Asia Durr for 28, Louisville women rip North Carolina

Louisville Coach Jeff Walz sends a message to officials after Myisha Hines-Allen was pulled to the floor on a rebound in the second quarter. A technical foul was assessed to a North Carolina player. 

Always nice when the University of Louisville women’s basketball team coasts to a win over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.  Especially when the opponent is North Carolina and the score is 87-57.

The UofL women would start slow and finish going away before a crowd of 9,739 fans at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday.  A “Pink Out” day for cancer awareness, with UofL wearing pink, UNC that Carolina blue, posing a challenge for at least one color blind observer.

Hines-Allen seems to be over whatever was slowing her down a few games ago.

The Cardinals getting some extra motivation in the second quarter when Myisha Hines-Allen was wrestled to the floor by UNC’s Alyssa Okoene. Both players getting up with fire in their eyes, their teammates restraining them. Technical foul called on Okoene, with the Cardinals scoring six quick points to claim a 34-21 lead at the intermission.

Another dominating performance by Asia Durr, scoring 10 points in the first half, a flurry of eight straight points in the third quarter, and a total of 28 points for the game. She keeps gaining confidence, improving her shot selection, and making it look so easy in some games.

Coach Jeff Walz seemed to most pleased with Durr’s four assists. “She’s improving other parts of her game,” he said. “She’s even more of a threat when she can find open teammates.”

Hines-Allen seems to be over whatever was slowing her down a few games ago, turning in another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. That’s her 12th double-double this season and the 24th in her three-year career at Louisville.

Only two more games remaining in the regular season, senior night at home against Virginia on Thursday, and a road game at Wake Forest next Sunday. The Cardinals are 23-6 overall and tied for fourth with N.C. State in the ACC with identical 10-4 conference records. N.C. State has the advantage if a tiebreaker is needed, virtue of a win over UofL.

Louisville women escape Virginia but Jeff Walz awaits

All games don’t need to be this hard, like the University of Louisville women’s basketball team trailing by 13 points at the half, needing a desperate second half rally before outlasting Virginia 86-81 in overtime at Charlottesville.

Myisha Hines-Allen keeps slow-starting UofL within striking distance in the first half.

Coach Jeff Walz not pleased with how his team started the game, apparently requiring him to raise the decibel level in the locker room at the half. After the win, a relieved Walz lamented that some players needed to expend more energy, play with more heart, and invest in the team — rather than just putting in their time.

Although Cardinals have won two of their last three games, they have struggled early, needing to overcome deficits in games against Syracuse, Duke and Virginia. The coach concerned about the slow starts, the lack of intensity, and the cumulative effect of the less than convincing effort.

Obviously not a problem with Myisha Hines-Allen who, with 13 points and six rebounds in the first half, was keeping Louisville in the same gym with Virginia. She would finish the game with a career-high 31 ponts and 17 rebounds before fouling out in overtime with 1:45 remaining in overtime.

Mariya Moore was making 23 points, including four 3-pointers, along with six rebounds and  three assists. Asia Durr was making only two of 11 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, finishing with 16 points and three rebounds.

Transfer Taylor Johnson would hit two key free throws to give UofL a four-point lead with 20 seconds remaining in the overtime. Jazmine Jones would add a couple of more to ice the win with six seconds remaining.

Dakota provides spark, Myisha the points. UofL women moving on

Central Arkansas was dreaming big, playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament game, hoping to derail the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. Wanting some respect, eyeing an upset, wearing a lean and hungry look.

Myisha Hines-Allen for two more.
Myisha Hines-Allen for two more.

Making a good first impression, matching UofL basket for basket early, owning a 25-22 lead at the end of the first quarter. Gaining confidence, only to run into a brick wall three minutes into the second quarter.

That’s when Louisville would score 17 straight points, with Myisha Hines-Allen making good on a layup and a free throw to put UofL ahead 34-32. The ACC player of the year would score 11 of her game-high 25 points during the surge. Hines-Allen, who had seven rebounds would play only 23 minutes, the only thing preventing a 12th double-double this season.

Louisville would win 87-60 before a crowd of 5,823 at the KFC Yum! Center, advancing to the second round 2:30 p.m. Sunday against DePaul, which easily handled James Madison 97-67 in an earlier game.

