Louisville women sock UConn, 17,023 rock the Yum!

Louisville’s Asia Durr is embraced by UConn Coach Geno Auriemma following UofL’s win (top photo). The Louisville bench erupts following one of five 3-pointers by Dana Evans. Below, UofL Coach Jeff Walz thanks the crowd of 17,023 for all the support (Cindy Rice Shelton photos). 

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.

The largest crowd to see a women’s college basketball game of 17,023 were on hand at the KFC Yum! Center.

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.

Photo gallery by Cindy Rice Shelton:

Kylee Shook a key player for Louisville women against UConn

Kylee Shook will play a decisive role in the fortunes of University of Louisville women’s basketball (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

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 there when Louisville women need her most

Coach Jeff Walz wanting to get closer to the action as North Carolina mounts a comeback against UofL in the opening game of the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of the schedule.

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.

Asia Durr receives a basketball before the game commemorating her 2,000th point, making her the third leading scorer in the program’s history.

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.

Bigger the game the better for Asia Durr

Asia Durr is currently averaging 21.7 points per game for 11-0 Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So much fun watching Asia Durr for fans of University of Louisville women’s basketball team. Making it look so easy as she gets her shots off against double-teams, triple-teams, full-court presses, box-and-ones. Asia has seen them all, the bigger the opponent the better, the more she excels.

Case in point, her heroics in UofL’s recent win over Kentucky in a battle of the unbeaten. She would secure her team’s first seven points, with Wildcat defenders literally hanging on her, en route to a 32-point performance. Her best game thus far may have been that 36-point outpoint in a 100-67 drubbing of eventual national champion Notre Dame last season.

Asia Durr thrives best on the big stage, the bigger the opponent the better (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I’ve really embraced being the go-to player,” said Durr, who is averaging 21.7 points through 11 games this season. “I want to be the player where, when the game is on the line, coach draws up the play for me.

“But whatever Coach needs me to do, I’ll do it. Anything. He’s asked me to do different things, like help lead the freshmen, help make them better, and that’s been a good challenge.”

Asia will likely be a lottery pick during the WNBA draft at the end of the season but she wants to stay focused on the present, enjoying every minute of her time at Louisville, and hopefully a second consecutive Final Four appearance.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Durr told ESPN. “This is my last year, so I want to leave a mark here with how people will think of me — not just with basketball but with the type of person I am. I like spending time with our fans and the kids who look up to me. With that and school and basketball, it keeps me pretty busy.”

Punching bag Asia Durr for 32, UofL women topple Kentucky

Asia Durr gets an arm to the chest from Kentucky’s Tatyana Wyatt but still gets the basket on her way to 32 points (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton).

The rivalry never gets old, never any lack of intensity.

Two of the best women’s basketball teams to compete in the Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry, entering the game with identical 9-0 records. Cruising in the pre-conference season, each wanting another signature win. But mostly wanting to knock their rival from the ranks of the unbeaten.

UofL ranked fifth in the nation, UK 19th. Even more motivation for the Wildcats, wanting to move up in the poll, wanting the Cardinals to slide. Louisville equally fired up for Kentucky, the last thing UofL needs is a loss to the arch rival.

Louisville would win this showdown 80-75 before a crowd of 13,786 crowd of heavily red-clad fans at the KFC Yum! Center. It was UofL’s third straight in the series, and probably the most impressive win yet a team that could be among UK’s best in recent years.

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