WEDNESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
-Lady Cards second half rally falls short vs. UConn
-Cierra Warren leaves Lady Cards
|UConn bench. (Photo from Sandy Walker)|
Neither team had a great shooting night, mostly due to defensive pressure on each other....Louisville going 14-56 for 25% and UConn ending up 20-55 for 36.4%. The deciding factor was the Huskies scoring dominance inside...getting 24 points in the paint, compared to Louisville's 8.
Caroline Doty had 15 points...on five 3-pointers to lead UConn in scoring. The Cards got 20 points from Shoni Schimmel and 10 from Sara Hammond (eight in the second half.)
STARTERS: Burke, Vails, Taylor, Smith, Shoni
|Becca Greenwell in the house watching|
Lady Cards play. (Photo from Jenny O' Bryan.)
UConn tightened up the defensive pressure over the final first half minutes, though...allowing just a Schimmel three while scoring 14 points to take a 25-11 lead with seven minutes to go. After an Asia Taylor free throw cut the Husky lead to 13...UConn responded again with eight straight points...capped off by a Brianna Banks jumper to give Connecticut a 33-12 advantage and 1:54 showing on the clock.
Shoni Schimmel dropped in a couple of free throws and a long range three to cut the UConn advantage to 33-17 with a minute left. It was the Lady Cards first field goal in over eight minutes. It also ended the first half scoring...the Huskies taking a 16 point lead into the locker room...33-17.
The numbers weren't especially pretty for the Lady Cards. Louisville was an anemic 5-29 from the floor for 17.2% The Cards were 2-11 from 3-ball range. Shoni had 10 first half points..but no other Cardinal had more than two. 13 turnovers and Taylor and Smith had three fouls each.
UConn was slightly better, going 12-30 from the field and 5-14 from deep. Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty had nine points each for Geno's team...but Louisville had outrebounded UConn 22-21 and forced the Huskies into 11 turnovers.
The Cards needed to find some offense and soon. Defensively, they weren't doing a bad job on UConn. UofL points were badly needed, though...and besides from Shoni... they just weren't coming against the aggressive UConn defense.
At first, those points were hard to come by for UofL in the final twenty minutes. Doty nailed a three 36 seconds into the action to make it 36-17. Smith tossed a free throw in to cut it to 36-18. After a Stefanie Dolson layup, Shoni bombed in another three...but Dolson scored again in the paint and it was 40-21 three minutes into the half.
The Cards started to go to work. Schimmel added two free throws. A minute later Dyer did the same. When Sara Hammond connected on a jumper at the 13:49 mark, the Lady Cards had trimmed the lead to 40-27 and the crowd was getting fired up again.
|Pep band fires up the crowd!|
After a Kiah Stokes layup, Hammond found the bottom of the net again and two free throws from her had it 46-36 with 8:20 left. The Cards were tightening up the defense and UConn shots were missing the mark. Vails scored inside after a media timeout and when Shoni hit a jumper with 5:17 left, it was 46-40 and pandemonium reigned in the YUM! Center. Geno needed a timeout and called one. Louisville was on an 8-0 run.
Hartley stuck a dagger in the works with a three at the 4:45 mark. A Slaughter free throw after Hayes' fifth foul cut it to 49-41..but Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis sank two free throws on Hammond's fourth foul to push the lead back to 10 with 3:30 on the clock. UConn was being deliberate on offense, protecting the lead and the next two minutes went by scoreless until Doty popped a three that effectively did Louisville in at the 1:37 mark...making it 54-41. Shoni responded with a three to make it 54-44 and 1:12 left. Hammond's fifth foul led to two Hartley free throws for a 12 point Husky lead.
|The technical foul|
was a weird and
unnecessary move by
A game effort by the Cards in a low scoring, defensive battle. The teams combined for 42 turnovers and UConn had 14 steals, compared to Louisville 7.
