Briahanna Jackson not slowing down anytime soon

Briahanna Jackson was considered a major scoring threat when she joined the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. She’s looking more for her teammates than she is hunting points these days.

Jackson transferred to UofL last season from the University of Central Florida where she had averaged 16 points per game as a freshman. She averaged 11.1 points as a sophomore in her first season here.

But it’s not Jackson’s shooting that impresses UofL fans these days as much as it is her boundless energy on the basketball court. She is in constant motion, running circles around her teammates and opposing players.

Jackson would make only one of eight field goal attempts in UofL’s 68-61 win over Western Kentucky before a crowd of 9,168 fans at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday.  She would provide a remarkable 10 assists to her teammates, helping to overcome a eight-point deficit in the second half.

Feeding the ball to Myisha Hines-Allen and Asia Durr who each collected 16 points, most of them in the final 20 minutes.

Briahanna scoring average is down to eight points per game, prompting some observers to speculate that she may be expending so much energy on other parts of her game. She made one basket out of eight attempts against WKU.

Coach Jeff Walz, who also marvels at her enthusiasm, believes she just needs a boost of confidence to regain her shooting eye. “Now that the exams are over, I’m encouraging her to spend a little more time shooting in the gym,” he said. “She just needs to see the ball go in the basket a few times.”

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Sydney Zambrotta with one of her five 3-point baskets in the first half (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Meanwhile, keep an eye on freshman Sydney Zambrotta, who hails from Christ the King in New York, the same school as Bria Smith, a former Cardinal.

Zambrotta keeps UofL close in the first half when she connected on five of six 3-point shots for her game-high 15 points. She did all that in only 13 minutes of playing time

Sydney was a two-time New York State Sportswriters Association all-state selection 2015 and 2016. She surpassed 2,000 career points in senior season after joining the 1,000-point club as a junior. She also played lacrosse and soccer.



Jeff Walz not awarding any participation trophies

Cornee Walton (left) comes to the aid of Asia Durr after Asia suffers a cramp in Thursday's game against Maryland ( Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Cornee Walton (left) comes to the aid of Asia Durr after Asia suffers a cramp in Thursday’s game against Maryland ( Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The heart of the schedule has arrived for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team and the Cardinals are learning some hard lessons. The latest a 78-72 loss to Maryland.

UofL showed some grit in rallying from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarters to twice take the lead. Didn’t faze Maryland, with Brenda Frese chalking up her third win against former assistant Jeff Walz in four tries. 

Briahanna Jackson had a busy night with 8 assists, 3 steals, 5 rebounds and 9 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Briahanna Jackson had a busy night with 8 assists, 3 steals, 5 rebounds and 9 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A disappointed Jeff Walz would question his team’s heart and desire to win. “Personally I hate losing more than I like winning,” said Walz. “Young people today are used to just showing up getting participation trophies just for playing. Just showing up is going to get you beat.”

With Asia Durr leading the way, UofL would build a 24-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.  She was open early and often, scoring 17 of her team high 20 points in the first 20 minutes, keeping her team within four points of the visiting Terrapins at half time.

Miserable shooting night for the rest of the Louisville women who could make only 31 of 79 (33.3%) field goals attempts. Shot after shot falling short of the rim most of the night.  Maryland, meanwhile, was 25 of 54, or a 61.5% clip.

The Cardinals were outrebounded 48-35 by the smaller Terrapins and could connect on only 6 of 14 free throw attempts.

Myisha Hines-Allen, picked pre-season ACC player of the year, regained some of her shooting form in the second half, winding up with 16 points. 

Nobody questioning Briahanna Jackson’s desire to win. She would have eight assists and three steals while contributing 9 points.

After six straight wins to open the season, UofL has lost two straight and is staring down the muzzle of a loaded Kentucky team on Sunday. The Wildcats are 8-1 and have won five straight games over UofL and six out of the last seven in the series.

Briahanna at her best, but DePaul prevails over Louisville

Had Briahanna Jackson been around those final 14 seconds, there may have been a different outcome.

Sorry, not available, having just fouled out. Just not enough Briahanna to go around for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team in their final game of the 2015-26 season, a 73-72 loss to DePaul in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Briahanna Jackson keeps Louisville close.
Briahanna Jackson keeps UofL close.

Playing what may have been the finest all-around game in her college career, Jackson fouled out after tying the game 71-71 on a layup. She would commit her fifth foul on the inbounds pass, after helping UofL overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Jackson became the go-to player for UofL with her teammate Myisha Hines-Allen blanketed by DePaul’s stifling defense. She would score 16 points in the second half, including two 3-pointers. She would wind up with 20 points to lead all Louisville scorers while claiming six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Concluding a season with a lot of ups and downs for the junior guard after transferring to UofL from Central Florida. She had some adjustments to make after being all-everything at UCF, making some personal sacrifices for the sake of team ball. Near the end of the season, she would recover from a shooting slump and not wanting to take shots, to taking what the defense gave her, becoming a better player as a result. This will serve her and UofL well next season.

Myisha, meanwhile, fell just short of collecting another double-double, contributing 14 points and 9 rebounds. Unfortunately, she was the victim of a questionable charging call at the 2.3 second mark, giving the basketball and an NCAA victory to DePaul. One official deciding that the players wouldn’t decide this one.

