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 just having fun in win over Stanford

Myisha Hines-Allen cheering on her teammates from the sidelines in a milestone win over Stanford (Cindy Rice-Shelton photo).

Three hours before his team’s first game in the Lexington Regional, Jeff Walz bounded out of a Hilton Inn on South Broadway, headed in the direction of Star Bucks at the intersection. Getting out there with the people, excited, enjoying the moment.

The University of Louisville coach, not one to wait behind the scenes, shaking hands with some surprised fans. Walz wanting to kill time before the game, making small talk, thanking people for their support and best wishes.  

Jeff Walz with Lucy, his youngest daughter, just minutes before tipoff in an NCAA Regional game (Courier-Journal photo).

Fast forward to just a few minutes before tipoff, and there’s Walz sitting on the sideline with his youngest daughter in his lap. Smiles on both of their faces, the coach singing along to a song by Journey on the public address system. This was a game the UofL coach was going to enjoy, knowing his team was prepared. His confidence would be rewarded a couple of hours later with Louisville prevailing in an 86-59 decision over Stanford.

Afterwards a reporter asked Walz about the father-daughter time before tip-off, wondering whether or not the coach should have been stressed before the game. 

Asia Durr back on her game, leading all scorers with 24 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“Not one bit,” he replied. “We’ve done all of our work, and then my time comes when the game starts. Before that, I’m not one of those, you can’t talk to me, don’t do that. Again, that’s why I love coaching women’s basketball … Memories like that that I’ll be able to sit there and share with her in 10 years.”

Walz actually has three daughters and will have some good times recalling with them the first game between the UofL women and Stanford, one of the most feared programs in women’s college basketball.  Memories about a close-knit team, with players he considers a family.

“Our locker room is great, and that’s what it’s been like. You know, when you’ve got players that are excited for each other and not necessarily worried about themselves,” he said.  “This group of kids, they love — they just love being around each other. They love playing with each other, and we have fun. I mean, we literally have a good time.”

Having a good time, sharing the ball, claiming a win against another big program. Four players in double figure scoring — Asia Durr with 24, Myisha Hines-Allen with 17, Arica Carter with 13 and Jazmine Jones with 10. Sam Fuehring also making her presence felt with 11 rebounds and nine points.

This UofL family enjoying every minute, having fun, making memories and staying alive in the NCAA. 

Slide show courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton. Do yourself a favor and click on a photo for a slideshow:

Kylee Shook ready early, UofL women cruise in NCAA opener

Sam Fuehring clearing a path to the basket for teammate Dana Evans. (Cindy Rice Shelton photos)

Asia Durr not making shots? Myisha Hines-Allen not hitting? Two conference players of the year playing tentatively, not getting off to good starts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

The UofL women attracting a solid following as March Madness consumes the Ville again. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

Coach Jeff Walz will pull both of them quickly, letting them relax on the bench for a while. Kylee Shook and Dana Evans will see early action, along with Bionca Dunham. The University of Louisville women’s basketball team lives up to its  No. 1 seed in dismantling Boise State 74-42 at the KFC Yum! Center.

The game seemed to be tailor made for Shook. The 6-foot-4 sophomore would hit two 3-pointers within a minute, alternating between Jazmine Jones layups for a 19-8 lead before adding her own to make it 21-11.

Meanwhile, Sam Fuehring providing a intimidating presence on defense while cleaning up around the basket for another 14 points. Fuehring and Shook would pull down 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively.

All America Asia Durr attracting a crowd everywhere she goes during NCAA action (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Hines-Allen, never able to get going offensively, would wind up with only four points but still manage to get 14 rebounds. Arica Carter was passing out assists all afternoon, finding her teammates for seven baskets.

Asia Durr, unable to conceal her concern about her shooting touch from behind the 3-point line, still managing to get nine points. She was 0-4 on 3-point shots.

Durr attracts a lot of attention on and off the court. She needs to find her shot soon, return the favor to her teammates, if she and UofL are to make a serious run in the NCAA tournament.

Time is now, Louisville women cut ACC tournament threads

A time to celebrate for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team with the program’s first ACC tournament championship (UofL Women’s Basketball photos).
Sam Fuehring and Myisha Hines-Allen go just a little bit crazy celebrating UofL’s first ACC tournament championshp.

No shoulda, woulda, coulda’s for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. No looking past anyone, no waiting until next year, and no getting blinded by the spotlight.

