(Jenny O'Bryan is a columnist for CARDINAL COUPLE. Today, she looks at the UofL WBB win over Georgetown and the team.)
What a huge road win against a top 20 team! Never mind that the team tried to give it away during the last 6 minutes of the game. Somehow, they gutted it out, and finished the game differently than they have been previously finishing games. Getting the “W”, on the road, after almost letting it slip away shows growth for this team. Growth that I will gladly celebrate!
Truthfully, I have been seeing a lot of growth these last few games. Not all have been in the win column, but growth nonetheless. That is what one wants to see, right? Your team getting better each time out on the hardwood. Each outing gets us closer and closer to post season play, and every outing builds upon the last. This team is never going to be the preseason top- ten team that it was predicted to be. Injuries and a transfer changed the landscape for this team. Given that, the Coaches and the team deserve a lot of credit for reworking their game plan and remaining competitive.
Lets start with the growth that has been happening. First, last night ended up in the win column. Those hard losses at St. John’s and Rutgers provided valuable lessons. Both of those games could have/should have been won and it slipped away. Yesterday’s game against Georgetown should have been a win, and by most measures a sizable win. They got the win, in the end. Not always pretty, but, they came out on top. A win is a win, so they say.
The inside game has come along nicely. Our bigs have started to show a lot of growth and settled in to some maturity on the floor. Less fouling, more solid defensive work and some big minutes in the paint recently have blown some much needed fresh air in to this team.
The biggest (positive) stat from yesterday’s game that I have yet to see mentioned is in the assist category. 15 assists on 19 made shots! That is huge. That tells me this team is starting to trust each other. They are finding each other, passing the ball, and trusting the player with the best shot to take it. There is ball movement in the half court offense that looked really, really good yesterday. The half court offense has looked very strong and has shown a lot of growth over the course of this season. At times, I have complained there has been too much dribbling and standing around, and not enough ball movement. I am very pleased to see less of that and increased movement of both the ball and players.
The half court defensive game has looked very strong as of late. I believe one of Coach Walz’s greatest strengths, that I have witnessed, is coming up with game plans to stop the leaders on opposing teams. Our team has not always followed that game plan, but, when they do, they win games. Our defense is looking cleaner, and less fouling is a result of that. Our tough half court defense has also created a lot of last second shots due to the shot clock expiring. Continuing to execute game plans as set forth by the Coaching staff and containing star players is paramount as we move forward to some stiffer competition (UCONN and Notre Dame). I believe that success lies in the half court defense, which is where the defensive effort appears its strongest for this bunch.
Even in the areas of growth, there remains opportunity to further the game. That being said, the two greatest weaknesses of this team that have been exposed in every single loss are turnovers and rebounding.
Not taking care of the ball is incredibly frustrating. As a fan, it is so hard to watch. I cannot imagine how infuriating it is as a coach. Handling the pressure on the ball has got to get better, and fast. The Cards seemed to move the ball well in the first half of the game last night, by passing through the pressure. Albeit, there were some missed passes, but it seemed to be effective when passes were made and caught. Clean up your passes!! At some point in the game that changed and trying to dribble through the press became a nightmare. I do not know the number of turnovers due to the press, but it seemed huge. In my mind this is one of the two areas of growth that has yet to be figured out.
Rebounding. There were 19 made shots yesterday out of 40 attempts by the Cards. That leaves 21 offensive boards to be had, four were snagged by the Cards, 2 in each half. That is abysmal. Alternately, the Cards gave up 18 offensive boards to the competition yesterday. All the hard defensive work is for naught if you cannot rebound the missed shot. Every lost game this season the Cards have lost the rebounding stat to the opponent. More specifically, the offensive board stat has been lost to the opponent. Strong half court defense is great, but you have to rebound the missed shot, and not give the opponent second and third chance opportunities. Rebound, rebound, rebound. It can’t be said enough!
Yesterday, having given up a lot of second and third chance points, the Cards were able to pull this one out. A lot of turnovers, and yet the W is still in the Card’s column. With stronger offensive teams, this game is a loss. No doubt about it. But this game was a win. On the road and in the Big East, every win is worth celebrating. I will continue to look for growth, both as a team and with individual players. It is happening. So, Lady Cards, congratulations for a hard fought win! No doubt, you are already hard at work getting a little better, for your next outing. I look forward to seeing you then.
(Coach Walz will tell you that he wants consistency from the Lady Cards. This win, as Jenny pointed out, was hard fought and the defense looked very consistent at times. Always room for improvement.)