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 …”

Walz has front row seat across street, Louisville women roll in NCAA opener

Sam Fuehring in top photo and Asia Durr sharing scoring honors with 19 points apiece in UofL’s opening NCAA win (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Jeff Walz watching the game on the big screen at a restaurant across the street, having been suspended for comments following the University of Louisville’s loss in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament last season.

Not the place he wanted to be but Walz had to be ecstatic following UofL’s 69-34 spanking of Robert Morris in this year’s opening round at the KFC Yum! Center. Robert Morris had no chance. No answers for an intimidating performance by Louisville.

Stephanie Norman does her job, winning the opening game in the NCAA. Now the pressure is back on Jeff Walz (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Assistant Stephanie Norman said she felt little pressure subbing for Walz. “He just told us to go out and have fun,” she stated.

“To have someone like that as your boss really instills a lot of confidence and pride, and so he — he kept like making it really easy — well, he jokingly put pressure on me. But now the pressure’s on him. I did my job. ”

Louisville made it look easy against the smaller Colonials of the Northeast Conference. At one point between the first and into the second quarter Robert Morris missed 17 straight field goal attempts.

Sam Fuehring following up one of her most disappointing starts in a loss to Notre Dame with one of her best ever games, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Asia Durr would have 19 as well, resting most of the second half with the game out of hand. Dana Evans added 13 points and Bionca Dunham 10 points and seven rebounds. 

“We didn’t get off to the best start finishing shots we normally make,” said Colonials coach Charlie Buscaglia. “We don’t see this kind of length and athleticism at the mid-major level. Louisville definitely disrupted our pace.” 

That and a lot of other things.

 

 

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

 

 

Walz lets Louisville women work themselves out of jam

By Ed Peak

Maybe this is a good week for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team to take a break.  A respite from all the travel and rigors of the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference.

Jeff Walz saving his timeouts, letting his players work themselves out of jam against Virginia Tech (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Jeff Walz has had a great time this season, often joking, clowning and high-fiving his players as they have wound their way to a 23-1 won-lost mark. But he was not smiling Sunday when Virginia Tech cut a 20-point lead to five points with less than a minute to go.

That look of confidence replaced by one of genuine concern on that stubble-framed countenance. He knew they were in trouble. The second ranked Cardinals letting a 20-point lead dwindle to almost nothing to a team hitting everything it threw at the basket in the fourth quarter. 

Walz avoiding using up precious timeouts during those final minutes, wanting his players to get themselves out of troubling situations. “I wanted them to figure it out themselves,” he said. Durr taking the cue, digging deep, taking the team on her shoulders again. 

Durr has been banged up a bit lately, actually sitting out a game two Sundays ago. But Asia would answer the call time and time again in a scary 72-63 win at Virginia Tech. With more than a little help from Sam Fuehring, banking layup after layup during the late going.

Durr would wind up with 34 points for the game, the fourth 30-point-plus outing for her career. The go-to player in the clutch, making five of seven 3-point attempts and all seven of her seven free throw shots, the final two icing the win with 13 seconds to go. Fuehring would collect her fourth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

The close call for the Cardinals a reminder that the ACC remains one of the women’s college basketball’s toughest conferences. The week ahead a time to heal, get back to the basics, and prepare for the stretch drive. No time to take anyone or anything for granted.

Next game Sunday at 3 p.m. against Miami, a team fresh from upsetting Notre Dame, one game behind the Cardinals in the ACC standings, a team not be taken lightly.