Asia’s last game at the Yum! Center, but more to do for UofL women

Asia Durr’s time is running out but there are greater things for her to achieve over the next couple of weeks.

Durr being introduced for the last time at the KFC Yum! Center. Making five 3-pointers. Leaving to a standing ovation at the 1:54 mark. Kissing the floor at center court five minutes after the game, following it up with a victory lap around Denny Crum Court.

Had to be around the past four seasons to appreciate the significance of the moment, enjoying Durr as long as one can, knowing players this good are rare indeed. Probably playing at the Yum! for the last time, again setting the tone for the Cardinals against another outstanding opponent. Seemingly always at her best when it counts the most.

Asia would score 24 points to lead all scorers, making nine of 24 shots and five assists. The University of Louisville would defeat Michigan 71-50 in front of an exuberant  crowd of 7,725, in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Durr was joined on her post-game victory lap by fellow seniors Sam Fuehring and Arica Carter, constituting a trio of seniors who have compiled a 123-22 won-lost record at UofL over the past four seasons. No looking back. a time to celebrate, looking ahead to  their third consecutive Sweet 16 berth and a trip to the Albany Regional.

Behind Durr’s first three 3-pointers and 12 points, Louisville would race to an early 19-11 lead in the first quarter. The teams were essentially trading baskets until UofL outscored Michigan 17-5 in the third quarter, the Wolverines gasping for breath as the four quarter began.

Jazmine Jones would add 15 points, Sam Fuehring and Dana Evan 10 points apiece. Kylie Shook, starting her second straight NCAA tournament game, would add 10 rebounds, eight points and two blocks. 

Durr and her classmates running those post-game laps, celebrating the past four seasons, not wanting to leave the floor for the last time. Wanting to ensure that an intensely loyal fan base receives credit as well.

“It was great,” said Durr. “Playing here for four years with such great fans, great people who follow you everywhere, literally everywhere. I can’t really put it into words because it’s a feeling that you’ll never forget, and years down the line, you talk to your kids, your grandkids, your friends about these four years …”

Ed Peak: Louisville women are ready for post-season fun

Jeff Walz cutting down the net after winning his team’s first ACC championship last season (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Jeff Walz is a candidate for “Coach of the Year” honors, Asia Durr for “Player of the Year” and this University of Louisville women’s basketball team is a contender to win a national championship. Until last Thursday I was a little pessimistic. No longer.

The way third-ranked Louisville shredded 10th-ranked North Carolina State convinced me that this team is ready for another long post-season run. Tampa, the site of this year’s Final Four, is a nice place to visit. I’ve been there, and it’s especially nice in early April.

Asia Durr gets one more run at an NCAA championship (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The ACC has proven again to rival the Southeastern Conference for supremacy in women’s college hoops. Notre Dame, NC State, Miami, Florida and Florida State are all quality teams. It’s possible the Irish, the defending national champions, will be a No. 1 seed as well even if they lose in the conference tournament.

Winning the conference tournament or the NCAA will be difficult. But a very tough schedule has the Cardinals well prepared. Non-conference wins over UCONN, Boise State, Arizona State and Kentucky have helped as well. That bitter loss to Mississippi State in overtime in the semifinals is in the back of the mind of these players.

You can bet Durr, Sam Fuehring, Arica Carter and Dana Evans remember the two rushed missed layups as time expired in regulation that would have put the Cardinals in the finals against Muffet McGraw’s Irish, a team Louisville had beaten twice last season.

All that doesn’t matter. What does matter is Louisville needs to play well in the conference tournament to sharpen up for the NCAA’s.

The No. 2 seed Cardinals open conference tourney play Friday against either No. 15 Wake Forest or No. 7 Virginia Tech. My money is on Tech that played the Cards tough in the second half in Blacksburg, Va. in February.

Another NC State matchup could follow in the semifinals and it’s possible a game with Notre Dame, a team the Cards lost to in January in the finals. Foul trouble hurt the Cardinals in that game. And Louisville wasn’t playing with as much confidence then as it seems to have now.

Among the keys will be how Fuehring plays in the middle and controls her emotions. How junior Bianca Dunham scores and rebounds is equally important. If Durr isn’t scoring, she needs to find  Carter, Jazmine Jones and Dana Evans. Kylee Shook seems to be progressing in the middle. If Fuehring gets in foul trouble, Shook will have to pick up the slack. Mykasa Robinson and Seygan Robins will provide relief and must contribute.

Time to start clicking on all cylinders, taking advantage of still another opportunity to achieve Jeff Walz’ ultimate goal for this basketball program. Wait till next year has arrived, destiny is staring this team in the face.