Mariya Moore playing a gutsy game, also scoring 14 points  while pulling down 10 rebounds.

Quite a season-long learning experience for a young team, winning 25 of their last 29 games after starting the season 1-4. Finishing with a 26-8 won-loss record overall and 14-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

They will be back with a vengeance next season, with some significant reinforcements. Stronger and hungrier.

The Force is strong, Louisville women zap Pittsburgh

starwars 2271 copyDarth Vadar, Princess Leia and Kylo Ren, aka Mike, Theresa and Aspen Schmidt, were among the 11,641 fans watching the Louisville women demolish Pittsburgh on Star Wars Day at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Force fully embraced the University of Louisville women’s basketball team three days earlier when the Cardinals dissected 17th-ranked Miami on the Hurricanes’ home court, giving UofL sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Characters from the seven different Star Wars movies arrived Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center to see the UofL women conclude the regular season, Darth Vadar was everywhere it seemed, usually in the company of Princess Leia, or Yoda. Boba Fet here, Chewbacca there, Yoda here, and Storm Troopers everywhere. The visiting Pittsburgh women never had a chance, The Force so prominent, so pervasive, so obviously leaning UofL’s way.

Yoda, in the person of Noah Tiwari, won best costume.
Yoda, in the person of Noah Tiwari, who won best costume, poses with the Cardinal Bird.

The Louisville women erupted early, claiming a 14-0 lead, stretching it to 27-4, and and 42-10 at the end of the first half.  When it was all over, UofL had prevailed 65-36, improving its overall record to 24-6 and claiming the runner-up spot in the ACC with a 15-1 record.

Leading the charge again was Myisha Hines-Allen, scoring nine of Louisville’s first 10 points after tipoff. She would score 13 points in the first quarter, going on to achieve her ninth double-double of the season and 10th of her career, with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds.

“We had a lot of energy coming out,” said sophomore Myisha Hines-Allen, in a possible thinly-veiled reference to The Force. Whatever, Hines-Allen has been imposing her will on ACC opponents with regularity of late.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 4.54.04 PM“She’s just a really tough matchup right now for a lot of people,” said UofL Coach Jeff Walz, “and if she continues – you’re getting 25 points on 14 shots – that’s pretty darn good.”

Briahanna Jackson continuing to feel The Force as well, an inexhaustible source of energy, the player nobody wants defending them. No breathing while she’s around. She’s a marvel to watch around the basket, sometimes getting ahead of herself but always entertaining to watch. Notching 12 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Taja Cole coming around, notching six points and five assists in this one.

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Courtnee Walson left midway in the first quarter and didn’t return after injuring a pinky finger. She should be ready to go again in the ACC Tournament.

The second-seeded Cardinals will play at 6 p.m. on Friday against the winner of No. 7-seed Georgia Tech and No. 10 Wake Forest/No. 15 Clemson.

Jeff Walz: Great expectations for Louisville women’s basketball

Jeff Walz is engulfed by media prior to UofL women's basketball tipoff luncheon.
Jeff Walz is engulfed by media prior to the UofL women’s basketball tipoff luncheon at the Downtown Marriott.

A crowd of more than 650 people showed up for the 2015 tip-off luncheon for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team Wednesday at the Downtown Marriott. Quite a contrast from a few years ago when the event was drawing maybe 300 fans.

Coach Jeff Walz, entering his ninth season at UofL, acknowledging the growing support, along with the sense of anticipation for the upcoming season.  “It’s all about expectations,” he told the media before lunch. “When I first got here we were talking about getting past the second round in the NCAA,” he said. “Now we’re talking about Final Fours and winning championships. I’m really proud of where this program is now but we’re not satisfied.”

During his first eight seasons, Walz has a 208-77 won-lost record. His teams have been to the Sweet 16 six times and have finished as national runner-up twice while turning out five WNBA draft picks, including Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel.

Walz said recruiting success has made it possible to raise expectations. “In order to have expectations, you have to have great players. You can coach as much as you want, but if you don’t have players who can perform it really doesn’t matter.”

His 2015 recruiting class includes five players ranked among the top 50 in the country, including Asia Durr, considered among the best in the class. It also includes 6-foot-3 Samantha Fuering, 6-foot-4 Erin DeGrate, Taja Cole and Brianna Jones.

Another addition is Briahanna Jackson, an outstanding transfer guard from Central Florida University, who was introduced publicly for the first time during the luncheon. She’s good enough to possibly nail down a starting spot.

“We have a wonderful group of young women,” he said during the luncheon. “This has been one of the most enjoyable pre-seasons that I have had.  They work hard, they have a great sense of humor and they care about each other. You’re going to be excited about this group.”

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Walz also took a moment to express his appreciation to Tom Jurich for hiring him. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Tom Jurich giving me this opportunity nine years ago,” he said.

Alluding to his one-time stuttering challenge, Walz said “it took some courage for Tom to hire me. This (making public speeches) was something I didn’t do very well, speaking in front of people, speaking to the media. It’s part of the job. You have to go out there and sell your product and sell your university.

“I’m grateful to Tom for giving the opportunity. It’s hard to believe I’m going on year nine. I plan on being here for many more years.”