Dakota Weatherford provides the spark.
Dakota Weatherford brings energy.

Credit Dakota Weatherford, a sparingly used former walk-on for keeping Louisville close early on, providing a much-needed spark in the second quarter. shaking the doldrums, sparking the Cardinals with a 3-pointer and three steals.

“She’s really the only player I’ve got right now that will dive on the floor after loose balls,” Walz said. “Whenever there’s a 50-50 ball, and you watched Dakota during that game, she’s on the floor.”

Hines-Allen concurred, “We started taking advantage of our advantage in the post,” she said. “and we started scoring better in the transition.”

As would Mariya Moore, “It’s really great, especially because we know how hard she works in practice,” she said. “Just to see it translate to the game is awesome.”

Weatherford transferred to Louisville from Evansville a year ago, thinking she had given up basketball until Walz discovered she was on campus. “It was definitely hard getting back out there after a year off, but I like it,” she said.

She’s still a blur to Central Arkansas.

Jeff Walz sees his team again at press conference

Jeff Walz was hit hard by the flu bug over the weekend, and he hasn’t been the same since. He coached the team from a balcony overlooking the court on Monday, not wanting to infect members of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team.

He intended to coach them on Tuesday, getting out of his sick bed, hopping in his car to go to practice. “I got halfway there and had to pull over to the side of the road and go back home,” he said, without providing graphic details.  “I’m not 100% now but I’m feeling better, probably 80%. I should be okay by Friday.”Jeff Walz

He was seated at a table at an NCAA press conference Thursday, alongside Myisha Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore and Asia Durr. “This is about as close as I have been to the team in about five days. I’m very fortunate to have a great staff.  They know exactly what we’re trying to do and what we’re going to do. We all have each other’s backs, it’s something we pride ourselves on here.”

The coach’s eyes seem to light up as he heard his players discuss their commitment to getting better on defense going into Friday’s NCAA game against Arkansas Central.

“The coaches have been stressing defense all week,” said Hines-Allen. “When we played Syracuse (a loss in the ACC tournament), we didn’t play defense. Offensively, we can play with a lot of teams, we just need to work on defense.”

“Defense, defense, defense,” said Moore. “We’ve done a lot of work on defense and we need to be at our strongest in tournament play.”

Music to Walz’s ears, the coach with the bleary eyes actually managing a smile.

“The tournament is what we’ve been preparing for for six months,” he said. “If you have a bad day in the tournament, we’re done. You might not make shots,  you might not do something you normally do well but you have to figure out a way to have a positive impact. If you’re not on the floor, be cheering.

“We played enough basketball now that our freshmen are no longer freshmen. Youth is not an excuse. We’re prepared, they’re prepared. We hope it’s going to be a great weekend of basketball.”

That would put the effects of flu a distant memory.

All-America Hines-Allen has bigger goals in mind

The individual accolades are flowing her way but Myisha Hines-Allen wants something much bigger.

The University of Louisville sophomore is going to need some extra walls to display all the awards she has earned for leading her women’s basketball team to a 25-7 won-lost record overall and a 15-1 mark and second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Following the season, Hines-Allen  was named ACC Player of the Year and a member of the ACC all-tournament team.

She was named ACC Player of the Week a third time during the season after she hit 11 of 14 shots against Pittsburgh in the regular season finale against Pittsburgh. She averaged 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while scoring 20 points in 11 outings.

More honors to come, including the possibility of first team of the Associated Press All-America team. She also made one All-America team, being picked on the five-member team of College Sports Madness, a popular Internet web site. Other members included Breanna Stewart, UConn; Jamie Weisner, Oregon State; A’ja Wilson, South Carolina; and Makayla Epps, Kentucky.

The awards, the trophies, all the praise, those things are nice. But Myisha Hines-Allen has aspirations for more significant honors, more inclusive achievements she can share with her teammates. Those would be consistent with the stated goal of Coach Jeff Walz of winning a national championship. “That would be the ultimate,” she will inform.

Three more opportunities to make that a reality. She would never concede anything to UConn or Breanna Stewart.