Lady Cards Falter 78-74

Despite 35 points and 13 rebounds from Angel McCoughtry and 17 points and 20 rebounds from Candyce Bingham, the
Lady Cards were ousted from the NCAA Women’s Tournament by the Tar Heels.

Lady Cards Run Afoul of North Carolina

By Sonja

Using a strong inside performance in the second half, and receiving a nice assist from the officials, the UNC TarHeels take down the Cards this afternoon in New Orleans.

Louisville gave UNC all the wanted in the first half. Up 21-13 at the 13:06 mark, the went on a 16-6 run to lead the TarHeels 37-19 after a Chauntise Wright three-point play with 6:31 to go. From that point on, though the Heels,who
had gone 1-17 at one point from the field, found their shooting eye and went on a 18-9 run to close the half and trail by only nine at the break.

UNC’s good fortunes continued in the second half. An 11-1 run cut the lead to one with 15:59 to go. The Heels didn’t actually grab the lead until the 8:40 mark, and using a 11-0 run, had the Cards in the hole 64-57 with 6:59 left.

At that point, Louisville had big troubles. Hines, McCoughtry and Wright all with four fouls. zero points from the bench. It looked over, but Louisville kept battling.

With 2:27 left and UNC up by 10, the Cards tried one last rally. A McCoughtry free throw and layup cut it to seven. A Candyce Bingham three sliced it to our … and with 1:38 to go, it was a four-point game. The Cards cut it to two after another Bingham three with 31 seconds to go, but would not score again and the Heels pulled out a hard-fought four-point advantage.

Angel McCoughtry left it all out there, with 35 points. Candyce Bingham kept pulling the Cards back into it with clutch 3 pointers, but it just wasn’t enough.

Sometimes, good teams lose to great teams…and UNC is a great team. They didn’t get flustered when they were down by almost 20….and they used a withering 1-3-1 zone and an offensive full out attack in the paint to climb back into it.

So, the season ends for the Lady Cards. A magical season … an impressive debut for Jeff Walz. We’ll do a full season recap of this magical trip in a few days…but for now…it’s time to just reflect on what could have been, and hope our guys can get revenge tonight. Crying about referees never accomplishes anything, but one has to wonder how this one could have turned out if the Cards would have received equal representation at the foul line.

It’s been fun, I’ve had some great and interesting dialogue with several of you….and I’m already looking forward to next year. Let’s smile about what we did accomplish this year…and get behund T-Will and the gang with all the spirit and energy we have left.

Tar Heels All Day Long

Much at stake Card fans.

Saturday will be a long day whether Louisville wins, splits or loses two games against North Carolina. Carolina fans have all but marked both games down in the win columns. Can’t blame them because the University of Louisville has had to make up ground in recent years, getting the men’s and women’s teams competitive.ul_cardinal_head_logo2.jpg

The challenges are immense but Tom Jurich hires people like Rick Pitino and Jeff Walz because they relish such opportunities. Take on the best, means more, even more satisfying, if you beat them in front of their fans.

Men must defeat the nation’s No. 1 team, a team with a 32-2 record to make the Final Four. A real shot at a third national championship beckons for the first time in two decades. The surprising trip in 2005 was a major achievement, but nobody gave U of L any chance.

However, the Cards are a serious contender this time around; they’re close, they can almost taste it.

Got to get past North Carolina first.

Women must get past a No. 3-ranked team with a 30-2 record to make the Elite Eight. Would be the first time ever to get that far. This is all new to them. Perennial powers UConn and Rutgers can attest to their toughness, however.

It would be too easy to say they’re a year away. That would be a mistake, next year is a mirage, not yet real. The next level is staring the women in the face.

Got to get past North Carolina.

Helter Skelter Works In Cards’ Favor

For everybody who held their breath all day long and nearly suffocated early in the second half: Sit back, relax, put your feet up and take a deep one. In and out, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Now try grinning from ear to ear. It’s for real: Louisville 79, Tennessee 60. Cards are in the Elite 8 again.t-williger.jpg

ul_cardinal_head_logo2.jpg The analysts expecting a track meet were right on the money. Tennessee is a talented, ram it down your throat type team, always in a hurry, with incredible hops. Wouldn’t want to have to play those guys again Saturday night. The Vols restored some much needed respect back to the Southeastern Conference, even in losing. They also may have been their own worst enemy, playing themselves out of the game with all the chaos.

ul_cardinal_head_logo2.jpgESPN analyst Jay Bilas said several times early in the skirmish that the team that played smarter would win. He was right. Just dashing around, running over people, launching shots from all over as UT was doing is quite a spectacle but it also explains why they lost games they should have won in the SEC.

