UConn women continue to own Louisville

The UConn women’s basketball team remains undefeated after 26 games, having been seriously challenged in one of those games — an 11-point win at Baylor in January.

Other than Duke, no other team had come within 22 points of UConn until Sunday. The University of Louisville women managed to hang within 17 points in an 81-64 loss on UConn’s home court.

Almost respectable but no hints of a moral victory for the UofL women,who saw their 16-game winning streak come to an end and experienced only their second loss in 25 games.   UConn was missing shots early, but the Louisville women were unable to hit their own, making mistakes and turnovers, UConn making them pay time after time in the second half.

If they were ever going to pose a serious challenge at UConn, it would have been with a veteran lineup that included four seniors and a junior.

Shoni Schimmel taking what the UConn defense allowed in the first half, which wasn’t much. Getting frustrated in the final 20 minutes, hoping those over-the-shoulder shots go in, few of them getting close. She had nine points, including one three-pointer.

Asia Taylor probably playing her best game as a Cardinal, but she was still turning the ball over six times.  Unveiling a new shooting acumen, she would connect of seven of 14 shots for 18 points. She would also collect eight rebounds, make three blocks, two steals and three assists.

With all the attention Shoni was getting, Sara Hammond was finding herself open often. Unfortunately, would make only four of 10 shots, winding up with 11 points and six rebounds.

The positive aspect may have been that Cardinals never lost their composure in this game, contrary to many previous efforts against the Huskies. If they had been shooting anywhere close to their shooting average of 46.9%, the Huskies may have been vulnerable. Sunday they hit only 24 of 65 attempts, a 36.9% shooting percentage.

This may have been second best chance Louisville will have this season to beat UConn in an effort to end an 14-game losing streak that dates back to the early nineties. The best opportunity will be when they meet again in the last game of the regular season at the KFC Yum! Center on March. 3.

UConn had better bring its A game.

UofL women’s basketball rolling, but UConn still formidable

Among the observer’s favorite teams at the University of Louisville is the women’s basketball team. Rarely miss a game, whether it’s going to the KFC Yum! Center, watching on cable TV or listening on WKRD radio.

The Cardinals are currently 18-1 and ranked fifth in the nation. The sole loss a five-point setback to Kentucky in early December. Not surprising since the game was in Lexington.

This is essentially the same team that made the NCAA championship game last April, earning the nickname “Party Crashers” while defeating Tennessee, California and top-ranked Baylor to get there. Not a happy ending, however, with UConn again sticking it to the Cards, 93-60.

Through the first 12 games, the women are averaging 7,825 fans per game at home, compared to 8,704 last season.

One has to wonder just how much still another loss to UConn may have affected attendance for the UofL women’s game this season. Through the first 12 games, the women are averaging 7,825 fans per game at home, compared to 9,513 for the same period last year. Take the UK game (which attracted 15,453 at the Yum!) out of the equation and attendance was still higher, 8,704 per game last season.

The continued losses to UConn have to have had an adverse effect, the fans suspecting that UConn is still far and away a much better program.  That tends to temper any expectations UofL fans may have for their team, despite a top 10 ranking and a sparkling won-lost record.

Don’t look now but there are two games against UConn to be played, the first Feb. 9 on the  road, the second the regular season ending game at the Yum! on March 3.

White outs, pink outs and $2 beers are nice attention-getters, but the only thing that may convince fans that UofL is a serious contender for a national championship will be a win over UConn. That just might possibly require pulling back the curtain and opening the upper level at the KFC Yum! Center.

Louisville withstands Olliewood drama, 76-64 over UConn

One of the best things about the University of Louisville’s 76-64 win over UConn Saturday is that all the talk about signature wins over quality opponents will go away.  UConn was a great opponent playing on its home court.

The last regular season game between the men’s team at Storrs, Conn., will be remembered for a lot of reasons, among them the abrupt departure of UConn Coach Kevin Ollie, going ballistic over what he perceived to be a foul. Video replays clearly indicated that the shooter had attempted to initiate contact with Wayne Blackshear after the play was all but over.

The atmosphere in Gampel Pavilion would take a virulent turn, noxious and poisonous, potentially game changing.  So toxic that Blackshear, an 83% free throw shooter, would miss both of his technical free throws. Perhaps intimidated by the intense reaction of the UConn coach and fans.

UConn was either going to erupt or go away altogether. Things could have gone south quickly for many visiting teams in similar circumstances.

Russ Smith would not be intimidated, however, having been through a few traumatic events during his career, stepping calmly to the line, sinking both shots, setting the tone, declaring there would be no backing down. Between all those turns on and off the bench , Russ would score 18 of his 23 points in the second half to lead all scorers.

