Two national championships already in the books for University of Louisville for the 2014-15 academic year.
Kelsi Worrell, a junior swimmer, earned two national titles in winning the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly events over the weekend in the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Greensboro, N.C.
Worrell not only won two national championships but she set new NCAA and US Open 100 butterfly records twice on the same day Friday, becoming the first woman to finish in under 50 seconds. She completed a preliminary event in 49.89 seconds and won the championship with her 49.81 time.
“I just want to give all the glory to God, I wouldn’t be here without him,” said Worrell. “I just want to give all the glory to him. I want to thank all my teammates. I have so many family members in the stands and I am just so grateful that they are here and that I get to share this with them.”
Worrell won her second national championship on Saturday, winning the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1:51.11 and a sweep of the competition.
Kelsi, who hails from Westampton, N.J., missed much of the competition last year while she was coping with mononucleosis.
The UofL women’s team finished sixth in the overall competition. California was first, followed by Georgia, Stanford, Texas A&M and Virginia.
With all the talk about scary Northern Iowa finally muted, the University of Louisville can look forward to even more hair-raising competition in the NCAA tournament. The Doomsday scenario only have had the effect of generating high levels of respect for the opposition.
Terry Rozier certainly wasn’t affected by all the Chicken Little chatter, the sky is falling routine or the pre-game analysis that had made NIU a two-point favorite. Exuding poise and confidence, not missing a chew of his gum, prodding and poking the defense for openings, creating as many as they gave him, shredding, discarding the disbelieving Panthers.
Rozier would connect on eight of 13 field goals, including one 3-pointer, and eight of nine free throw attempts for 25 points. Equally awesome, however, were those half-court alley oop completions to Montrezl Harrell in the final three minutes, sucking the air out of the building. Those were only two of his seven assists, a new personal high for him.
— Wayne Blackshear joining the 1,000-point club with that 3-pointer at 12;23 mark in the first half, but the play of the night was coming out of nowhere to block a sure dunk by NIU’s Wes Washpan that would have pulled NIU within four points. Quentin Snider would grab the rebound, hurl it downcourt to Rozier, in turn finding Harrell for another of those marvelous dunks.
— Mangok Mathiang would make another 10-foot jumper for his only points, but the job he did on NIU’s Seth Tuttle. Besides blocking two Tuttle shots, he would keep him contained and, importantly, was never suckered by any of the ball fakes. standing his ground, bewildering Buss much of the night. He’s come a long way on defense. Fourteen points, but a very long night for Tuttle.
— Harrell, actually getting a couple of breaks to rest, accumulating 14 points, six rebounds, two blocks and an assist, still energized at the end. Very much so.
— Jaylen Johnson finding six minutes of playing time, playing like he belonged, three points, three rebounds, earning more playing time when it counts most, for him, for UofL. A late bloomer, someone else Rick Pitino can count on, he’s going to be good one, and sooner than expected.
— Snider continuing to grow at point guard, commanding respect from his teammates, becoming a fourth scoring threat, adding 10 points, the little guy also emerging with four rebounds.
A new sense of cohesion, a sense of purpose binding this team together, they are own biggest fans, with a new body language. They’re setting their sights high, enjoying winning and having fun, more than ready for any scary scenarios.
So much fun watching Jude Schimmel on those breakaway lay ups.
The last thing any fan of University of Louisville women’s basketball expected in the NCAA’s first round was a 33-point win over Brigham Young, 86-53, dominating in all phases of the game.
In many games this season, the Cardinals started slowly, assessing their opponents, needing to warm up to the task before getting their collective act together. The tendency was becoming a characteristic, more than a little worrisome.
Not on Saturday, however. The UofL women displayed new levels of intensity from the start, dismantling a shocked and unprepared BYU. The Cougars would turn the ball over 11 times in the first 11 minutes, with Louisville racing to a 24-12 edge.
UofL’s chaotic defense credited with 24 steals while forcing BYU into 30 turnovers, turning them into 38 points. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were getting 19 assists and connecting on 45.9 percent of their shots on the offensive end.
Myisha Hines-Allen having her way around the basket, collecting 19 points to lead all scorers while pulling down eight rebounds. Jude adding a total of 13 points, including one 3-pointer and five breakaways.
The UofL bench a major factor, contributing 37 points, with Bria Smith and Shawnta Dyer each adding 11 points apiece.
Emonnie Henderson pretty good at those breakaways, too. Get out of her way.