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The experts also said Tennessee was a good three-point shooting team. The Vols connected on only five of 18 three-point attempts. Chris Lofton, who entered the fray third in NCAA history with 429 three-pointers, missed his first seven attempts, finally connecting on one with 8:21 remaining. Still more eye openers for the folks who early on criticized Rick Pitino for relying so heavily on a 2-3 zone defense.

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Earl Clark made up for some noticeable bobbles and missteps in the first half, going on a tirade in the second, contributing 13 points and six rebounds in another impressive performance. Wound up with 17 points and 12 rebounds for the game. No longer Mr. Humble, he wants it bad now.

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Did Terrence Williams play one of his best games ever? You know he did. Throwing some unbelievable passes, especially that half court alley oop to Clark. That no-look, behind-the-head jewel to David Padgett had to be seen to be believed. Finding 12 points and eight rebounds while disorganizing Tennessee’s vaunted “organized chaos” time and time again.

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The David Padgett, Derrick Caracter one-two punch has reached a potent level. Just when the opposing defense thinks it has solved Padgett, here comes Caracter with a totally different game.

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If Terrence Williams is the heart, David Padgett is the brains, Andre McGee has to be the absolute soul of this team. Never flashy, always positive, Andre is still another Pitino model player, exceeds his abilities on a continuing basis. His layup with U of L leading by only one point 37-36 at the 16:09 mark was crucial, absolutely crucial, denying the Vols a chance to take the lead.

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Jerry Smith continues to Mr. Reliable, offensively and defensively. Notching two three-pointers, 13 points, four rebounds, getting inside Chris Lofton’s head, he, Preston Knowles and Earl Clark.

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UofL outrebounding the Vols 43-28. What a welcome sight to see those Tennessee shots bouncing off the rim, several of them not even hitting the rim — and, always, it seemed being wrapped by a UofL player, clinging to the ball, withstanding the slapping and snatching of the desperate ones.

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Rick Pitino coaching a team to another win in the Sweet 16, never having been defeated in eight tries in this round of the NCAA Tournament. This one was special, making it to Elite 8 once again, not only overcoming but building on the trials and tribulations of the early season gauntlet.

Show Time

The upcoming NCAA game between Louisville and Tennessee has already been analyzed from every conceivaface.jpgble angle. Game day routines have begun, altered slightly by the late 9:50 pm starting time. Most players leave their rooms during the day for breakfast and lunch and return to their rooms.

They spend most of their day there practicing hand-to-eye-and-ear coordination on their I-Pods, Play Station Portables and Game Boys. No extra curricular activities, no horsing around. Sticking with their routines, ever mindful of personal superstitions.

After the pre-game meal, they are bused to the arena about two hours before game time, getting their ankles, knees or elbows wrapped or taped. Do a few exercises. Head for the court for warm ups, shooting around. Then it’s back to the locker room for last minute comments from a relaxed and confident Rick Pitino. One more huddle, some yelling, and it’s on to the floor, the roar of the crowd. Time to take care of business.

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Program Building — The job Jeff Walz has done in fine-tuning the Lady Cards this season has been impressive, preparing them for the first of many UofL appearances in the Sweet 16. Some credit must go to former coach Tom Collen. Read Sonja’s insider perspective on the transition from Tom Collen to Jeff Walz and the issues involved.

Caracter Needs To Impress

Jeff Goodman, of Fox Sports, used some valuable space on his site Tuesday to announce to the world what most basketbalddddccccl fans already knew, that Derrick Caracter will be going pro after this season.

Certainly came as no surprise to Rick Pitino and Caracter’s teammates. He was unable to take college seriously, using it only to advance his basketball interests. Curfew and lights out meant time to get dressed up, go out on the town, whether the next game was at Freedom Hall or Madison Square Garden. Too tempting for him. Funny thing was he always seemed to get caught, perpetually in Pitino’s dog house.

Basketball seems to be the only thing that motivates DC. Incredibly, he was able to shed over 70 pounds to get into shape his freshman year. However, he was never able to make the extra effort to realize his exceptional potential. Required too much work, too much sacrifice over too long a period.

If there’s a silver lining in the Goodman “scoop,” it would be that Caracter will use his remaining time as a U of L player to make his case for going pro. U of L fans can only hope that he is very convincing in the process.