Yes, the men are gone, out of post season play, but the University of Louisville women are playing their best basketball of the year. The latest beat down, a steamrolling of LSU 73-47 Sunday and into the NCAA women’s tournament’s Elite Eight for a second straight year.
Quality basketball when it counts. A team motivated by some unfinished business, but directed by Jeff Walz, one of the best coaches in the women’s game. Just right for any segment of the fan base not wanting to let go of the 2014 basketball season.
Not a good day for SEC teams, with Tennessee having been dismissed by Maryland 69-64 in the first game of the Louisville Regional before a crowd of 11,097 at the KFC Yum! Center.
This is a confident, competent and talented UofL team, taking the competition seriously. No more going through the motions, even against an LSU team missing two injured starters but managing to take a 12-11 lead at the 12:10 mark. Up till then, the Cardinals were sizing up the Tigers, adjusting their sights, preparing for an all-out assault. Shoni Schimmel would hit two free throws to give Louisville a lead it would never relinquish.
Then it was Tia Gibbs’s turn. She would connect on back-to-back three pointers, connecting on three of four attempts over the next five minutes and the Cardinals would own an 29-18 lead at the 4:15 mark, and would own a 42-23 lead at the half.
“I was just trying to provide a spark to the team,” said Gibbs, who made all of her 15 points on 3-pointers. “Coming off the bench, that’s kind of what our job is to do. Whether it’s on defense, making threes, whatever the case. My teammates did a great job looking for me. They were the ones creating the open shots by driving and kicking to me.”
The Schimmel sisters have a special look in their eyes these days. They would combine for 11 assists, Shoni with six and Jude with five, while scoring 19 points and five points, respectively.
“Well, it’s tournament time,” said Shoni. “So it’s kind of like if you (lose), you’re done. That’s important to me because I don’t think we should lose. I think we need to come out and play strong every game because, if you lose, you’re done.”
UofL plays Maryland Tuesday, a team that knocked the Cardinals out of the tournament two years ago. A team coached by Brenda Freze, who just happens to be Jeff Walz’ former boss. But another appearance in the Final Four is what is really driving this team. If they exact a little revenge in the process, even better.