Another cakewalk for Louisville women

On the surface not much to take away from the University of Louisville women’s basketball team’s 91-56 win over UT Martin. Making it look easy, the Cardinals improving their record to 9-0.

Myisha Hines-Allen leading all scorers with 16 points in 20 minutes (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Despite the margin of victory, Coach Jeff Walz was not that pleased with the win, stating, “I keep telling them, it’s not who you play but how you play,” he said. “That’s how playing time is going to be determined.”

Myisha Hines-Allen would lead all scorers with 16 points, all but six of them in the first half. The only reason she didn’t notch another double-double was she was only in the game 21 minutes. Asia Durr and Jazmine Jones would contribute 14 apiece during their abbreviated playing time.

Kylie Shook getting a rare start, but the 6-foot-4 sophomore managing only two points. Having a tough time converting shots, making only one of six. She was a major factor on defense, however, grabbing four defensive rebounds while blocking four Tennessee Martin shots.

Asia Durr turning in 14 points but making only four of 11 shots (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Plenty of action from the bench again, giving the 6,279 fans at the KFC Yum! Center another good look at the depth available to Coach Jeff Walz. The more time the subs get, the more they will contribute during the upcoming nitty-gritty of the schedule.

If anything else is to be concluded, it would be that freshman guard Dana Evans is a serious player. She never takes a play off and is equally intense on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court. Evans had only six points but she also had six assists and three steals to go with three fouls.

Learning curve continues against Seton Hall for David Padgett

Coach David Padgett gets in the ear of Deng Adel (in top photo) during crunch time against Seton Hall. Anas Mahmoud, Malik Williams, V. J. King and Dwayne Sutton (above) reflect the second low in a row (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

This was never going to be easy, thrusting a 32-year-old into the head coach’s role for University of Louisville basketball. No expectations, no aspirations, hurry up, just fill the post vacated by a Hall of Fame coach.

Deng Adel under for a reverse layup for two of his team-leading 20 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

David Padgett had only a couple of days to think about it, never vacillating, taking the job, a shortcut to the big time. The players needed someone, wanted him. A shaky time for the team and the fan base. Much to learn, much to teach, not a lot of time.

Could wind up being the school of hard knocks for everyone concerned, as was evident in UofL’s 79-77 loss to Seton Hall before 19,244 at the KFC Yum! Center. Three starters committing four turnovers apiece, most coming at the worst possible times, and with the trio of guards managing only five assists. 

A return to the days of not so long ago when Louisville struggled to have a presence in the middle. Anas Mahmoud, still a seven-foot lightweight after adding 20 pounds in four years, collecting two fouls before breaking a sweat Unable to collect a rebound, make an assist or score a point in 20 minutes.

Dwayne Sutton collecting nine points and three rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Ray Spalding, still struggling with his awkwardness, not much of a factor in the paint or on the boards, managing two points and four rebounds, respectively. Needs to bring all that progress he was said to be making in practice on game days.

Deng Adel, looking good in the scoring column, with 20 points while making seven of 12 field goal attempts and six of six free throws. But having a hard time finding open teammates, especially with the game on the line. Possibly not trusting himself or his teammates at times, making questionable decisions, resulting in blown opportunities.

Quentin Snider, playing better at home than he did at Purdue, having one of his better games of the season. Only to have it go sour for him and be remembered for that errant jump shot in the closing seconds. 

Snider would collect a scant two assists and UofL would be credited with only eight of them for the game, indicating there may be too much one-on-one action and too little passing.  Not much looking for teammates or players not moving without the ball. 

V. J. King still not able to stop anybody on the defensive end or find people around under the basket but contributing 14 points.

Newcomers Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton scoring 10 and 8 points, respectively, but with only one assist between them. 

Padgett, meanwhile, giving his players the benefit of any doubts, suggesting they will get better. Not getting in any faces, not embarrassing anyone during timeouts, rarely raising his voice, being respectful with officials, always the gentleman for now.

He’s new, taking a different tact, relating to a new generation of players in a different way than his predecessors. Going to be interesting to see if his well-mannered approach is successful.  Could be he may have to resort to some more less subtle ways of communicating if things don’t start clicking soon.

Padgett will eventually be successful. But there may be some steep learning curves. Definitely no shortcuts.

Akron continues to haunt Ken Lolla and Louisville soccer

Louisville goalie Will Meyer, a redshirt freshman (in both photos), kept his team in the hunt against Akron until the final play, a penalty kick knocking UofL out of the NCAA tournament (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Ken Lolla can’t go home again. Doesn’t need to because he keeps bumping into Akron at the most inopportune times.

More often than not soccer is a tedious drawn-out game, with continuous action, lots of repetition, and more than its share of frustration. So little scoring that one can easily miss the climax if not paying strict attention.

The University of Louisville and Akron played 110 minutes Friday night without scoring a goal , forcing the 3,179 in attendance to sit through a dozen penalty kick attempts.

Junior Tate Schmitt, UofL’s leading scorer with nine goals this season, made good on a penalty kick (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No denying the tension and excitement at this point, however. High drama, everything on the line. When it was all over, Akron had won the NCAA quarterfinal game, with Akron out-kicking the Cardinals  4-3.

