Louisville defense clamps down on Rutgers

Challenge everything.

All business on defense, the University of Louisville shutting down Rutgers in all parts of the game, allowing no unchallenged passes, shots or rebounds, exhausting the shellshocked Scarlet Knights.

Total domination, 92-31.

Everybody’s on the same page now. Constant pressure on the ball, relentless, flawless. For the second game in a row, UConn last week, Rutgers on Thursday, the opposition depleted of any semblance of offensive efficiency.

Not new for a Rick Pitino team, but having recently been passionately embraced by this team, the stepped-up defensive complexity and intensity have arrived just in time, making Louisville a much different team.

Change is occurring not only on defense but on offense with this Louisville team.

Imagine Russ Smith going almost an entire half without taking a shot, passing up shot after shot, looking for assist after assist. It would happen for the second game in a row, but Russ would still wind up with 16 points. Thirteen assists against UConn, five that seemed like a lot more against Rutgers and would have been if his teammates weren’t missing open shots.

How does an opposing defense prepare for a Russ Smith who isn’t jacking up shots every other trip down court? Prepare for the new one at one’s peril, because the old Russ is never far away. He will, indeed, do whatever is necessary to help his team win.

Chris Jones, returning home again, this time more focused than ever, leading all scorers with 18 points, including three-of-four threes. Jones had four assists, five rebounds, as well. But it was those six steals by Jones a real indicator of how much he has bought into Pitino’s defensive mandate.

Pitino knows what he wants, what it takes, and what he will get this time of the season, with players totally committed to his system. Already fun again.

14,327 see Louisville women rip Rutgers

Asia-Taylor-2-23-14 Asia Taylor couldn’t have chosen a better day to have the best performance of her college basketball career, almost unstoppable in the University of Louisville women’s convincing 73-58 win over Rutgers.

A total of 14,327 fans, the largest turnout of the season, were on hand to witness the clash between two top 25 basketball teams, expecting a skirmish typical of the bruising battles between these teams in past. Few would be disappointed, however, that it turned out to a relatively easy win for Louisville, the Cardinals owning an eight-point lead at the half and extending it to 18 points at one point in the second half.

Julie Hermann, formerly of UofL, now athletic director at Rutgers, wasn't too happy .
Julie Hermann, formerly of UofL, now athletic director at Rutgers, obviously wasn’t pleased with the loss.

Taylor, a senior who has battled injuries during her five years, is finally healthy. She would score 25 points, pull down 15 rebounds, make three assists and three steals. She has always had the size and speed. Now finally back at full strength, she has the confidence and the accuracy  to go with her natural abilities.

Taylor provides UofL with still another serious scoring threat in addition to Shoni Schimmel and Sara Hammond with the regular season winding down and tournament action looming. Shoni and Hammond would add 13 and 12 points, respectively.

“It means nothing without the win. I’m happy that I got a career-high in both of those (scoring and rebounding),” she said after the game.  “That’s great. It just shows that I was out there working hard. But without the win, without Sara out there battling with me and Shoni getting me the ball and everybody playing together, that really means nothing. So I’m just happy about the win than anything.”

The win improved Louisville’s record to 27-2 for the season and ended a five-game winning streak for Rutgers.

Jeff Walz’ scruffy look a coincidence

Jeff-Walz-Feb.-20,-2014The scruffy look is definitely in in certain quarters of University of Louisville athletics, especially among members of the UofL men’s basketball team who have indicated they won’t shave until after they lose another game.

So we had to ask Jeff Walz, coach of the women’s team, whether his scruffy look at the UofL-Houston game on Wednesday was in support of the men’s team. “I wish I could say it was,” he laughed. “I knew I had forgotten something (getting ready for the game). I just forgot to shave.”

His team is currently ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll with a 26-2 record (14-1 conference) and is preparing to take on a challenging Rutgers team Sunday at 3 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center.

Pitino finally getting what he wants from defense

Rick Pitino has been anticipating the day when his team’s defense caught up with the offense.

That time may have arrived this weekends for the University of Louisville basketball team with two blowout wins, coming on the heels of a second eight-day layoff.  An 82-58 thumping of Temple on Friday, followed by a 102-54 rout of Rutgers in front of 21,821 fans at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday.

While he may have initially grumbled about the extra time between games, Pitino may have needed it to fully communicate what needs to happen on defense. Namely, to shut down the lane, challenge every dribble, every pass and every shot, every inch of the court.

Temple, a team that defeated Southern Methodist earlier on Sunday, obviously wasn’t as bad as it had looked in a 24-point loss to UofL on Friday. Dalton Pepper, the senior guard held to six points by the Cardinals, broke loose for 24 against the 23rd-ranked Mustangs. The Rutgers’ tandem of Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack, averaging 15.4 and 14.2 points, respectively, per game, would be held to 10 points each by the Cardinals.

It’s the kind of defensive effort Pitino anticipates, demands and expects, the kind of defense that has served him well throughout his career. As with some of the familiar offensive shortcomings on some of his past team, he absolutely has to have an overwhelming defensive presence with the current version.

Sometimes it just takes a little more time to get there but the defense may have arrived just when UofL will need it most.

 

Louisville basketball struggle makes long day longer

A long day Saturday waiting to hear something. Nothing but the usual ups an downs that occur every time another school comes after a University of Louisville football coach.

No information coming from Charlie Strong. Nothing positive from UofL. Only leaks, wishful thinking and misinformation coming from Texas, intended to keep the pressure on the school’s most  recent coaching candidate.

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