19-0 HUSKY RUNS EARLY SINKS CARDS
Shots wouldn't fall and were hurried and forced. The offensive patterns never materialized. The first quarter turnovers were atrocious (nine of them) and the Huskies couldn't miss from the floor. Led by Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn just went off on the bewildered and out-of-sync Cards, roaring to a 19-3 advantage and a 24-6 first quarter lead. It was what UofL did to Notre Dame earlier in the season, but the Cards were on the receiving end. We know who is #1 in the nation with no doubt whatsoever now and it isn't the ACC school on the banks of the Ohio.
Walz called timeouts. They didn't help. Kia Nurse, UConn guard, was applying intensive-care defensive on Asia Durr and the junior couldn't gather enough space to tie her shoes...much less get a good shot off. Louisville looked clueless, the Huskies scored at will and the capacity crowd in the Gampel Pavilion nodded and cheered in approval every time the Huskies did something right and Louisville miscued and floundered.
The sense of dread and disillusionment clear and present as I watched from my easy chair. This wasn't so easy.
"We defended them about as well as we wanted to and that was the plan going in"
Those words, from UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, were a understatement. Mission accomplished. The Cards looked like one of the non-conference patsies that were sacrificial lambs to Walz's crew early in the season.
After those bloody and deflating first ten minutes, the Cards started to gather a bit and get back in sync...but it was too late. The Red and Black played on fairly even terms in the second session with Connecticut but still found themselves on the short end of a 42-22 halftime score. It was "Lou" (Samuelson) taking on Louisville single-handedly and doing quite well, almost outscoring the Cards by herself after twenty minutes. Threes, drives to the basket, layups, jumpers...she was the Energizer Bunny and Louisville was dead batteries when it came to containing her.
Play Louisville basketball? Certainly not this version.
You can credit the Cards for not letting this one get any worse. In fact, Asia Durr and company won the second half 36-27. She finished with 20 points, Myisha Hines-Allen recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds -- her 13th double-double of the year -- and Arica Carter hit a career high four trifectas in the affair to finish with 12 points. Sam Fuehring had a strong effort inside, mostly in the final half, with strong rebounding and eight points.
But it was all after the contest had been decided. The 11-point margin of loss was the closest Louisville got to the lead since the horrific first period. Jeff Walz discussed the first quarter:
"We had good shots there in the first quarter and just missed them. I thought that some of them were too quick and those led to transition for them. That's something you can't do."
A non-conference lesson learned.
Losing to #1 in the nation is no disgrace. Louisville shouldn't plummet from their #4 status in the nation, especially when you consider Notre Dame is #5. The ACC Championship is still a very attainable goal and the Cards continue on, with the road trip taking them to Boston College next for a Thursday night contest.
How will the loss to UConn affect them against the Eagles? One would hope they come out madder than hell and punish B.C. But, that first quarter gave every other coach in the ACC key insights on how to stop the Cards. Whether there is anyone in the ACC that can duplicate what UConn did is highly doubtful. Will the Cards come out still hurting and stung in Chestnut Hill? We hope not.
I'm going to do my best to forget the first half-hour of what I saw last night. Walz will probably use it as a teaching tool, and rightfully so, because there are a lot of things to learn from there. I'd just as soon forget that beginning last night. UConn came out and did what they do. They took control of the car and never gave the keys or driving privileges to the passengers. They showed all women's college basketball fans that the road to Columbus and Final Four dreams goes though Storrs and Geno's roadblock and gauntlet.
"I thought we competed, which is want we wanted to do, but I just wish we could have made it a better game off the bat".
So do we, the fans, Coach. So do we.
The question is...how will the Cards react when they get behind the wheel Thursday?
Cardinal fans had hopes, expectations and dreams of knocking off #1. I did too. What we got was a painful and embarrassing lesson on how the elite team in women's college basketball handles big match-ups.
The casual basketball fan who may have missed the game will look at the final score and maybe think that UConn got a bit of a test last night by only winning by 11. They would be mistaken. This one was over early and UConn maintained. Case closed.
Let's hope UofL learned something and can put it to use. 28% shooting in the first half would be a great place to start the teaching. Remaining calm and collected in a frenzied environment a good teaching point.
Does Louisville want them again? Further down the road...NCAA Tournament time? I'd just as soon pass. I hope we end up on the other side of the bracket. We will learn from the loss, yes, but can the Cards do anything to prevent the Huskies from doing it again? Geno's squad learned too.
I'll dwell on it no more. As UofL football coach John L. Smith said many years ago...sometimes you just have to tear off the rear view mirror and just keep driving.
Let's hope the Cardinal Caravan doesn't have any slow, sluggish starts in what's left of winter.
I know this column isn't in the usual vein of our "joy and excitement" of Cardinal women's athletics. I'll try to end on that note. The Cards didn't completely fold up the tent. They won the second half. They played UConn as close as just about anyone has this year. They are still a great team and will have many more successes this season.
THE FRED REPORT
|Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) must|
have watched the first quarter...
REBOUNDING -- Here's one battle the Cards did win last night...36-34. Myisha with 12, Sam with seven and Arica grabbed six. We'll provide a small case "r" for that.
EFFORT/EXECUTION -- Throw out the first quarter and it wasn't all that bad in effort and execution. But, that first quarter...ugh. I'll take the high road here and award a small case "e" for the overall performance.
DEFENSE -- Holding the Huskies to 69 points is pretty impressive. Samuelson and Williams pretty much scored when they chose to, though, and the Cards got pounded in the points in paint category 44-24. The closer you get, the easier the bucket gets. Based on that, I'll with-hold the letter.
FINAL FRED REPORT: _-r-e-_