Louisville women are 18-0 but Notre Dame is next

Not that getting to 18-0 was easy.

Asia Durr scored 19 of her 21 points in the first half (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Now comes the hard part of the schedule for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, fresh from a 67-56 win over Virginia Tech before a crowd of 7,523 at the KFC Yum! Center. Next up for the Cardinals is Notre Dame.

UofL has lost the last 11 meetings with the Irish, the No. 2 team in most recent Associated Press poll. Notre Dame owns a 15-1 record, the only loss coming to top ranked Connecticut by a margin of nine points.

Getting past Notre Dame will require a rare 40-minute effort. After Sunday’s win, Coach Jeff Walz was again bemoaning the loss of intensity in a second half.  The Cardinals were outscored by the Hokies in the third (14-8)  and fourth quarters (17-11) after owning a 23-point lead in the first half.

He noted some improvement over previous games in which UofL let opponents back in games after overcoming huge deficits. But he warned that the Cardinals are in for some serious testing. An obvious weakness against Virginia Tech was not finding shooters down the stretch.

Asia Durr, for example, was open often during the second half but took only five shots. She had scored all but two of her game-leading 21 points in the first half. Myisha Hines-Allen scored six of her eight points in the first half as well.

Meanwhile, Sydney Zambrotta, third of the team with 13 three-point completions this season, has gone into a slump. She hasn’t made a 3-pointer in the past five games, missing all 11 of her shots beyond the three-point line.

Enjoy being undefeated.

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.