Walz lets Louisville women work themselves out of jam

By Ed Peak

Maybe this is a good week for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team to take a break.  A respite from all the travel and rigors of the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference.

Jeff Walz saving his timeouts, letting his players work themselves out of jam against Virginia Tech (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Jeff Walz has had a great time this season, often joking, clowning and high-fiving his players as they have wound their way to a 23-1 won-lost mark. But he was not smiling Sunday when Virginia Tech cut a 20-point lead to five points with less than a minute to go.

That look of confidence replaced by one of genuine concern on that stubble-framed countenance. He knew they were in trouble. The second ranked Cardinals letting a 20-point lead dwindle to almost nothing to a team hitting everything it threw at the basket in the fourth quarter. 

Walz avoiding using up precious timeouts during those final minutes, wanting his players to get themselves out of troubling situations. “I wanted them to figure it out themselves,” he said. Durr taking the cue, digging deep, taking the team on her shoulders again. 

Durr has been banged up a bit lately, actually sitting out a game two Sundays ago. But Asia would answer the call time and time again in a scary 72-63 win at Virginia Tech. With more than a little help from Sam Fuehring, banking layup after layup during the late going.

Durr would wind up with 34 points for the game, the fourth 30-point-plus outing for her career. The go-to player in the clutch, making five of seven 3-point attempts and all seven of her seven free throw shots, the final two icing the win with 13 seconds to go. Fuehring would collect her fourth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

The close call for the Cardinals a reminder that the ACC remains one of the women’s college basketball’s toughest conferences. The week ahead a time to heal, get back to the basics, and prepare for the stretch drive. No time to take anyone or anything for granted.

Next game Sunday at 3 p.m. against Miami, a team fresh from upsetting Notre Dame, one game behind the Cardinals in the ACC standings, a team not be taken lightly. 

Louisville women take care of Cuse, move to top of ACC

The Syracuse women’s basketball team, never one to be taken lightly, arrives in town with an impressive 17-4 won-lost record. Ready to take it to the University of Louisville, they were. But Asia Durr was ready, too.

Asia scoring UofL’s first eight points and 12 of her 15 points in the first quarter. Getting the Cardinals off to a splendid start with a 30-17 in the first 10 minutes. The visitors would be playing catch up the rest of the night.

Kylee Shook playing one of her best games of the season against a good opponent, with 12 points and 11 rebounds (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Louisville posting a 76-51 win over the nation’s 14th ranked team before a crowd of 8,251 at the KFC Yum! Center. This on a night when Notre Dame and North Carolina State were losing, putting the Cardinals on top of the ACC with an 9-1 mark and 22-1 overall.

Durr would cool off, failing to make a field goal during the next three quarters. She was four of 13 from the field but five of five from the free throw line and she had four assists.

Kylee Shook and Dana Evans taking up the scoring slack. Shook recording 12 points while pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. Evans with 12 points while adding four assists and making four steals.

Arica Carter and Sam Fuehring with four assists as well, Jazmine Jones with three. An amazing total of 22 assists for the night.

Another one of those great games in what could be a special season for the Louisville women.

Kylee Shook a key player for Louisville women against UConn

Kylee Shook will play a decisive role in the fortunes of University of Louisville women’s basketball (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

The time is arriving soon for Kylee Shook, the sooner the better, for her to raise her game to another level, become a dominant player.

The ideal time for Shook to flourish would be in the game everyone has been waiting for, the University of Louisville vs. UConn on Thursday at the KFC Yum! Center. UConn second, UofL third in women’s college basketball in the latest Associated Press poll.

Not that Shook isn’t having a decent season, she is, averaging 8.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-4 junior has a 50.2% field goal shooting percentage (59 of 117) and 35.7% from behind the 3-point line (10 or 28). She also has an amazing 27 blocks to go with 14 assists and 13 steals this season.

Earlier in the season, Kylee seemed at times reluctant to mix it up beneath the basket in a game that has become increasingly physical. Kylee has quietly had two double-doubles this year, including 10 points and 11 rebounds against a good North Carolina team and 15 points and 14 rebounds against Northern Kentucky.  

Her most impressive performance may have come two games ago. In a 68-49 win at Florida State, she had eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 27 minutes

Nice statistics for a player coming off the bench, but one still can help but believe she is capable of more on a consistent basis. Or maybe one is thinking ahead to next season when, as a senior, she will inevitably become a starter, thrust into a leadership role and will need to become indispensable.

The best time for Shook to take it to the next level would be Thursday.  UofL needs Kylee at her best to have a chance of ending that 17-game losing streak against UConn.  

Bigger the game the better for Asia Durr

Asia Durr is currently averaging 21.7 points per game for 11-0 Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So much fun watching Asia Durr for fans of University of Louisville women’s basketball team. Making it look so easy as she gets her shots off against double-teams, triple-teams, full-court presses, box-and-ones. Asia has seen them all, the bigger the opponent the better, the more she excels.

Case in point, her heroics in UofL’s recent win over Kentucky in a battle of the unbeaten. She would secure her team’s first seven points, with Wildcat defenders literally hanging on her, en route to a 32-point performance. Her best game thus far may have been that 36-point outpoint in a 100-67 drubbing of eventual national champion Notre Dame last season.

Asia Durr thrives best on the big stage, the bigger the opponent the better (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I’ve really embraced being the go-to player,” said Durr, who is averaging 21.7 points through 11 games this season. “I want to be the player where, when the game is on the line, coach draws up the play for me.

“But whatever Coach needs me to do, I’ll do it. Anything. He’s asked me to do different things, like help lead the freshmen, help make them better, and that’s been a good challenge.”

Asia will likely be a lottery pick during the WNBA draft at the end of the season but she wants to stay focused on the present, enjoying every minute of her time at Louisville, and hopefully a second consecutive Final Four appearance.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Durr told ESPN. “This is my last year, so I want to leave a mark here with how people will think of me — not just with basketball but with the type of person I am. I like spending time with our fans and the kids who look up to me. With that and school and basketball, it keeps me pretty busy.”

Punching bag Asia Durr for 32, UofL women topple Kentucky

Asia Durr gets an arm to the chest from Kentucky’s Tatyana Wyatt but still gets the basket on her way to 32 points (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton).

The rivalry never gets old, never any lack of intensity.

Two of the best women’s basketball teams to compete in the Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry, entering the game with identical 9-0 records. Cruising in the pre-conference season, each wanting another signature win. But mostly wanting to knock their rival from the ranks of the unbeaten.

UofL ranked fifth in the nation, UK 19th. Even more motivation for the Wildcats, wanting to move up in the poll, wanting the Cardinals to slide. Louisville equally fired up for Kentucky, the last thing UofL needs is a loss to the arch rival.

Louisville would win this showdown 80-75 before a crowd of 13,786 crowd of heavily red-clad fans at the KFC Yum! Center. It was UofL’s third straight in the series, and probably the most impressive win yet a team that could be among UK’s best in recent years.

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