10-0 second half run boosts Cards over VT
Despite a slow start in Blacksburg, Louisville used a 9-0 first half run and 10-0 second half run to pull away from a determined Virginia Tech squad Thursday night in Cassell Coliseum.
On Senior Night...in sub-zero weather...the Hokies heated up the gym early and led Louisville 7-3 four minutes into the contest. Louisville had four turnovers and a lone score on a Mariya Moore three.
Jeff Walz went to the bench and inserted Arica Carter, Shawnta' Dyer and Emmonnie Henderson to jump start the sluggish visitors and the Cards responded with a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to lead 12-7 after Henderson scored inside, Moore knocked down another three and Bria Smith added a jumper.
The Hokies weren't ready to concede the first half just yet and cut the margin to 14-12 with 11:20 remaining. The Cards responded after the media timeout, though...steadily growing the lead back and going up 23-15 after a Carter free throw at the 5:25 mark.
The defense was solid for Louisville...finally figuring out the VT zone...but the offense wasn't playing up to par.
Two shot clock beaters...one off a Mariya Moore three with 1:13 to go in the half and a Smith jumper with 16 seconds to play boosted the Cards lead to 34-23 at the halftime break.
Louisville shot 50% for the first twenty and had forced 12 Va. Tech turnovers while committing eight first half miscues. Moore had nine points to lead UofL on three threes and Walz got strong minutes from Smith and Shawnta' Dyer ( 8 points each) off the bench.
The second half produced another sluggish Cardinal start.
Virginia Tech whittled the Cards lead to 36-31 two minutes in after a Conyers 3 and it was 38-33 with 17:00 to go.
Shawnta' Dyer went to work for Louisville, scoring five points in a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to give the Cards a 48-33 edge after her jumper at the 13:35 mark.
The Hokies would get no closer the rest of the way.
Louisville led 62-41 after Myisha Hines-Allen canned two free throws with five minutes left. Hammond and Henderson went to work after that...scoring the Cards final seven points for the 69-49 win.
Henderson turned in one of her best performances of the season with nine points and strong board play at both ends of the court. Hammond finished with eight, Hines-Allen six, Carter three and Jude two. Walz played them all...Vails started but went scoreless and Freeman saw late action with no points.
The Cards are the best defensive team in the ACC...in terms of opponent's point production...as they proved again tonight. 10-15 second half free throw shooting solidified the fact that Louisville is the worst free throw shooting team in the conference. Strong inside offensively, not much a threat from beyond the arc.
Strengths and weaknesses...but a stellar 23-3 overall and 11-2 record in the ACC.
Smith appears to be getting a little further out of the "self imposed" doghouse she's in...Walz mentioning she's been getting in extra shooting practice and finally understands "how to work hard after four years". We hope it continues...the off-the-bench role has worked two games in a row now.
Henderson keeps getting stronger in offensive recognition and performance but is still a defensive liability. It prevents her getting more minutes...since Walz is hesitant playing her and Hines-Allen together because of lack of defense when the two are on the court at the same time.
A 20-point win on the road on the opponent's senior night isn't anything to gripe about too much. Solid off-the-bench bench performances from Smith, "E" and Dyer is very encouraging.
We'll see if it can be maintained in the Cards next outing...a 'Big Monday' test at Notre Dame.
-- Did anyone else besides me notice that VT coach Dennis Wolff looks like "Mike" from the TV shows 'Breaking Bad' and 'Better Call Saul'?
I was wondering I'd see Walt and Jessie in the stands eating Los Pollos Hermanos chicken...
-- What's up with that annoying bell that kept going off during the ESPN 3 broadcast? Was it someone's phone? Or was someone ringing a cowbell next to the announcers?
-- Walz's postgame with ESPN3 color analyst Mack McCarthy got scrapped after 15 seconds because of no audio. If you're going to interview, make sure the microphone is on...
-- Louisville is assured one of the "double bye" or top four spots in the upcoming ACC Tournament with NC State's win over Miami Thursday night.
-- ESPN3 play-by-play announcer Danny Nokes has a whiney voice...especially when the Cards messed up or the Hokies made a big shot. It got annoying. If the delay hadn't been so bad between TV & radio, I would've bailed on ESPN3 audio. Maybe I'm spoiled by the smooth call of Matt Andrews and A.J. game after game. This "Hokie homer" mirrors the team he covers...