By Paul Sykes
The University of Louisville women’s basketball bench often resembles a MASH unit with all the crutches, knee braces, tape and band aids.
Nine players available, five of them freshmen, but they’re not conceding anything.
For the first 15 minutes, U of L was setting the stage for an upset over No. 4 Notre Dame at Freedom Hall. Up 33-21 with 5:26 to go in the first half, the Lady Cards were handling the defensive pressure of the Irish and Monique Reid was putting on an Angel-like performance.
But at that point, as coach Jeff Walz noted after the game, the Lady Cards appeared to ease up, “thinking we didn’t have work as hard.” The Card staggered to the locker room tied 37-37. After a quick 5-0 run by the Cards in the second half, the Irish methodically gained control and steadily pulled away to a 78-60 win
- Monique Reid, playing inspired ball in the first half with 17 first half points and failing to score until 8:00 remained in the second half. A total of 23 points for the Fern Creek sophomore but those seven turnovers hard to overlook, as were her 38 minutes of playing time.
- Becky Burke, playing 38 minutes, Keisha Hines, 39 minutes, scoring 16 and 10 points, respectively. Help is on the way but it may be several weeks, if not months, arriving.
- Shelby Harper got her third start as point guard, picking up three fouls during the first 10 minutes of the game. However, Jeff Walz kept her in the lineup most of the way. Her ball handling and passing abilities are improving. The team’s performance takes a noticeable dip when she goes to the bench.
- Skylar Diggins, the fabulous Irish freshman, taking over in the final twenty minutes with 15 of her 20 points. When she wasn’t scoring, feeding the bigs inside the paint. Louisville saw what good point guard play can accomplish.
- Just four turnovers for the Cards in the first 15 minutes but 6 more to finish the first half. A game total of 20, down from the season average but some costly ones when the Cards were trying to rally in the second half.
- 600th career win for Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. Her Irish had what it took in the second half but still not fully convinced that they are the fourth best team in the nation.
The Cards return to action Saturday in Freedom Hall to face a Syracuse Orange team that is hovering around the top 25. At 16-2, the Orange are big, bruising and play the typical ball head coach Quentin Hillsman has installed in his 3 years as their head coach. Game time is 2 p.m.