Jeff Walz watching the game on the big screen at a restaurant across the street, having been suspended for comments following the University of Louisville’s loss in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament last season.
Not the place he wanted to be but Walz had to be ecstatic following UofL’s 69-34 spanking of Robert Morris in this year’s opening round at the KFC Yum! Center. Robert Morris had no chance. No answers for an intimidating performance by Louisville.
Assistant Stephanie Norman said she felt little pressure subbing for Walz. “He just told us to go out and have fun,” she stated.
“To have someone like that as your boss really instills a lot of confidence and pride, and so he — he kept like making it really easy — well, he jokingly put pressure on me. But now the pressure’s on him. I did my job. ”
Louisville made it look easy against the smaller Colonials of the Northeast Conference. At one point between the first and into the second quarter Robert Morris missed 17 straight field goal attempts.
Sam Fuehring following up one of her most disappointing starts in a loss to Notre Dame with one of her best ever games, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Asia Durr would have 19 as well, resting most of the second half with the game out of hand. Dana Evans added 13 points and Bionca Dunham 10 points and seven rebounds.
“We didn’t get off to the best start finishing shots we normally make,” said Colonials coach Charlie Buscaglia. “We don’t see this kind of length and athleticism at the mid-major level. Louisville definitely disrupted our pace.”
The NCAA just could help itself, matching the University of Louisville against Rick Pitino’s son. Just too obvious, the irony. But the Cardinals are back.
That eruption that shook the area at 6:07 Sunday evening was UofL fans celebrating another bid to the NCAA basketball Tournament. Good to be back in the club, enjoy it while it lasts.
After not being in the tournament two of the last three years the Cardinals (20-13) are a No. 7 seed in the East Regional. The Cardinals will play 10th seeded Minnesota (21-13) in Des Moines, Thursday at 12:15 p.m. It will be the first game in the tournament and will have the nation’s attention until at least 12:40.
The Gophers, of course, are coached by Richard Pitino, son of former Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Former Cardinal big man Matz Stockman plays for the Golden Gophers. “Rick Pitino will fly back from Greece to be at practice to help,” cracked ESPN analyst Seth Greenburg.
“It’s the elephant in the room,”said Chris Mack at his press conference. “I’ve coached a few guys that played for Rick. Can’t control what people are going to talk about, write about or report on. You can only beat a horse for so long.”
The Big Ten placed eight teams in the tournament. The Atlantic Coast Conference has seven but three of them are No. 1 seeds — Duke, Virginia and North Carolina — along with Gonzaga. I didn’t believe there was anyway the ACC would have three No. 1 seeds. Not that they didn’t deserve it, I just didn’t think the committee would have the guts.
I’m going with Duke to win all the marbles. Despite a short bench, the Blue Demons have the best player Zion Williamson, the best coach in Mike Krzyewski and a supporting cast of former Macdonald’s All-Americans.
Don’t doubt that Louisville could make it interesting, however, having dominated three of the top four seeds for more than a few minutes this season. Defeating North Carolina in one game, and managing nice leads before folding against Duke and Virginia.
A perfect day for University of Louisville basketball fans.
One of those magical days for UofL basketball, the KFC Yum! Center the center of the universe, the place to be on a Sunday in March. Basketball all day long, thousands of fans emerging to celebrate, enjoying every last minute as the 2017-18 season nears an end.
The UofL women’s team dominating Marquette 90-72 before a crowd of 8,017 in the second round of the NCAA tournament in the afternoon. The men’s team defeating a good Middle Tennessee State team 84-68 before 13,050 in the second round of the NIT later that night.
A day of winning for Cardinals’ fans, basking in the spotlight of national TV coverage, shedding the negativity, enjoying the positive, happy days are her again for UofL basketball. More of those resounding C-A-R-D-S cheers in one day than one an remember over the last three or four years.
That kind of day for the Louisville fans, wanting to show their Cardinals some love, wanting to catch up on the good times, and put some of the bad memories behind them if only for a day or so. A good day to be a Louisville fan.
Myisha Hines-Allen, a senior playing in her last game in Louisville, kissing the Cardinal logo on the floor after the game. That fabled turn-around jump shot of hers, rat-a-tat-tat, working to perfection, making 12 of 16 field goal attempts.
“It was my last game here, and I wanted to go out with a win,” she said after the game. “I’m just so thankful to have made it this far, to have great teammates around me, to have wonderful fans come out to a game, know what they’re watching. They’re such great fans, and I consider everyone I’ve met over the last four years a part of my family.”