For the Lady Cards, nine played and all but Becky Burke and Shelby Harper scored. Shoni's 20 led the way, Hammond with 10. After that...Vails, Dyer and Slaughter with four each, Smith finished with three and Taylor one. Jude Schimmel did not see action. Cierra Warren did not dress and it was reported that she has left the team. (More on that further down in today's column...)
For Connecticut, Doty was the only double figure scorer with 15. Dolson had eight with nine boards. Hartley finished with nine...including that big three that stopped the Cardinal run.
The Cards ended up 14-56 from the floor (25%). They were 5-22 from three point range. They won the rebounding battle 42-38. The Huskies shot 20-55 (36.4%) and connected on 8 of 29 trifectas. Louisville was 13-21 from the foul line, UConn 8-10.
All in all, a good effort from Louisville, even if it was a losing one. The play of Hammond was inspiring. Shoni was her usual free-wheeling self...6-20 from the floor and 4-14 from three point range. She kept Louisville in it, though. Eight rebounds, eight turnovers and three assists. With Shoni, you take the good with the bad...
Both Coach Walz and the players in the post-game press conference repeatedly stressed their appreciation and thanks for the large crowd that showed up tonight. A crowd that shook UConn for a brief while and probably kept this one from being a 20 or more point blowout. Cardinal fans, the players and coaches love ya!
With the win, UConn goes to 22-2 and 10-1 in the BIG EAST. The Cards drop to 17-7 and 6-5 in the BIG EAST.
The game strategy Walz enacted for last night's game was fairly effective. Shut down the scorers and make Hartley and Doty beat you from outside. Both responded with big scores when UConn needed them, but this wasn't a 88-44 blowout. Louisville had a chance and the Huskies did appear tired and a bit shaken in the second half when Louisville made their run.
Syracuse visits Saturday. A "must win" for Louisville. If the Lady Cards play with the intensity and heart that they did tonight against the Orange, they should prevail.
Final thoughts. Missing 25 of your first 30 shots isn't going to keep you in the game. But, with adjustments...the Lady Cards clawed back within six. If Hartley misses that three...
But, she didn't. Great teams find ways to win. Good teams make big efforts but fall short at times. Louisville isn't great....yet...but they looked very good tonight against #3 in the nation.
|The needs of the|
the needs of
"Cierra decided after they (the players) had a team meeting after our DePaul game. The players were..like...'this is not acceptable. We gotta go harder. We gotta push ourselves.'
And Cierra, she just decided that she really didn't want to work that hard. So, she came into my office on Thursday and said " I think I'm gonna quit." And, that's her choice. Unfortunately, I think that today...sometimes kids don't really think through what they're doing. But, I know that if she isn't willing to work hard...then it's not fair to everyone else on this team that's willing to. So, we just move on. It's all you can do."
The post DePaul game meeting was led by Becky Burke, and the team challenged each other to work harder. Warren surfaced in Walz's office two days later, expressing the deisre to stay on the team but not buying in on the work harder effort.
Her departure leaves Louisville with 10 players available for games. Decisions like this are never really anticipated and surprising when they develop. Warren had been seeing increasingly less time in the post, though. Her DePaul points were basically junk points picked up at the end of a blowout. Where she ends up, who can say?
Wherever she goes, though..she'll need to re-commit to hard work and team play. Even Brittany Griner does, and...Cierra...you're no Brittany.
Sure, it's always hard to lose a player during the stretch run. Especially a tall one. But, it is a team game. If the team decides to set goals and work ethics in a players' only meeting and you don't agree with them, then it's time to move on.
Bryce Davis won the Panera gift card with his guess of UConn 60 - Louisville 52. Thanks to all 54 who participated. No one predicted the low scoring nature of this one. Bryce's selection of 60 UConn points was second lowest on the UConn point total. That joker Kevin B. called it Louisville 14 - UConn 10...on a Teddy Brigdewater TD with 30 seconds to go.
Football heads. They're "on" all year long, aren't they?