Monday, March 20, 2017
Louisville women's basketball -- KNOW THE FOE: Tennessee -- MONDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
WHICH VOLS TEAM WILL SHOW UP MONDAY?
While a lot of the city continues to melt down over Louisville men's hoops loss to Michigan on Sunday, we'll make it short and sweet on that later in the column. Our focus today here, as it rightfully needs to be...is not that loss, Paulie's physical calamities or Louisville media coordinators. It is the upcoming match-up between Louisville WBB and Tennessee.
Please come to the YUM! for tonight's game. It promises to be an exciting one. Cardinal women's basketball fans are among the best, if not the very best in the nation. You've been there for this team all season long. That's why the total attendance of 5400 on Saturday is so puzzling and, quite frankly, disappointing.
Lower bowl tickets are still available for only $17. BRING A FRIEND! OR...buy (4) tickets for $40. We highly recommend this option!
The Irish rolled out in support of Notre Dame for two games. South Carolina's arena was packed for Gamecocks women's hoops. UConn had standing room only for their start to the tournament. You want to be on the level of these teams? Then support your WBB squad like these fans do. Walz wants 8,000 tonight. I think he's a little short. I want 12,000+ plus in the YUM! I'd like to see that lower bowl packed and maybe a curtain or two having to be opened. It's a 6:30 game. You'll be home by nine, in most cases. Come out tonight!
Tennessee looms ahead next for Walz's Cards. They are a very talented, explosive team that has one of the best guards in the nation, a strong inside game and explosiveness...but they are also a quandary. At 20-11, they've got some very impressive wins. 59-51 over Stanford...maybe the best team in the west. 71-69 over Notre Dame...who a lot of people think may be in the national championship game. 76-74 over South Carolina...who is a very possible Final Four squad. Beating Mississippi St. 82-64 in the SEC Tournament. Yes, that #1 seed Bulldog squad.
Then, there are the losses. Penn St. handles them by 14. Virginia Tech by 4. Baylor by 22 and Texas by seven. SEC losses to Ole Miss and Mississippi St. Auburn by 18. Georgia. And twice falling to that powerhouse Alabama. Alabama did qualify for the WNIT. They squeaked by Arkansas-Little Rock by two in second round action.
So...when the sleeping giant is aroused in Knoxville...it can do dangerous and ominous things. When snoozing, it's as harmful as a Wagner symphony. (Sorry UofL men's fans...) The thing is, how do you keep Diamond DeShields, Mercedes Russell and Schaquilla Nunn asleep?
Pressure defense on DeShields is as good as anywhere to start the scenario. She is talented, she can score and create but she can be a little flashy and careless at times and that's where you want her making her mistakes. Attacking UT on the boards is essential as well. Russell is 6'6" (and it seems like I memorized every tendency she had when the Cards were recruiting and almost signing her) but she can be a little slow in running the court and less than eager to go inside and mix it up at times. Wear her out by making her sprint back on defense and use Kylee Shook, Sam Fuehring, Ciera Johnson, Cortnee Walton, Bionca Dunham, Hines-Allen, a wooden chair, beer carts, on-court security guys and Jedi mind tricks to bang, bump, bully, belly and banish her from her comfort zone.
Jamie Nared is the third of UT's "Big 3" that can be a game changer. At 6'2" she can be a force inside and she's the Vols second leading rebounder behind Russell and she can also step outside and make you pay with the mid-range jumper and the three. An older, more experienced version of Kylee Shook, if you will. Schaquilla Nunn, back and banging after sitting out last year with a broken foot, has given Holly Warlick big numbers lately. The red-shirt senior that previously played at Winthrop adds another dimension inside for the Vols attack. Toss in a little Jordan Reynolds, Alexa Middleton, Kortney Dunbar and Meme Jackson to assist and bolster DeShields at guard and spell the bigs and you have the Vols contingent. Holly doesn't go deep...she only has 11 on the roster and against Dayton on Saturday she went with seven primarily on the court.