Louisville fans going to miss her eloquent post-game commentaries and that shot she has perfected. Hines-Allen putting on a clinic, making it look so easy when it’s so hard for every shooter. Still another double-double, the 33rd of her career at UofL, with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Asia Durr finding her outside shot again, making three of six 3-point attempts, finishing 19 points and six assists. Sam Fuehring breaking loose for 19 points as well. Jazmine Jones adding 14 points.
The men, propelled by another one of those joyous NIT crowds, radiating new levels of energy and determination. Also shooting with new levels of efficiency, hitting 53 percent of their field goal attempts.
Ryan McMahon invigorating the Cardinals in the first half, burying four of six 3-point attempts from behind the experimental 22-foot line. Igniting his team, making the crowd erupt, giving UofL some rare breathing room in the first half.
Jordan Nwora enjoying 21 minutes of playing time, also zeroing from the behind the 3-point line making four of eight attempts and 17 points for the night. Ray Spalding making good on eight of 11 shots, earning team scoring honors with 18 points.
Anas Mahmoud with the slam dunk of his career, surprising even himself, shocking the crowd, making fans do double-takes, even after watching the replay on the video board. Some disbelievers still shaking their heads as they headed for home after the nightcap.
Many familiar faces at both games, downtown businesses benefitting from two UofL games in the same day. One big great reunion of Cardinal fans, celebrating Cardinal basketball all day long. Devoted fans, not easily discouraged by events of the past, giddy to be back on the winning side.
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.
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.
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.
Well, now. Maybe there’s a chance that the problems that have long permeated the NCAA and college basketball will be finally be addressed. The recruiting process has been exposed as ripe with corruption, exposing many of the top programs in the sport.
The cheating has obviously become so ingrained in the system that administrators, coaches, players and fans long ago turned a blind eye to the system, with concerned observers giving up hope that anything would ever be done.
The corruption has gone on for so long and involved so many members that it has become an integral part of collegiate governance.
That all changed last October when the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced numerous arrests, naming names of some players and assistant coaches in connection with illegal payments and fraud. Caught in the process was University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, who would, in fact, be fired two later, along with highly popular Athletic Director Tom Jurich.
UofL fans and supporters were understandably disappointed and angered that two of the most successful people in the school’s history would be singled out for retribution. Especially when it was widely suspected, if not common knowledge, that the University of Kentucky had turned questionable recruiting into a fine art.
One can forgive Louisville fans, whose program was unfairly made the face of the FBI scandal for five months, for a collective sense of exuberance when it became apparent they had lots of company. One caller to a local sports talk said UofL fans were hanging Christmas tree lights all over the downtown, joyful that UK had finally been named in the scandal.
This after the news broke Friday that many other programs and players were involved in illegal financial schemes with professional sports agents, including UK, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Villanova, among others.
Many programs already implicated in the cheating. But to date, the FBI has released the records of only one professional agent. Much more to come with an estimated 50 sports agents with links to professional basketball and college recruiting. If the FBI is truly serious about bringing about change, the investigation has only just begun. The hypocrisy of the NCAA with its ignorance of the shady world of college recruiting and its uneven approach to administering punishment to member schools is inexcusable.
The real fear for any basketball program, especially if one has systematically cheated for decades, may be that the new or reformed organization truly wants to make an example of one of the former blue bloods of college basketball. A poster child for bad behavior, if you will.
A continuing avalanche of revelations may finally force the organization to address the problems in an comprehensive and honest approach. One would not be surprised, however, if the organization is beyond repair and will need to be replaced by a new one that bringing a whole new approach to administering college athletics, including compensation for athletes.
A few schools may decide to withhold some athletes who have already been named in allegations, if only to protect their programs against the possibility of vacated wins in the future. Others, having seen what happened at UofL and Notre Dame in cooperating with the NCAA, will fight the organization at every step of the way.
One fears that no punishment will ever be meted out against some of the top programs involved in illegal recruiting. Because there are so many of them, and they do constitute the organization, the NCAA is more like to go into a self-preservation mode, creating changes and bending existing rules to protect the organization and the members involved.
The corruption has gone on for so long and involved so many members that it has become an integral part of collegiate governance. The individuals charged with bringing about change in the NCAA will be, in too many instances, the same people who perpetuated the organization’s problems and are oblivious and resistant to the need for real change.