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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
The time is arriving soon for Kylee Shook, the sooner the better, for her to raise her game to another level, become a dominant player.
The ideal time for Shook to flourish would be in the game everyone has been waiting for, the University of Louisville vs. UConn on Thursday at the KFC Yum! Center. UConn second, UofL third in women’s college basketball in the latest Associated Press poll.
Not that Shook isn’t having a decent season, she is, averaging 8.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-4 junior has a 50.2% field goal shooting percentage (59 of 117) and 35.7% from behind the 3-point line (10 or 28). She also has an amazing 27 blocks to go with 14 assists and 13 steals this season.
Earlier in the season, Kylee seemed at times reluctant to mix it up beneath the basket in a game that has become increasingly physical. Kylee has quietly had two double-doubles this year, including 10 points and 11 rebounds against a good North Carolina team and 15 points and 14 rebounds against Northern Kentucky.
Her most impressive performance may have come two games ago. In a 68-49 win at Florida State, she had eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 27 minutes
Nice statistics for a player coming off the bench, but one still can help but believe she is capable of more on a consistent basis. Or maybe one is thinking ahead to next season when, as a senior, she will inevitably become a starter, thrust into a leadership role and will need to become indispensable.
The best time for Shook to take it to the next level would be Thursday. UofL needs Kylee at her best to have a chance of ending that 17-game losing streak against UConn.
Arica Carter was not in the starting lineup at tipoff for the opening tip against North Carolina. But she would be there when the University of Louisville most needed her, barely clinging to a lead with the clock winding down.
North Carolina had reduced a 19-point lead to two points at with five minutes to go — talented and inspired, hoping to knock UofL from the ranks of the unbeaten. Conference opener a preview of things to come for the Cardinals.
But that was when Carter went to work, scoring five straight points and eight of UofL’s final 14 points. Destined to make a difference, filling the void on a off night for Asia Durr. No tolerance for any upset, she would secure the 73-66 win in front of a crowd of 8,506 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Making an equally strong impression was junior Jazmine Jones with one of the best games of her career, with 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Kylee Shook, Dana Evans and Durr would add 10 points apiece.
North Carolina, with a 9-7 record, providing evidence that the ACC may be much stronger from top to bottom this season. Louisville with a 13-0 record now, but the road ahead is littered with opponents who will be highly motivated. Nobody said it was going to be easy.