As Al McGuire, the late Marquette coach would say. “The last shot has to go in.” Here’s hoping that last shot goes in this time.

Oh, what a night for Asia Durr, Louisville women’s basketball

Asia Durr doing what she does, putting up one 3-pointer after another on a record-tying night with 47 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).
ust another amazing night for Asia Durr on Senior Night, scoring 47 points to tie her previous high game mark (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Asia Durr came to celebrate her fabulous four-year career with the University of Louisville women’s basketball team on Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center. Senior Night for her, and another crowning jewel for 10,610 UofL fans.

This will be another one of those nights that will stand out long after Asia Durr has moved on, a crushing 92-62 defeat of 10th ranked North Carolina State. Ranking right behind milestone wins over UConn and Notre Dame over the last two seasons. 

Tears all round as Asia, Sam Fuehring and Arica Carter are escorted to the court for Senior Night ceremonies. Parents, coaches, teammates and fans so proud of what the young ladies have accomplished. A special senior class leading the way to a remarkable 26-2 record overall and 13-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The tears would turn to expressions of exuberance shortly thereafter. Asia would miss her first field goal attempt but connect on eight of her next 10 shots, including seven 3-pointers for an amazing 22  points in the first quarter. 

She was far from done, however, making 17 of 27 shots for the night, including 11 3-pointers, for a total of 47 points. The mark tied her previous high of 47 points in UofL’s opening game against Ohio State during the 2017-18 season. The 11 3-pointers setting a new Atlantic Coast Conference record.

Asia, with that smile of hers, crediting her teammates for finding her open time after time, making such a happy ending possible. “This is about much more than Asia Durr,” she said. “I love this team, I love my teammates.”

Gallery by  Cindy Rice Shelton

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Louisville women sock UConn, 17,023 rock the Yum!

Louisville’s Asia Durr is embraced by UConn Coach Geno Auriemma following UofL’s win (top photo). The Louisville bench erupts following one of five 3-pointers by Dana Evans. Below, UofL Coach Jeff Walz thanks the crowd of 17,023 for all the support (Cindy Rice Shelton photos). 

A long time between wins, so many futile efforts, numerous beatings at the hands of UConn over two decades.  Two days before Ground Hog Day, concern and fear about another possible blowout. Been there in many of those 17 straight losses.

The largest crowd to see a women’s college basketball game of 17,023 were on hand at the KFC Yum! Center.

In the past, hang with them for a couple of baskets, throw the ball away a couple of times, and wave goodbye. That scenario quickly coming to mind with UConn jumping out to a 6-2 lead. Here we go again?

Not this time, not with this year’s edition of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. Not even with leading scorer Asia Durr being held scoreless in the first quarter, missing all four of her field goal attempts. Not to worry, Jazmine Jones, Sam Fuehring and Dana Evans were taking up the slack, unfazed by the opponent, giving Asia time to find her shooting touch.

No intimidation, no regrets, no coulda, woulda, shoulda’s this time around, a premier performance in front of a national ESPN television audience and a crowd of 17,023 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. Third-ranked Louisville handing second-ranked UConn a 78-69 defeat, their second loss of the season. Improving their own record to 20-1 in the process.

“At the end of the first quarter, Asia was sitting there on the chair and I told her to smile,” said Coach Jeff Walz. “Put a smile on your face. It’s 21-21 and you’ve got great teammates. Embrace that and enjoy it.

“She smiled and said, yes, I do have great teammates. She is so unselfish and special, and that’s what makes her such a good player.”

Durr would warm up quickly in the second quarter, hitting her first 3-pointer in the first 54 seconds. She would follow that up with three more 3-pointers and 14 of her team’s 19 points to give UofL a 40-38 lead at the half. She would lead all scorers with 24 points for the game.

Evans would wind up with 20 points, including five 3-pointers. Fuehring and Jones would each have double-doubles — Fuehring with 10 points and 12 rebounds, Jones with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“It was a huge win for our program,” said Walz. “We haven’t beaten them in 26 years and they’re 206-5 over the past four seasons. Think about that. I’m excited to be 55-4 over the same stretch. It’s amazing what they’ve been able to do so, yes, it’s a huge win for our program.”

UConn Coach Geno Auriemma, unaccustomed to losing basketball games, was in a state of shock at the post-game press conference, saying his two-loss team had a lot to learn. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight and Louisville took advantage of every one of them,” he said. “We struggle with teams that have the size and quickness that Louisville has.”

Auriemma said UofL players play well together, they know their roles and play good defense. “Jeff has built a tremendous program here,” he concluded.

Photo gallery by Cindy Rice Shelton:

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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.”