DeShields was huge with 24 in the win over the Flyers. Double-doubles for Nunn (15 pts./14 boards) and Russell (14 pts. and 10 boards). Nared had eight points and seven grabs.
The Vols defense Saturday would have gotten then a small case "d" by our FRED metrics. They forced only eight turnovers...but had six steals and held Dayton to 4 for 20 from the deep and less the 35% from the floor overall. Louisville will need to be alert, pass not dribble, and move the ball rapidly around the offensive sets to get Durr, Moore and Shook those trifecta ball open looks. A penetration specialist like Jazmine Jones may find it tough going amongst the trees of the Tennessee interior...but Myisha should have a field day posting up and powering inside with scoring against the foul-prone Nared and less-than-spectacular Russell inside defensive skills.
Louisville needs to be smart, play smart, listen to the coaching staff and make sure they are recognizing who is hot, who is open and take good shots. If the Cardinal team does this..they can win this game by 15 or more. Excessive turnovers, missed defensive assignments and not curtailing DeShields could make for a long night for the Cards, though. UT loves to get to the foul line as well...against the Flyers they were 22-33...while Dayton was 11-14. If the wrong set of officials get the call for this one, we might be there watching free throws until 10 p.m. That would be bad for Louisville...who finished the regular season at just 69% free throw accuracy.
Get Durr the ball. Need we say it again? She's had fifteen 20 or more point games this year...which is second in the ACC behind Syracuse's Alexis Peterson. By far the leader in threes made in the ACC and, in her last nine games, has scored 22, 31, 30, 28, 24, 17, 28, 26 and 27 points in them.
Let Moore create and dish. She does it well. Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster marveled over the way Mariya kept finding Jazmine and Asia after the Mocs loss to UofL. We hear the complaints about her lack of scoring and point to 10 assists. That's 20 or more points she helped create. Mariya's just fine, thank you.
Louisville wins this game by doing the things they do well and by using a little brain power along with brawn power. They fall if they lapse into the turnover and poor decisions mode that has affected them several times this year. We hope the Tennessee Bears show up instead of the Tennessee Bulls. We hope the UT vs. Alabama team appears instead of the UT vs. Notre Dame one. And, we hope YOU show up, too.
March madness. It affects and afflicts us all.
The only cure is more basketball.
CARDS FALL TO MICHIGAN
I will not belabor or moan about the loss to Michigan too much here. It was a good season for Louisville MBB overall. Three things:
1) Quentin Snider 0-9 from the floor
2) The Cards could not hit threes
3) Michigan could hit threes
Losing a nine-point lead is distressing but it happens. Missing wide open dunks happen. This Cardinal team will be fantastic next year. And maybe Michigan is the team of destiny this year...with the airplane scare, improbable march through the Big 10 tournament and surprising Moe Wagner.
The off-season will be a time of reflection for these talented but ill-fated Cards. Learn from it and improve.
SOFTBALL BOMBS PITT
Jamie Soles and Caitlin Ferguson delivered two RBI's each and Maryssa Becker fired a four-hitter to lead Louisville past Pitt 8-2 and sweep the three-game series at Ulmer Stadium.
A three-run third and four-run sixth were the keys to the Cardinals conquest of the Panthers.
Ferguson, Soles, Jordan McNary, Becker and Megan Hensley all had two hits in the Cardinal win. Louisville is now 18-7 on the season and a perfect 3-0 in the ACC.
The Cards step out of conference with a 6 p.m. Wednesday game against # 23 Wisconsin at Ulmer.
Sandy Pearsall was impressed with her diamond dwellers:
"I was really happy with how our team played today," said UofL head coach Sandy Pearsall. "I thought their pitcher came fired up to stop our offense - and she certainly was throwing well and controlling us early on - but Maryssa Becker was also controlling them. So the first part of the game was definitely a pitchers' duel. Our team needed to find a little bit of aggressiveness at the plate and took care of it. Defensively, I thought we made some great plays and our defense really came through for us again. And that's the key – we've got to play defense."