Cards Fall to Mississippi State in OT; 73-63
Louisville was outscored 14-4 in the overtime period, bringing their season to an end a game shy of the desired length. The loss was Louisville's first under Jeff Walz when making it to the Final Four, as each other Final Four appearance had resulted in a championship game appearance as well. For those that watched, there was a pretty glaring reason that Louisville didn't win the game in regulation, ultimately leading to the loss. I'm going to try to avoid harping on that reason, but the more I get into the stats, the more it stands out. As we all know, though, it is never one reason that a team loses a game. When it comes down to it, Louisville had a three point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation and couldn't close the deal. Poor shooting and inopportune cold streaks ultimately doomed the Cards.
After a jittery start by both teams in the first quarter, Louisville finally broke into the scoring column, and it couldn't have been anyone else to get the Cards started. Asia Durr got open on a screen and knocked down a three while picking up a foul and converted the four point play. On the Bulldog's next possession, Myisha Hines-Allen came away with a steal which turned into a Jazmine Jones' bucket. Louisville led 6-0, which would be their largest lead of the game until much later. As would happen too often in a big game such as this, Louisville squandered an opportunity to press the issue and extend their lead. Sam Fuehring missed a jump shot and Arica Carter committed a foul on the next possession. Victoria Vivians of Mississippi State, a player with which every Louisville fan became much too familiar last night, missed both free throws, giving the Cards another chance. MHA missed a jumper on the next possession before Mississippi State came back down the floor.
Teaira McCowan gathered her first offensive rebound off of a Vivians miss, and Sam Fuehring committed her first foul. McCowan converted both free throws and the Bulldogs were on the board. Louisville would finally score again on a Jazmine Jones free throw with 4:20 remaining in the quarter. She was one of two from the line, but Louisville's first cold streak of the night had ended. It had lasted just under three minutes and the Cards had missed four straight shots and committed 3 fouls. All the while, Miss St sat on 2 points, and a golden opportunity to seize real control of the game had been missed. After the free throw, Miss St converted on all but two of their offensive possessions for the remainder of the quarter and limited Louisville's scoring chances. Bulldogs led 13-11 after another pair of McCowan free throws were the last scores of the quarter.
The first five minutes of the second quarter were filled with good back and forth basketball. Both teams, offensive by nature, had seemed to find their rhythm and were scoring on nearly every possession. Mississippi State stretched out their largest lead of the game to 5 at the 7:12 mark before Louisville refocused and pushed out a 5 point lead of their own with 3 minutes left in the half. The Bulldogs would not be denied, though. They recovered from Louisville's charge and pushed back to regain a one point lead on a Vivians layup with 5 seconds remaining. Cards trailed 31-30 at the half.
Louisville had gotten only 6 of its 30 points from Durr and MHA combined in the first half as MHA had been limited to 6 minutes of game time. She, along with Arica Carter, Sam Fuehring, and Kylee Shook, all had been tagged with 2 fouls in the first half, with both of Myisha's coming in the first quarter. Durr had been targeted hard by the defense and was struggling to find open space. Louisville didn't shoot particularly poorly, going 13-30 from the field, but they were only 1-7 from behind the arc and just 3-5 from the free throw line. Mississippi State shot worse from the floor in the first half, with just 11-31, but had picked up 8 points on 10 opportunities at the free throw line. After playing all 20 minutes of the first half, Teaira McCowan felt it necessary to complain to Holly Rowe that the refs needed to pay more attention to all the times she was getting fouled. This came after she was called for one foul in the half and every Louisville player that had defended her had picked up 2. Oooooookay. All in all, it was set up to be a new game in the second half.
In the second half, two stars came out to shine as Vivians opened the scoring for Miss St and was answered by a Durr jumper for Louisville. The Cards quickly tried to get MHA involved, as well, with a runout but Myisha could not convert the lay-up. Myisha's first basket came a minute and a half later, to keep the Cards within one. Louisville stumbled after that, with the Bulldogs going up by 5 by converting their next two trips and Durr missing a pair of threes. Fortunately, the Cards were able to keep Miss St from running away with the game when MHA grabbed a steal that led to offense for Arica Carter. Louisville went on a 6-0 spurt to regain the lead with 3:12 remaining in the quarter. The lead changed hands six more times in the quarter with Asia Durr and Victoria Vivians trading back to back to back threes in the final 46 seconds. Durr's shot came with 2 seconds and put the Cards up by two to end the quarter.
Myisha Hines-Allen opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, making just her tenth three pointer of her career to put the Cards up 5. Two minutes later, Asia Durr stretched the lead to 7, the largest of the game for either team, with 7:14 remaining. Then, the Cards went cold. Louisville went the next five minutes and twelve seconds without scoring. Mississippi State went on a 10-0 run while Louisville missed 5 shots, committed two turnovers, and picked up two fouls. The two fouls were Fuehring's 4th and 5th, with the last coming on a technical for "demonstratively arguing a call". I might slap the floor in frustration too if I was called for a foul after being hooked around the neck and shoved down by someone that had been getting away with murder under the basket all night.
