Walz impressed by Louisville champs, on and off the court

In top photo, Myisha Hines-Allen and Sam Fuehring celebrate along with Coach Jeff Walz. Above, Sydney Zambrotta, Sam Fuehring, Asia Durr, Jessica Laemmle and Arica Carter with more of the same following their NCAA regional championship win at Rupp Arena [Cindy Rice Shelton photos].
Coach Jeff Walz welcomes Asia Durr after she departs the game with 18 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A special group of young women, with players getting along great together, adding one milestone after another, deserving everything they earn.

Before Jeff Walz arrived at the University of Louisville 11 seasons ago, the women’s basketball program had never been to the Sweet 16. He updated the record on Sunday, noting that every four-year player he has coached at UofL has been to the Final Four.

The Louisville women will so0n be hanging still another banner at the KFC Yum! Center in the near future.  A Final Four banner for sure, with still a shot at the ultimate, having already achieved one of the best seasons in the school’s history.

Jeff Walz holding Lucy and accompanied by Lola, her older sister. Those are assistants Stephanie Norman and Samantha Wiliams in background (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The Cardinals continued their impressive run in the 2018  NCAA Tournament with a dominating 76-43 win over Oregon State team in the Lexington Regional at Rupp Arena. A school record 36th win over the season against only two losses.  UofL moves to the Final Four for the third time in Coach Jeff Walz’ tenure.

The dominance was total, with the Cardinals forcing Oregon State into 17 turnovers and making only three themselves . UofL would outscore the Beavers 24-0 on turnovers.  Four of those steals coming in the third quarter when UofL would erupt, extending a seven-point halftime lead to 30 points.

Nobody wears that Final Four hat quite like Myisha Hines-Allen (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville would also hold the Beavers, who were averaging nine 3-pointers a game, to only five in this one, and limiting them to only 15 field goals. Oregon State wrapped up the season with a 26-8 record.

Four Cardinals scored in double figures, led by 18 points from Asia Durr, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player.  Myisha Hines-Allen scored 16 points and made three steals. Sam Fuehring scored 14 and Carter added 10. Jazmine Jones scored all four of her points during that explosive third quarter.

 While Walz was thrilled with the effort, he said he was even more impressed with his team’s performance off the floor. “We truly do have young women who are wonderful role models to my children,” he said, pausing to gather himself. “That means more to me than winning basketball games.

“When my daughter is out there in the yard and tells me she’s Lola Hines-Allen, my other daughter tells me she’s Lucy Durr, and she tells mom ‘You’re going to be the official.’ The impact our players have on their lives means everything to me.

“It’s a wonderful experience to get back to the Final Four, and I want to thank the players for being the kind of people they are.”

Louisville women escape Virginia but Jeff Walz awaits

All games don’t need to be this hard, like the University of Louisville women’s basketball team trailing by 13 points at the half, needing a desperate second half rally before outlasting Virginia 86-81 in overtime at Charlottesville.

Myisha Hines-Allen keeps slow-starting UofL within striking distance in the first half.

Coach Jeff Walz not pleased with how his team started the game, apparently requiring him to raise the decibel level in the locker room at the half. After the win, a relieved Walz lamented that some players needed to expend more energy, play with more heart, and invest in the team — rather than just putting in their time.

Although Cardinals have won two of their last three games, they have struggled early, needing to overcome deficits in games against Syracuse, Duke and Virginia. The coach concerned about the slow starts, the lack of intensity, and the cumulative effect of the less than convincing effort.

Obviously not a problem with Myisha Hines-Allen who, with 13 points and six rebounds in the first half, was keeping Louisville in the same gym with Virginia. She would finish the game with a career-high 31 ponts and 17 rebounds before fouling out in overtime with 1:45 remaining in overtime.

Mariya Moore was making 23 points, including four 3-pointers, along with six rebounds and  three assists. Asia Durr was making only two of 11 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, finishing with 16 points and three rebounds.

Transfer Taylor Johnson would hit two key free throws to give UofL a four-point lead with 20 seconds remaining in the overtime. Jazmine Jones would add a couple of more to ice the win with six seconds remaining.

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.

UofL women picked to contend for national title


That close. So near, yet so far away.

Jeff Walz has been there twice before, the championship game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Only to see his University of Louisville women’s basketball team overpowered, out-quicked and dismembered by UConn. Not even close at the half in either game.

