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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cardinals Close YUM regular season with a win!


THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

-Cards sink Pirates on Senior Night 72-62.

(Staff columnist Jenny O'Bryan brings us the game report of Louisville's 72-62 win over Seton Hall. For tearful fairwells, Mo-On-The-Go, Vails threats and Nita knowledge...read all about it below!)




Louisville Women’s Basketball took to the court for the final regular season home game, also Senior Night, in front of a very appreciative crowd. 

Bret Trager-Kusman, student manager, Monique Reid and Shelby Harper were escorted onto the court by loved ones in a pregame celebration of the years of contributions they have given to Louisville Women’s Basketball. 

Monique Reid took that momentum straight to the court and scored the Cardinals first 5 points, with the first points for the Cards being a 3-pointer.  Reid hit just her 8th 3-point shot of her career, and started the scoring for the Cardinals.   Antonita Slaughter also started the game hot and led all scorers at the half with 15 points, and led all scorers for the night with 17.

The Cards won the game, though I would not exactly call it a good night of basketball.  It was not a bad night of basketball either.  Interestingly, though, there were a lot of things a variety of Cards did that stood out to me. 

One of the things I love most about this team is that any number of players can step up on a given night and help carry the team.  Tonight, Bria Smith and Sara Hammond looked a little off their game that we as fans are use to, but Slaughter and Shoni Schimmel stepped up and carried the offensive load.  That being said, there was a great spread of points amongst the players.  Only two ended up in double figures, but 8 of the 10 who played scored, and 5 players scored 7 or more points.  While Slaughter stood out in the first half for her offensive scoring, it was a well-distributed spread of points on the night. 

Referee Thurman Leggs, Jr. makes a cameo in a Paulie picture
The defense of the Cards has been known to keep them in games against tough competition.  This was not the best defensive game of the season by any means, but several players really stood out.  Jude Schimmel led an offensive spark by three consecutive defensive possessions when she had a block, poked a ball out of bounds and then stole the ball.  It was a huge spark for the Cards. 

Sherronne Vails had what I think was one of the best games I have seen her play probably since her freshman year.  In one possession she had two blocks, and totaled 5 on the night.  She was moving offensively with and without the ball and got a couple buckets in transition.  It was a great effort for the “handsy” junior.   Vails has long gotten the short end of my attention due to missed and dropped passes.  While there were a couple of those tonight, she moved with and without the ball better than I have seen her move. 

I was really, really impressed with the effort of Cortnee Walton in the second half.  Her stats are not quite indicative of how well and hard she played in the second half.  On the night she had 7 points, 3 boards and 1 assist.  Most important, though, is she was moving hard and aggressive in the paint and had only 1 turnover.  I am so excited to watch this young woman develop and grow as a player.  She is going to be a big part of the future of this program.  The growth this season alone is only scratching the surface, I believe, of what Walton will bring to Louisville Basketball.  I don’t want to wish these kids lives and careers away, but I can already hardly wait to see the growth she has from off-season workouts.  I expect her to be a workhorse and think we will see huge growth from her these next few years.

Overall, on the night, the most impressive stat for me is ball movement and sharing the ball.  Of the 10 players on the floor for the night, only two did not log at least one assist.  For so long, years even, Cardinal Faithful has been hearing Coach Walz talk about ball movement and making the pass to set up the assist to the bucket.  With the spread of assists on the night, I would say this team is buying in to that philosophy.  It was nice to see and I hope we continue to see more of it.  Way to share the ball and assist the bucket, ladies. 

I would be remiss to not mention Shoni’s effort on the night.  It appears the dust has settled and I would say a good lesson must have been learned.  It was deep in the first half before Shoni even took a shot, shot selection was better (until she had to throw up something due to the expiring shot clock) and there was evidence on the court of defensive effort.  Shoni is not going to win any defensive player of the year awards, but I did witness effort that has been lacking in the past.  I also like her assists on the nights.  When Shoni plays a balanced game, and is not forcing things offensively, this team can compete with most teams in the country.  Keep it up, Shoni. 

The biggest deficit on the night was rebounding.  It has been an Achilles heel all season, and tonight was no different.  The Cards were -6 for the night on the boards.  Given our post presence has taken the hit this year with injuries, this continual problem is to be expected.  I know Coach Walz and Company are working on it.   I know this season is not over yet, but this team has a lot of big bodies, has the big presence of Emmonnie Henderson coming in next year.  Healthy, I expect this to be a big and physical inside game inside next year. 

In the meantime, there is still work to be done.  The Cardinals head to Syracuse to close the regular season on Monday and right now, the team controls their own destiny regarding the Big East Tournament.  Win on Monday, and the team secures a double-bye.  That is two less games that will be played heading in to the Big Dance.  It is an exciting wind down to the season. 

Finally, we cannot state enough the importance of getting your tickets to the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.  While I firmly believe we have a great fan base, we can and should do better.  We have dropped in attendance this year, and have not only fallen out of second place in the country but we have also dropped to second within our own conference.  If we want to host tournaments, we have to show up.   It is that simple.  Get your tickets.  Show up.  Fill the seats.  Fill the arena.  Support your team and get a couple more opportunities to see your favorite seniors doing the state of Kentucky proud. 

Photo by Austin Lassell. Austinlassell.com
( Editor's Note. Attending these first and second round games makes a big statement in terms of Louisville getting to host future NCAA 1st and 2nd round games and Regionals. Maybe even an ACC Tournament down the road. It's imperative to show up. Buying tickets isn't enough. Get in the seats and cheer. See you there!)


POST GAME PRESS INTERVIEW ROOM LINK BELOW:



WALZ, NITA, MO and SHELBY POST GAME QUOTES

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3 comments:

  1. Thank you for an excellent recap, Jenny.
    The Cards are now playing for their seeding in the NCAA. If the beat Cuse and don't lose in the BET until they face UConn or ND, they have a chance at a 3 seed. A 3-seed, in turn, gives them at least a fighting chance to make it to the elite eight, before facing a one seed. The other thing that's going to have to happen, however, for the Cards to make it that far is that Walz is going to have to break out of the substitution box he is in and take minutes away from Jude (who's been averaging about 30 recently) and give them to the bigs instead. When Smith or Slaughter come out, put in Reid or Walton (or Vails or Hammond, if they are on the bench) instead of Jude. If Smith can play the point, then put Slaughter at the 2 when Shoni is out. (I say this as an Oregonian who is following the Cards only b/c of the Schimmels, and, yes, I am coming the 'Ville for the first two rounds of the NCAA, so don't question my fan-hood.) It's that simple.
    --PDX Phil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil, I pretty much agree with what you said (and you've said it before). Jude is playing great right now, but for us to have a chance against a really good team (like a top-16 NCAA seed) we need to go big. Otherwise we get beat on the boards (happened last night against a poor rebounding team) and as a result have to do everything else great in order to have a chance.

      I'd love to meet you at the NCAAs. Our seats are in Section 116 Row T.

      Delete
    2. Mike,
      Let's hope Walz is reading what you and I have to say and takes it to heart:)
      We definitely shoudl meet at the NCAAs. Send an email to Cardinal Couple and ask them to forward it to me so I can get you address.

      Delete

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