Will Meyer, UofL redshirt freshman goalie, keeping Akron at bay, credited with three saves during regulation and two overtimes. Blocking two penalty kick attempts, sending it into another sudden death. Alas, the deciding goal was delivered by  Akron’s Niko De Vera.

Ken Lolla coached at Akron before coming to Louisville 12 years ago so he could make UofL a national contender in soccer. He has more than delivered on that goal but Akron may still be the better program.

For the second time in seven years, Akron has eliminated the Cardinals from the NCAA’s College Cup. The first time in 2010, a 1-0 defeat in the national championship game.

Go away Akron.

Louisville soccer needs to derail Akron’s 12-game winning streak

Ken Lolla needs to get past Akron, his former team that denied Louisville the national championship in 2010.

Ken Lolla’s soccer team is back. So close. So far.

Final home game, last chance to see a University of Louisville team within three wins of a national championship. 

Big challenge, however, with a foe that has won its past 12 games and evoking significant emotional ties for Lolla. In the quarterfinal round, competing for  a berth in the 2017 College Cup semifinals.

That foe just happens to Akron University, where Lolla coached for 13 seasons before being recruiting by Tom Jurich to taking over the UofL program in 2005. The same man who made Akron a power has made Louisville a national contender for the past 12 years.

Any match against Akron is an experience for Lolla but none more gut-wrenching than the game between UofL and Akron in the College Cup in 2010. Akron won that game 1-0 in the national championship final at Santa Barbara, Calif. 

If he gets emotional about playing Akron again, Lolla doesn’t let it show. “I think the biggest thing is to relish the moment,” he said. “To play in the NCAA Tournament is special as it is. To play for the opportunity to go to the College Cup, the biggest event, is even more special.”

The Cardinals (13-2-4) are led by junior Tate Schmitt who had the game-winning goals in NCAA tournament wins over San Francisco and Colgate. He’s also the team’s leading scorer with nine goals on the season. The Zips (18-3) are led by Stuart Holthusen, a senior from Auckland, New Zealand, with 12 goals.

Lolla himself needs to “relish the moment” while putting Akron behind him this time around.

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A visit to an Akron soccer message board revealed that a sizeable number of fans from the Ohio school will be making the five-and-a-half trip to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium for the game. Seated among them in Section 211 will be Scott Caldwell who scored the winning goal in the 2010 championship game:

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Akron Coach Aaron Embick who felt strongly that fifth-seeded Akron deserved the No. 4 seed over Louisville, telling an Akron newspaper, “I think as a team we felt like we probably did more in the regular season,” he said. “We were a little bit hotter at the end of the regular season than Louisville to deserve the fourth seed. 

Nice bulletin board material.

Lamar Jackson nears perfection as Louisville football rips Kentucky

Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson emerge from the tunnel for their final regular season game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Lamar Jackson may be reaching his peak as the end of an unforgettable era draws near. Much better than the player who won the Heisman Trophy last season.

Lamar Jackson fields questions at press conference following UofL’s sixth win in the last seven games against UK (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Jackson has created a lot of magical memories during his career as the Louisville quarterback but he may have waited until the final regular season game for one of his best overall performances. Couldn’t have come at a better time than in a 44-17 win over Kentucky.

Jackson has had numerous games in which he has run or passed for three or more touchdowns, surpassing 100 yards rushing and over 300 through the air. He did it so frequently that it almost became routine, something football fans took for granted.

This was one of those rare games when he didn’t run for a single touchdown and he only passed for two touchdowns. But he never had a more complete game, with UofL scoring every time it got the ball before Jackson left late in the game.  UofL punter Mason King would not be needed in this one, thank you.

Coach Bobby Petrino would say afterward that “Lamar Jackson is the best player you’re ever going to see. There has never been a player like him and there won’t be for a long time.”

Haunted by costly fumbles and interceptions in last season’s loss to UK, Jackson said he had been looking forward to this game for a year. Nothing but pinpoint passing in this one, completing 15 of 21 passes to seven different players for 216 yards.

No hesitating, no panicking, no mistakes. Knowing what to do with the ball on every play. Getting lots of help again from Reggie Bonnafon with two touchdowns to go with nine carries for 64 yards and Dae Williams with six carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Getting plenty of protection from a greatly improved offensive line, yielding no sacks, paving the way for 32 UofL first downs, compared to only 20 for Kentucky.  The defense, while giving up 211 yards to Bennie Snell, allowed only eight passes to be completed, holding UK to 110 passing yards.

Petrino with plenty of accolades for a team that looked like it was going nowhere before winning the last three games. “The assistant coaches kept coming to work with a positive attitude and a great work ethic,” he said. “The defense kept bringing, they just kept coming. I’m really happy with the way we played. The execution was great.”

Petrino said it was so much fun to see how much Jackson has grown during over the past three seasons. “He’s the ultimate competitor. I don’t think I’ve ever been around someone who likes to compete as much as he does. He backs it up with confidence, and he’s so humble.

“He was on the sideline cheering and encouraging every guy on the field  after he came out of the game. He’s the greatest teammate and greatest kid in the world.”