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The Cougars, more than a little frustrated, the game getting chippy in the second half, with bodies landing on the court. Mariya Moore apparently a target, instinctively retaliating at one point. Some of the BYU tactics becoming more evident as the game goes on, with the ESPN commentators paying closer attention to the physicality.
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Next up: South Florida on South Florida’s home court Monday
A nightmarish game straight out of basketball hell, but the University of Louisville basketball survives with a 57-55 win over UC Irvine. Could there have ever been an uglier game.
The towering 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, casting a huge shadow across the court, presenting a huge barrier to the basket on the defensive end, an ever-present distraction for UC Irvine on offense. The big guy, setting a block, lumbering to the basket, expecting a pass. Letting up on him always a mistake, just turning, throwing it down with sometime breathtaking authority.
Fortunately for Louisville, Ndiaye is not in great shape, needing frequent breaks, and getting only nine shots, making six of them for his 12 points. If he ever does get in shape, college basketball is in trouble. He’s just a sophomore, you know.
The box score doesn’t come close to reflecting Mangok Mathiang’s role in limiting Ndiaye because the final stats have Mathiang with no blocks or steals. Mathiang was busy knocking passes away, deflecting shots and depriving him of rebounds. As Rick Pitino said afterward, “Mangok played him perfectly.”
— Wayne Blackshear, sizing up the big guy, testing him, taking the ball to Ndiaye, refusing to let him be the deciding factor. “It was a little tricky,” said Blackshear, indicating he took advantage of Ndiaye’s clumsiness and slow reactions.
Blackshear becoming aggressive, driving the lane, bouncing off the big guy, but getting some valuable buckets, paying the price a couple of times. He would lead all scorers, connecting on eight of 20 shots — two of eight from beyond the 3-point line — for his game-leading 19 points.
— Quentin Snider, embracing the challenge, wanting this game, contributing 13 points. None more important than those two free throws at the end. “I knew my team needed them,” he said. “We had to have them.”
— Montrezl Harrell, taking outside shots without success, managing only a couple of dunks. He invests a lot of energy after the slams and may want to save it for other parts of his game. Eight points in this one.
— Terry Rozier, the target of UC Irvine’s box-and-one defense, finding it more challenging getting to the basket of late. Give him half a crease, however, and he will burn the opposition. He would score a dozen and make a memorable steal, sealing the win.
Take a day off. Get Mamadou Ndiaye out of your system. The sooner the better.
Here goes the University of Louisville again in the NCAA basketball tournament. Bruised and battered, but better for the experience.
The only dark cloud — and it’s an ominous one — is the omnipresence of Kentucky, an overwhelming pick to win the tournament. It’s not enough that UK is expected to win a ninth national championship, but the Wildcats begin their pursuit in our own KFC Yum! Center. At this very moment, there are probably 16,000 to 17,000 Wildcat fans on Main Street.
Let them have their fun. They’ve come a long way since losing in the first round to Robert Morris of the NIT two years ago. It’s a trip to the big city in Kentucky where everything doesn’t revolve around their inherited team. They will never change but this observer won’t share their pride or disappointment no matter where they finish.
While going overboard to compliment UK recently, Rick Pitino is more concerned about his own team and appears to be excited about the way the brackets shook out for UofL. He is loose and jovial outwardly, obviously wanting his players to be the same way.
“We’ve had enough practice for about three weeks of games, and our guys are definitely improving and looking forward to the opening of March Madness,” he said before departing for Seattle on Wednesday.
Louisville is positioned for some kind of run in the NCAA tournament, having compiled a 12-6 won-lost mark in probably the nation’s best basketball conference. Pitino had extra time to work on problems with the centers, and they should know what he’s trying to get them to do by now. He’s also spent more time on the challenge of attacking zone defenses and refining his own full-court press.
Out of the gate, there will be some improvement — especially if the light finally comes on for one or more of the big guys. Whether it will be maintained during the grind is the question.
As far as national expectations are concerned, there is little pressure on this team. But the players know what Rick Pitino expects from them, what every Louisville fans wants for them, and that’s what they should want that for themselves.
Let the run begin.
They’re on their way to Seattle, members of the University of Louisville basketball team, in this photo posted on the program’s Facebook page. Hamming it up for the camera, with some weird hand signals from Jaylen Johnson (second left) and Wayne Blackshear (at right) and some distinctive ear phones on Montrezl Harrell. One would anticipate some L signs if they are successful this weekend. First game for them in the NCAA is Friday at 4:10 p.m. against U.C.-Irvine.