Abrupt ending to Asia Durr era for Louisville women

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Once again thoughts turn to next year for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

As Asia Durr goes, so goes the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. She’s done and so are the Cardinals in the 2018-19 season.

Durr would miss her first shot 15 seconds into the championship game of the NCAA regional at Albany, N.Y.  Following that one up with eight more misses in the first quarter, not making her first field goal until the beginning of the second quarter.

Louisville could not afford to have its leading scorer get off to a bad start, not against one women’s college basketball’s winningest programs. The worst fears of UofL fans quickly becoming evident, leading to a prolonged and painful realization that her journey was coming to an end.

Meanwhile, UConn’s Katie Samuelson, recently missing four games with back problems, having the game of her career with 29 points, including seven of 12 three-point attempts and a couple of circus shots. Take that Louisville, with those dreams of a national championship.

Durr would wind up with some impressive stats, too — 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists — but because the slow start, Louisville was trying to stay in the game for the most part. Her fellow seniors — Sam Fuehring and Arica Carter — contributing 15 and 10 points, respectively. 

UofL did manage to cut the deficit to two points at the 36-second mark, but the odds of winning were never encouraging. A disappointing end to a fabulous career, her team losing once again to UConn, this time by a score of 80-73.  

The Huskies again asserting their superiority in a series they have dominated by a 18-2 since the early nineties. Durr finishing her college career with 2,485 points, second only to Angel McCoughtry on UofL’s all-time scoring list. 

A magical career for career with some unforgettable moments for Asia Durr. Sad the journey ending a bit too soon.

Jeff Walz adds options for leaving Louisville post

Jeff Walz would address the question at least four more times after his opening statement about rumors of a potential job offer from the University of Tennessee, indicating that similar rumors have surfaced following the last four seasons.

Finally, on the very last question in the press conference, the Observer reminding Walz of his oft-repeated promise that he would leave UofL only if he retired or was fired. While not reaffirming that pledge,Walz did indicate that he would leave under a couple of other conditions.

“If the Los Angeles Lakers’ job came open, I might leave. If they offered me the job, I would be gone. If I could coach LeBron, I would leave. 

“If I could win the Powerball Wednesday night, I would leave, too. If I could pick the right six tonight, I might not see you all tomorrow.” The Powerball jackpot is an estimated 750 million bucks.

A couple of times during the press conference Walz said he was “not going to worry about” a job offer from Tennessee. “There is no job opening there right now,” he said. “This is a part of the business, you win and people start rumors. I have a game to prepare for. We’ll talk about it briefly with the team and move on.”

Walz is not getting fired, not retiring, not getting any offers from the Lakers, and the odds of anyone winning the Powerball jackpot are odds of 1 in 292.2 million. 

Cardinal fans can relax for now, at least until the Powerball numbers are announced. Until then, Jeff Walz’ focus is on the Oregon State tip off on Friday in the Sweet 16.

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.