It was a frustrating way to spend Valentine's Day night. Even the home cooked meal by my dear husband and the bottle of wine didn't soothe the angst and frustration of watching the Lady Cards lose another one...this time to 1 game Big East winner Pitt.
Sure, I got over it...and the rest of the evening went fine, but this version of the Lady Cards is going nowhere in the post season but back to the classroom.
No WNIT, definitely no NCAA and an early exit from the Big East tournament. They simply don't have what it takes to win this year. There are a variety of reasons..choose whichever helps you sleep at night...but I'll be surprised if they can rally behind the home crowd on Tuesday night and beat a very average Marquette team.
It doesn't mean I'll cheer any less or drop any support for them. They're doing what they can with what they have. They are young, learning, still making a ton of errors and misjudgements and disappear at times. Walz will tell you that for every good thing that they accomplish, they have the knack to neutralize it with a miscue.
Next year brings five new players into the fold. It also brings the return of Dez Byrd and Tia Gibbs becomes available. It will be interesting to see how Walz mixes the new with the old and the present, future and past. He needs finishers. He needs game changers and rally starters. He needs a aura of "can do" and the aggressivness that he's facing every night when the Cards go up against Big East foes.
Louisville simply could not catch up with and put away a very sub-par Pitt team last night. Give Becky Burke for a big first half to keep the Cards in it...but where was she in the final twenty minutes? Zero rebounds for the entire game. Five second half point and 5-19 shooting for the game. Brandie Radde with 26 minutes and a goose egg in the total points column. Monique Reid with 20 points...18 of those in the second half...but no help at all in the first twenty minutes. Shelby Harper, scurrying down the court, producing so much more than you'd expect of a walk on freshman. Give her 40 minutes, 11 points, 9 assists and 7 turnovers yesterday. Give her someone the remainder of the year that can give her 5-10 minutes of rest per game. Watching Rachel Story languish on the bench is getting old. She needs more than two minutes court time or she needs to give up her scholarship, transfer or somehow get out of Jeff Walz's doghouse.
Keisha Hines continues to fight on. A double/double for her yesterday against a tough as nails and physically talented Pitt front line. Her fatigue at times is obvious but she doesn't quit, back off or surrender. A talented back up center to give her the 10 minutes of bench time she needs per game just hasn't developed in Gwen Rucker. Rucker's performances have been adequate at best and not as good as her breakout freshman season. She wasn't even going to play basketball this year but agreed to join the team because of the lack of depth in the middle.
Jeff Walz wants to return women's basketball back to the status it was when Angel Mccoughtry ruled the court. It's doubtful he'll ever find another Angel McCoughtry...but there's no reason he can't build a talented team that can compete night in and night out. The blowouts this year have been embarrasing and numbing.
The Cards have four more regular season game before they head to UConn for the Big East tournament. Currently at 11-14 and 3-9 in the Big East conference, they need to sweep the final four and win at least one in the Big East Tournament to draw any WNIT interest. Not trying to be a doomsday prophet or negative Nellie...but it simply isn't going to happen. Not with the current mindset, performance abilities and players remaining on this team. The four remaining opponents (Marquette, Seton Hall, South Florida and Rutgers) are beatable and not powerhouses in the Big East this year.
Unless this Lady Cards team finds a little heart, hustle and gumpton...they will lose all four.
We'll still cheer, support and hope for the best. We'll look for postives in the performances. But, we'll also realize that in this season from hell that this version of the Lady Cards was undermanned, overrated and disappointing. The season is taking a big personal toll on Jeff Walz. His "in your face" firebrand style on the sidelines just doesn't seem to be having any positive effect on this group of freshmen, walk on's and former bench warmers.
It needs to change. Indications are that it will. We'll be waiting and watching.
Written by Sonja