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.

The Force is strong, Louisville women zap Pittsburgh

starwars 2271 copyDarth Vadar, Princess Leia and Kylo Ren, aka Mike, Theresa and Aspen Schmidt, were among the 11,641 fans watching the Louisville women demolish Pittsburgh on Star Wars Day at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Force fully embraced the University of Louisville women’s basketball team three days earlier when the Cardinals dissected 17th-ranked Miami on the Hurricanes’ home court, giving UofL sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Characters from the seven different Star Wars movies arrived Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center to see the UofL women conclude the regular season, Darth Vadar was everywhere it seemed, usually in the company of Princess Leia, or Yoda. Boba Fet here, Chewbacca there, Yoda here, and Storm Troopers everywhere. The visiting Pittsburgh women never had a chance, The Force so prominent, so pervasive, so obviously leaning UofL’s way.

Yoda, in the person of Noah Tiwari, won best costume.
Yoda, in the person of Noah Tiwari, who won best costume, poses with the Cardinal Bird.

The Louisville women erupted early, claiming a 14-0 lead, stretching it to 27-4, and and 42-10 at the end of the first half.  When it was all over, UofL had prevailed 65-36, improving its overall record to 24-6 and claiming the runner-up spot in the ACC with a 15-1 record.

Leading the charge again was Myisha Hines-Allen, scoring nine of Louisville’s first 10 points after tipoff. She would score 13 points in the first quarter, going on to achieve her ninth double-double of the season and 10th of her career, with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds.

“We had a lot of energy coming out,” said sophomore Myisha Hines-Allen, in a possible thinly-veiled reference to The Force. Whatever, Hines-Allen has been imposing her will on ACC opponents with regularity of late.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 4.54.04 PM“She’s just a really tough matchup right now for a lot of people,” said UofL Coach Jeff Walz, “and if she continues – you’re getting 25 points on 14 shots – that’s pretty darn good.”

Briahanna Jackson continuing to feel The Force as well, an inexhaustible source of energy, the player nobody wants defending them. No breathing while she’s around. She’s a marvel to watch around the basket, sometimes getting ahead of herself but always entertaining to watch. Notching 12 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Taja Cole coming around, notching six points and five assists in this one.

 *    *    *

Courtnee Walson left midway in the first quarter and didn’t return after injuring a pinky finger. She should be ready to go again in the ACC Tournament.

The second-seeded Cardinals will play at 6 p.m. on Friday against the winner of No. 7-seed Georgia Tech and No. 10 Wake Forest/No. 15 Clemson.

Briahanna Jackson hot again, Louisville women bomb Miami

Briahanna Jackson was back in familiar territory, back in sunny Florida, home again, feeling good.

Jackson had her swagger back, saying goodbye to her shooting slump, becoming the aggressor again. She and her 10th-ranked University of Louisville teammates romping in a surprisingly easy 79-51 win at Miami on Thursday.

The transfer from the University of Central Florida had been held scoreless in her last game at Boston College, managing only 12 points in the past four games. She was losing confidence, passing up good shots, missing most of the other ones. Jeff Walz commented on it after the Boston College game, promising fans Briahanna would find her range again.

Jackson wasn't exactly a scoring machine against Miami but she resembled the Jackson of old.

Jackson wasn’t exactly a scoring machine against Miami but she closely resembled the Jackson of old. Briahanna would connect on six of 12 field goal attempts, including one 3-pointer, while retrieving seven rebounds and making two assists. Unshakeable on defense, she also came up with a couple of steals.

When Jackson is finding the basket, along with Myisha Hines-Allen and Mariya Moore, this Louisville basketball team can be a dominating force. Take it from 17th-ranked Miami. The Hurricanes trailed by 19 points at the half, after being outscored 22-2 by the Cardinals.

Hines-Allen barely missed her 10th double-double of the season, finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Nine of those points out of 10 free throw attempts. Moore collecting 14 points, including four out of five 3-point shots, to go with her three rebounds, three assists and two steals.

UofL would score 21 straight in the third quarter, leading by 35 points at one point, enabling Jackson, Hines-Allen and Moore to watch the fourth quarter on the bench.

The win lifts UofL to a 23-6 record for the season and 14-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last home game is Sunday, folks, against Pittsburgh at 12:30 a.m. at the KFC Yum! Start the day off right, grab brunch in the morning, and feast on the Cardinals in the afternoon.

Myisha Hines-Allen making her mark in the ACC

Need a basket bad, absolutely have to have it? Find Myisha Hines-Allen, get the ball to her.

Still another clutch performance for Hines-Allen in the University of Louisville’s 74-59 win over Virginia in a bruising women’s college basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center. A crowd of 8,736 hanging around to the very end.

Asia Durr contributes two of her 15 points.
Asia Durr contributes two of her 15 points.

When Virginia gets within two points at 42-40, Myisha venturing into the paint again, no fear of the bumping and slapping, hitting a jumper. She’s back again less than a minute later, making another jumper, stretch the lead to 46-40 late in the third quarter. That would be as close as Virginia would get the rest of the night.

Myisha gets most of her points the hard way, rarely attempting 3-point shots. She would collect 22 points in this one, making good on nine of 15 field goal attempts and four of four free throw attempts for a game-high 22 points. She would also claim 11 rebounds. Her eighth double-double of the season, the ninth of her career and her eighth 20-point-plus outing of the season.

She’s for real folks, sometimes getting off to deceptively slow starts, steadily adjusting her sights, zeroing in, gathering momentum, making opponents pay. Not that it matters to her, but she could be difficult to ignore when the Atlantic Coast Conference selects a player of the year.

Plenty of credit to go around, an exceptional team effort required to get by an improving Virginia team that will make some noise in the ACC tournament. Mariya Moore, Asia Durr, and Briahanna Jackson scoring 18, 15 and 11 points, respectively. Courtnee Walton playing all 40 minutes, collecting 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Regular season rapidly nearing an end, the final home game against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 12:30 p.m.