Montrezl Harrell, who apparently enjoyed all the aforementioned drama, would play 39 minutes, having the game of his career, hitting almost everything he hurls toward the basket, eight of 10 attempts, for 18 points, permeating the back board for 13 rebounds while blocking three shots. Not disappearing this time against a “quality” team, choosing to stick around in a dominating performance.

Luke Hancock, the best at attracting fouls on offense, brings order when he’s on the court, somehow finding his way between defenders in the lane, old-fashioned stuff, making it work for him. Turning in 13 points, managing five rebounds.

Terry Rozier, at times resembling a former point guard, just managing the action, taking care of the ball, foregoing shots, providing a calming presence on offense, constant pressure on defense. His calming presence not reflected in stats that reveal only one assist, two steals and a turnover — except that he had seven rebounds. A shooter not forcing shots, putting the best interests of the team first.

Mangok Mathiang, looking at times like with predecessor with those three blocks, but not hitting the boards much, managing only two rebounds. One step at a time.

Louisville has won seven of the past eight games against UConn. They will meet again in the last regular season game of the season, March 8, at the KFC Yum! Center. UofL will no doubt still be needing another quality win at that point.

Bridgewater’s accuracy victim in Louisville win over UConn

Better hope this University of Louisville football team qualifies for a warm weather bowl game. The passing proficiency of Teddy Bridgewater tends to dip when the temperatures drop.

Not Teddy’s fault though. Almost every one of the 16 dropped balls were right in the receivers’ hands. Maybe the weather, the thermometer hovering around the 35-degree mark, tough on kids from Florida.

Affecting their concentration possibly? How else to explain 12 penalties for minus 101 yards. Those are numbers reminiscent of the John L. Smith years.

A frigid running game and a porous offensive line, with Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry managing less than 50 yards between them. The most impressive run by 20-yard jaunt by Bridgewater, with the Cardinals managing only 82 yards rushing in the 31-10 win over UConn.

UofL’s defensive effort was solid despite the chill but Lorenzo Mauldin tweeted after the game:  “One thing I hate is when people say ‘you all could have done better’ really? How about you suit up and play in 40 degree weather!”

Cold weather has been integral to football up to now. Wait till it really gets cold. Some snow in the forecast for next week, guys.

Or maybe it was simply another case of playing down to the level of the competition. It does get old, you know, playing all these teams with losing records. UConn the ultimate pits, now winless after eight games.

Credit the defense for warming things up, with Charles Gaines blocking a punt on the way to the end zone and Terrell Floyd for his one-ball juggling act that would add another six points and make him the No. 4 highlight on ESPN’s Sports Center. Should have been No. 1, anybody can dunk a basketball.

And, of course, Teddy Bridgewater, who, despite all the dropped balls, would still complete 21 of them for 288 yards and a touchdown. But all the drops may have slammed the door on a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremonies.

Next up is Houston, a foe that should command quite a bit of respect from everyone on the UofL football team. Put that together with some warmer weather and this team should look a lot better next week.

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Michael Dyer was nowhere to be found on the sideline, didn’t make the trip to Piscataway, a non-event that is certain to keep UofL football in the spotlight, something to at least distract fans from the onrushing basketball season. There will be a lot of chatter about levels of tolerance for sure.

UConn more important than Central Florida vs. Houston

Charlie-Strong-Nov4,2013

No one on the University of Louisville football team is looking past the UConn game Friday night to the encounter between Central Florida and Houston this coming Saturday, according to Charlie Strong.

The suggestion is that it would be easy to overlook a UConn team with eight straight losses and an 0-7 record this season for a game that could decide whether UofL still has any chance for a BCS bowl.

“We can’t worry about the UCF-Houston game,” said Strong during his Monday press conference. “What’s going to happen is going to happen. You start looking down the road, you’re going to get slapped in the face.”

Strong says the focus had better be on UConn because of what happened last season when a Huskies team with a 4-6 record upset the Cardinals 23-20 in three overtimes in Louisville. “They still have some of the same players on defense,” he said.

Among them is senior linebacker Yarwin Smallwood, a semifinalist for the Dick Butkus Award, who was in on 11 tackles in that game.  “We couldn’t block him at all,” Strong recalled.

UConn, in fact, was able to sack quarterback Teddy Bridgewater five times in that game, a bruising experience for Bridgewater who was never quite the same during the regular season.

“I told our players not to worry about their record; let’s worry about ourselves,” he said. “The month of November. There’s going to be some key games this month, there’s a lot of football left. Let’s just make sure we don’t stub our toe again. Let’s continue to go out there and work the right way and get it accomplished. “