Bionca Dunham at her best against Pittsburgh

Bionca Dunham photo by Cindy Rice Shelton

Bionca Dunham has started all 20 games for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. She’s not a prolific scorer or rebounder so she doesn’t garner that much attention but Dunham makes her presence felt around the basket.

Jeff Walz happy with a balanced scoring attack with six Louisville players in double figures (Mike DeZarn photo).

UofL got off to a slow start against Pittsburgh on Sunday, falling behind 5-2 early, not getting a field goal until the 8:38 mark in the first quarter. That would be Bionca scoring her team’s first four points, hitting two free throws and making a layup.

Lots of games over four years, but few as fun as this one.

Dunham would have one of her better games in her Louisville career, scoring 12 points, grabbing six rebounds, making five assists and a steal. Louisville would defeat Pittsburgh 83-49 before a crowd of 11,624 at the KFC Yum! Center. UofL is now 20-1 overall and 8-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A young Louisville fan has much to look forward in the years ahead (Mike DeZarn photo).

Elizabeth Balogun, Dana Evans, and Kylee Shook also scored 12 points apiece for the Cardinals, while Jazmine Jones added 11 points and Elizabeth Dixon chipped in 10. A well-balanced attack with Louisville credited with a total of 23 assists.

The Cardinals will play Notre Dame on Thursday night in South Bend, Ind., and then will host the USA Basketball Women’s National Team next Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

Louisville allows Pitt to hang around before blow out

Coach Chris Mack orchestrated the University of Louisville basketball team to its ninth win against no losses. That’s Jordan Nwora slamming one home in the top photo (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Knew it wouldn’t take long. Pittsburgh came into the KFC Yum! Center Friday with every intention of knocking off No. 1 Louisville, leaving empty handed with a 64-46 loss. Anything but easy for the home teram

Malik Williams gets in on the dunking circus with one of his on in the first half. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The University of Louisville basketball team (9-0, 2-0) let a big lead slip away, allowing Pitt to get within 43-38 with 12:58 to play. But, as Pitt Coach Jeff Capel would note, “There is a reason they are No. 1.”

One of those reasons, defense. Louisville closed the game with a 17-4 run. It helped the Cardinals held Pitt to its season low point total.

Jordan Nwora led with 19 points, six rebounds and two assists. Every Louisville player had a 3-point basket in the first half. Nwora was the last to join that club just before intermission.

“I’ll bet Jordan didn’t even care,” said Ryan McMahon, who added 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. “Not only do we have a bunch of weapons. We’ve got a bunch of unselfish guys.”

And Nwora is just fine, thanks, after mysteriously hitting the floor in the second half, returning a few minutes later with a crushing dunk.

Louisville had 17 assists on 23  baskets. That’s a sign players are getting the ball to their teammates in the right position.

Malik Williams added 13 points and 11 rebounds in his best game since returning from an injury. “I’m healthy, just getting back into the flow, learning,” said Williams.

Dwayne Sutton only took four shots but had five rebounds and five assists and a blocked shot.

Louisville now readies itself for a Tuesday night game in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden against last season’s NCAA runnerups, Texas Tech (5-3). “You can tell when you walk into the place. The history. I played there against Memphis I believe two years ago. We’re real excited about it,” said McMahon.

Texas Tech will be excited as well. They’d like nothing better than to knock off No. 1 under the bright lights of “the big apple.”

Gallery courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton

Being No. 1 makes Louisville basketball big target

The KFC Yum! Center was on fire during player introductions Tuesday as the top-ranked University of Louisville basketball team hosted fourth-ranked Michigan in front of 21,762 fans. Flames light up the backboards on both ends of the court. Jordan Nwora, in top phots, led Louisville with 22 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Michigan (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Almost cliche-ish, but it bears repeating.

Now that No. 1 Louisville has dispatched Michigan, Coach Chris Mack’s biggest challenge will be keeping his team humble and focused.

The coveted No. 1 ranking is nice. But means little. Believe me every team that comes into the Yum Center or every opponents arena the Cardinals visit will have extra incentive.

Mack said it following Tuesday’s win over Michigan. “We haven’t arrived or anything like that.” No it hasn’t. It is early December. This team as all teams will look different when March arrives.

The thing that stood out in the win over Michigan was defense. Louisville (8-0) held a team averaging over 80 points to 43 and a field goal shooting percentage in the 30 percent range.

Louisville and its massively loud fans made it difficult for Michigan to think straight. Most every time Michigan attacked the lane there was a Cardinal defender in the way.

Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Malik Williams all had their moments. Guard Darius Perry was steady. Ryan McMahon would drive and would get fouled. Fresh Kimble and Samuel Williamson provided support off the bench.

“On some nights your offense isn’t going to be there. But your defense will,” said Mack.

Also give Michigan credit for its defense. Louisville was forced to take some ill advised shots. Nwora and Perry both took some off balanced attempts. This team is going to have to live with that. Mack said as much following a win over Akron over a week ago. “I can’t micro manage every shot.”

Pittsburgh (7-2) comes to the Yum Center Friday, 9 p.m. for an ACC game. You can bet the Panthers are chomping to get a shot at No. 1. You can bet Pitt fans remember No. 1-ranked Panther team that was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by UofL in 2009.

Should be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle success.

 

 

Louisville gets back at Pitt in defensive donnybrook

Coach Chris Mack’s team winning its fifth consecutive ACC game, tied for first with a 6-1 conference mark (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of those grinders, a game that was going to be decided by the most tenacious defense. Both teams struggling to make shots.

The University of Louisville would survive the skirmish, the battle of the elbows, the arm slappers, the abrasions, the bumps and the knee-knockers. Daring the Panthers to take a shot, limiting the visitors to only five baskets and 18 points in the second half.

Coach Chris Mack is a staunch advocate of suffocating defenses. Absolutely essential this game, the Cardinals themselves were connecting on only 22 of 56 shots in a 66-51 win before a crowd of 16,929 at the KFC Yum! Center.  

The fifth conference win in a row for the Cardinals since losing by three to Pittsburgh just a couple of weeks ago. Quite a different look Saturday, the Cardinals shutting down all those penetrating guards and relentless 3-point shooters.

“We played as well defensively as we have all year,” said Mack afterwards. “This game showed the character of our team. It’s easy to win a game when things are going well for you, the shots are falling and everybody’s scoring.

Christen Cunningham playing point to perfection, with a total of seven assists (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“When the shots aren’t going in, however, you have to have the stick-to-it-ness to get the job done. And that’s we did today.”

Pitt Coach Jeff Capel with high praise for UofL point guard Christen Cunningham. The graduate transfer managing only five points but coming through with a total of seven assists. The most memorable — the dagger as it were — coming with 7:46 remaining in the game, the perfect pass to Jordan Nwora for a roof-raising alley-oop to give Louisville a nine-point lead.

“He values the ball, he doesn’t turn it over, he has a great grasp of their offense,” said Capel. “He’s had some really good offensive games. Today, he didn’t score the ball well, but he ran their team and he assisted. He didn’t turn the ball over much. He’s a really good player.”

Louisville was led by Nwora and Steven Enoch with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Enoch with a rare double-double, adding 11 rebounds as well.

A different outcome Saturday, Mack acknowledging his team approached the rematch much differently. “I think we all had respect for Pitt the second time around,” he said. “Every game counts the same in the standings. Unfortunately we put ourselves behind the eight ball at Pittsburgh.”

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.