Your UofL women are the winners of the 2018 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, the best all season long. Defeating Notre Dame 74-72 on Sunday in the tournament finale, claiming the Cardinals’ first ACC tournament championship and their first conference tournament title since 1993.

Defeating the Irish for the second time this season. Denying Notre Dame a fifth consecutive tournament championship and handing the Irish first loss  ever in ACC tournament play. In the process, the Cardinals earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a most desirable spot in the Lexington Regional.

A milestone win for a group of players Coach Jeff Walz has often described as a wonderful group of young women, people who enjoy working and playing together, and pulling for each other to succeed. They have carved a unique niche in program history, positioning themselves for something even more special.

Arica Carter solidified herself as a major 3-point threat in the ACC tournament, with eight of them in three games (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Notre Dame wanted this one, wanted it bad, wanted redemption for a 33-point loss in Louisville in January. The Irish, who have dominated the ACC the past four seasons, weren’t going to wilt in this one, holding a 42-37 lead at the 8:30 mark in the third quarter.

That seemed to be all the incentive the Cardinals needed to get down to business. Asia Durr would hit her second 3-pointer, Myisha Hines-Allen would get a layup, Arica Carter  her third 3-pointer, Hines-Allen another layup, Jazmine Jones a layup, followed by a layup by Sam Fuehring, propelling Louisville to a seven-point lead at one point.

Five players scoring in double figures for UofL — Durr with 17, Carter 16, Hines-Allen and Fuehring with 15, and Jones with 11 — and with a total of 22 assists, personifying an all-out team effort. Players stepping up at all corners of the court.

With Durr struggling for much of the tournament, her teammates had to come through and they did.  The ACC player of the year went six of 27 — and one for 12 from 3-point range — in her first two tournament games. But it would be Durr who would hit all four of her free throws in the final seconds assure the win in the final game.

Jeff Walz reaffirms with ACC tournament title that he’s in this thing to win championships.

Hines-Allen, with combined totals of 48 points and 26 rebounds in three games, was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. She was joined by Fuehring on the all-tournament first team, and Carter and Jones on the second team.

Walz, the ACC Coach of the Year, ecstatic but not fully content with the latest conquest, apparently eyeing an even bigger prize in the days and weeks ahead.  “I hope it puts a smile on everybody’s face,” he said. “It’s been a remarkable run, but we aren’t finished. … We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Much bigger.

Hines-Allen owns the day, Louisville women the ACC title

Your 2017-18 Atlantic Coast Conference champions pose for the official photo, celebrating a long awaited and deserved conference championship (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Myisha Hines-Allen was the first player on the ladder cutting the net following the University of Louisville women’s basketball team’s 81-49 win over Pittsburgh. A special day for Myisha and UofL, an exuberant ending to the regular season.

Myisha Hines-Allen prepares for her final regular season game at Louisville during pre-game ceremonies for the team’s only senior (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Senior Day for Hines-Allen, the only senior in the 2017-18 class, her family on hand, cousins and friends, along with 10,431 adoring fans at the KFC Yum! Center. The video tributes from fans began before the opening tip, continued throughout the game, and followed the cutting down of the nets.

Special day for the entire women’s basketball team as well, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, their first conference championship in 17 years. Officially they tied for first with Notre Dame but the nation saw the Cardinals trounce the Irish by 33 points in January.

There would be no distractions despite all of the attention. Hines-Allen could do no wrong in her final regular season game, scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds for the 43rd double-double in her four-year career. Her layup with 5:37 left in second quarter allowed her to pass Nell Knox (1,899 points) for third all-time in scoring for Louisville.

Jeff Walz gets that ACC conference championship for the 2017-18 season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

She would leave the game to a standing ovation at the 3:33 mark,  the applause continuing after play had resumed on the court. Afterwards she would pose for the team photo and foist an ACC championship high above her head, taking a victory lap around the court. She would catch the championship net from Coach Jeff Walz and wear it around her neck to the post-game press conference.

Asia Durr would do her part, of course, handing out six assists while making good on six 3-pointers on her way to a team high 20 points. But mostly she was happy for Hines-Allen, proclaiming, “”She’s a great player. I can’t wait to see her at the next level.”

But first, as Hines-Allen reminded everyone in the press conference, “We got more business to take care of. I’m not really shocked because I knew we were capable of winning, it’s just like it’s huge, senior game. I’m happy we were able to play for a championship on my senior day game and just to experience this.”

Louisville is 15-1 in conference play and 29-2 and is the No. 1 seed as it prepares for the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. The Cardinals earned a double bye and will play their first game at 2 p.m. Friday.