring honors with Myisha, was challenged during the final 10 minutes. Missing two field goal attempts while turning the ball over twice. She would, however, make two free throw attempts to extend the lead to eight points.

Nobody really expected N.C. State to roll over. Doesn’t work that way.

Time for next stage in Lamar Jackson’s career

Fortunately the loss to Mississippi State will not be the game people remember about Lamar Jackson’s college career

Over-reliance on any one player, however, is never a good thing. Probably the best thing for Jackson and the University of Louisville football program if he decides soon to pursue a career in the National Football League.

Almost impossible for Jackson to live up to massive expectations. Every sensational play, every pass completion, every dazzling run, every touchdown making him indispensable to his team. If Jackson wasn’t involved, it wasn’t going to happen.

Coach Bobby Petrino, getting away from the offensive strategies that have worked well for him in the past, was overly dependent on the instincts of one player. UofL’s success, or lack of it, may have suffered as a result, with little evidence of progress in the team’s overall development.

When Jackson was having a off day or not getting enough protection, he was prone to making major mistakes as he was Saturday when he threw four interceptions in the 31-27 loss to Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville.

It got to a point where some fans closed their eyes when he dropped back to pass. A fifth interception seemed inevitable. He completed 13 of 31 passing attempts for 171 yards with a passing efficiency mark of only 47.4% for the game.

Jackson gained 158 yards on the ground, including a touchdown, on 24 carries, not wanting to give up the ball to his running backs. Possibly for good reason with Malik Williams, Reggie Bonnafon, and Dae Williams combining for only 29 yards on 15 chances.

Bonnafon, a senior, was one of those teammates who never quite lived up to his potential. He finished the final game of his career with 13 yards rushing. He was never a real punt return threat, gaining nine yards on his only return Saturday.

“Lamar’s a great competitor and he has big shoulders,” said Petrino afterwards. “He competed extremely hard. We were in a position to win the game because of how hard he ran and the touchdowns he made …

“I would love to see him come back. Lamar needs to sit down with his parents and try to understand ‘What would better develop me?’ There have been guys who have come back for another year, playing the same system and do great. He’s really needs to do what is best him. He’s been an unbelievable player and a great person.”

Jackson has created some incredible memories for fans over the past three seasons. Time for him to move on, however, time to focus on the his future in the NFL.  UofL needs to move on as well, focusing on the team’s total development, getting everyone involved, and seriously competing again in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

No Mahmoud, no Spalding, no chance for Louisville against Kentucky

The game started going south for the University of Louisville basketball team when Anas Mahmoud was whistled for his second foul with just over eight minutes to go in the first half. UofL was leading 19-18 at that point.

Who’s next? Won’t be long until the next blow, a crushing one.

The game was over two minutes later when Ray Spalding picked up his second foul, the game tied 21-21 at the 6:49 mark. Kentucky would score 11 straight points and would never be seriously threatened thereafter.

One can only hope that an embarrassing loss to Kentucky was what it takes for David Padgett to get his team's attention.

UofL can’t afford to have the two big men in foul trouble. Coach David Padgett knew it, their teammates knew it, and Kentucky knew it. Just a matter of how big the margin was going to be. The Wildcats were not good enough to hit the century mark , but they did pummel the Cardinals 90-61.

Expressions say a lot at times like these. The only visible ones were looks of bewilderment, confusion and victimhood. No one stepping forward to assume leadership on the court, the interim coach with that familiar blank stare on the sideline. Nobody getting emotional, showing any signs of fighting for survival, much less fighting back.

Some say these players have been through a lot since the disruptive days of last October when the FBI got interested in college basketball and the UofL athletic department wound up losing two of the best people in their respective professions. That may be true but there’s no way to justify or rationalize what happened at Rupp Arena on Friday.

Heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, one can only hope that an embarrassing loss to Kentucky was what it takes for David Padgett to get his team’s attention. Or for that matter, what it takes for the young coach to show some emotion, like getting angry now and then, making demands on the players. Kicking butt. Hard.

Nice guy, feel good, intellectual discussions, everybody being on a first name basis with a 32-year-old coach approaches don’t add up to being much of a factor in ACC competition.  It’s already ugly, but the worst may be yet to come.