The good news for Walz and everybody else next season is that UConn will lose Brianna Stewart and two other All-Americans from a program that won four straight championships. The sobering news, however, is Geno Auriemma, who has won the tournament 11 times, will probably be back with a strong support cast. No way UConn could continue its dominance of the women’s game. Or is there?

UofL recruits Cierra Johnson and Kylee Shook.
Recruits Cierra Johnson and Kylee Shook.

ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme thinks not. He’s picking UofL to be the No. 2 team in the nation next season, behind only Notre Dame, while ahead of South Carolina, UConn, Baylor, Texas, Maryland, Ohio State, UCLA and Stanford. Creme may given the Irish the nod but they weren’t that much better than UofL this season, claiming a five-point win only after Myisha Hines-Allen fouled out in the last three minutes.

UofL will return 10 players from a team that posted a 26-8 won-lost record, including Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore and Asia Durr. Joining the squad is an all-star recruiting class that include five-star post players Ciera Johnson and Kyle Shook, five-star guard Sydney Zambrotta, four-star forward Jazmine Jones and three-star forward Bionca Dunham.

Shook, a 6-foot-5 recruit from Colorado Springs, averaged 29.6 points and 15.0 rebounds to go along with 4.9 blocks per game. Johnson, a 6-foot-4 standout from Texas, averaged 14.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.

Walz may be in a position to add another McDonald’s All-American in 6-foot-3 Chatrice White, who has indicated she will transfer to another school from Illinois. White, who averaged 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds, is reportedly visiting UofL this week.  Oh, and she played on a USA U-19 team that included Walz and Moore last summer.

The UofL women experienced some significant growing pains this past season after losing four of their first five games, before winning 16 straight games. They ended on a sour note, however, losing two of the last three outings. They will not be taking winning for granted next time around.

With a year of hard knocks behind them, the UofL women should be force with which to be reckoned during the 2016-17 season. Tons of experience to go with an abundance of size, speed and shooters, and a coach who knows exactly where he wants them to be in the final game. He wants them to cut down the net next time, however.

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Sydney Brackemyre
Sydney Brackemyre

Sydney Brackemyre, always a positive presence on the bench, will be transferring. She was never able to contribute after re-injuring a knee and undergoing two operations during two seasons at UofL.

“Unfortunately, her knee injuries have not allowed her to compete at this level,” said Walz. “I really admire the positive attitude she brought to the gym each day, and I am hopeful she can find a program, where she can truly flourish.”

She’s the second player to transfer, joining Taja Cole, seeking more playing time elsewhere.

Jeff Walz sees his team again at press conference


Jeff Walz was hit hard by the flu bug over the weekend, and he hasn’t been the same since. He coached the team from a balcony overlooking the court on Monday, not wanting to infect members of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team.

He intended to coach them on Tuesday, getting out of his sick bed, hopping in his car to go to practice. “I got halfway there and had to pull over to the side of the road and go back home,” he said, without providing graphic details.  “I’m not 100% now but I’m feeling better, probably 80%. I should be okay by Friday.”Jeff Walz

He was seated at a table at an NCAA press conference Thursday, alongside Myisha Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore and Asia Durr. “This is about as close as I have been to the team in about five days. I’m very fortunate to have a great staff.  They know exactly what we’re trying to do and what we’re going to do. We all have each other’s backs, it’s something we pride ourselves on here.”

The coach’s eyes seem to light up as he heard his players discuss their commitment to getting better on defense going into Friday’s NCAA game against Arkansas Central.

“The coaches have been stressing defense all week,” said Hines-Allen. “When we played Syracuse (a loss in the ACC tournament), we didn’t play defense. Offensively, we can play with a lot of teams, we just need to work on defense.”

“Defense, defense, defense,” said Moore. “We’ve done a lot of work on defense and we need to be at our strongest in tournament play.”

Music to Walz’s ears, the coach with the bleary eyes actually managing a smile.

“The tournament is what we’ve been preparing for for six months,” he said. “If you have a bad day in the tournament, we’re done. You might not make shots,  you might not do something you normally do well but you have to figure out a way to have a positive impact. If you’re not on the floor, be cheering.

“We played enough basketball now that our freshmen are no longer freshmen. Youth is not an excuse. We’re prepared, they’re prepared. We hope it’s going to be a great weekend of basketball.”

That would put the effects of flu a distant memory.