Calmly, the Cards recovered, scoring the next two baskets to regain the lead. However, the damage was done. What had been a strong lead with 7 points remaining had been stripped to a single point lead with a minute left. Every missed shot by the Cards kept Mississippi State in a game that was closer than it should have been. With both teams having fouls to give, it was clear that Mississippi State's play was to foul Louisville and try to force a turnover on the inbounding pass. They almost made it happen, with Jeff Walz being forced to call his final timeout to save a five second violation. After the timeout, Asia Durr took over the ball and lofted a pass over two Miss St defenders to Myisha Hines-Allen. MHA dribbled easily past McCowan toward the basket and then laid in a more acrobatic shot than seemed necessary.
Louisville was up by 3 with 11 seconds left and there were two questions. 1) Why hadn't Myisha pulled the ball out to kill clock, as she was 15-20 feet from the nearest defender? 2) With a foul to give, would Jeff Walz foul to prevent the three or foul to send Miss St to the line? The first question was unanswerable. The second was answered when Roshunda Johnson buried a three to tie the game. With seven seconds left, Arica Carter inbounded to Myisha Hines-Allen who dribbled straight up the middle of the floor with McCowan sprinting alongside. MHA's layup bounced off the backboard as she was clearly fouled to floor and Jazmine Jones' putback fell off the back of the rim as time expired. There was no whistle, and the two teams got set for overtime.
Here's what I don't like. When players clearly foul on a last second shot, miss me with the "I'm glad they didn't call the foul. Let the players decide the game." garbage. (Looking at you, Skylar Diggins.) The players DID decide the game. Teaira McCowan decided to foul Myisha Hines-Allen on the layup attempt. She could have decided to attempt to cleanly block the ball or alter the shot in some other way, but she didn't. This happens all of the time in basketball. Referees apparently decide that the final shot attempt in a tie game should take place in the Wild West where rules don't apply. The more clear it is that refs don't want to end a game at the free throw line, the more likely it is that players will start to get hurt in these situations as defenders foul more aggressively to prevent buzzer beaters.
Anyway, the game wasn't over yet, and the Cards still had an opportunity to win. That is, until their final cold spell set in to ice the game. Louisville missed their first four shots in overtime and committed a turnover. Victoria Vivians scored 5 points for the Bulldogs before fouling out with 58 seconds remaining. Somehow, Louisville still only trailed by 3 after the Durr free throws. Jazmine Jones cut the deficit to 1 with 50 seconds left, but Louisville's point total would stay at 63 for the remainder of the game. Mississippi State scored 9 points over the final 50 seconds to give the final tally.
Despite the significant size disadvantage, and the clear lack of interest from the refs in calling anything on Teaira McCowan (she finished playing all 45 minutes with just the one foul), Louisville only lost the rebounding battle by 8. They outshot the Bulldogs in regulation by 5 percentage points, but were doomed in that battle by a woeful overtime. Louisville committed fewer turnovers and had more steals. In fact, Louisville wasn't even a victim of clear discrimination in the foul column. Louisville finished with 8 more fouls than Mississippi State but it was only a deficit of 3 in regulation and both teams were called for 5 in the second half. The difference was that Teaira McCowan was able to do whatever she wanted on the floor without consequence, including head seeking Kylee Shook with an elbow at the end of the third quarter, and aggressively confronting a referee during overtime. That a player was given a free pass all night and used it liberally was what was so frustrating about the officiating. We say it a lot here at Cardinal Couple and we aren't the only ones; women's basketball officiating is embarrassing, and the NCAA doesn't seem to care at all. Refs are bad when Louisville wins, too, don't get me wrong. But the officiating across the board is awful, and the NCAA is putting a bad product on the floor without repercussion.
COACH WALZ, PLAYERS POST GAME PRESSER
COACH WALZ, PLAYERS POST GAME PRESSER
The CASE Report
I've thrown out some frustrating stats there, so let's take a look at the breakdown in my favorite way.
C-Care: As I mentioned, Louisville turned the ball over 11 times to Miss St's 14. Already, we know that the Cards will get half a point here. Mississippi was 48th in the country this season in turnovers forced at 18.6 per game. (By the way, Lamar University led this stat pretty much all year forcing 27.6 (!!!) turnovers per game.) Louisville's 11 turnovers are 59% of MSST's 18.6 average, so Louisville earned a capital 'C'.
A-Assists: I didn't mention assists in my earlier stats rant and there was a reason. The Cards finished with 7. Louisville had been playing outstanding offense in this tournament by moving without the ball and passing players open for good shots. They didn't do that last night. They stood around without the ball. They dribbled into turnovers in the lane. They held on until too late in the shot clock. Seven assists on 27 made shots. 26% assist ratio. 0.64 assist to turnover ratio. Yikes. No letter.
S-Steals: Louisville's 7 steals were a shade under the 7.5 benchmark, but they did finish with more than Mississippi State. Not much else to say here, as Mississippi State still outscored the Cards in the points off of turnovers column. However, the Cards did achieve a goal, so it's a lowercase 's'.
E-Efficiency: Louisville shot 43.3% in regulation after identical halves of 13-30 shooting. Three point shooting was not good, and the Cards went 1-10 from the floor in overtime to finish with an FG% of only 38.6% Louisville went only 5-7 from the free throw line (no free throws in the second half), finishing at 71.4%. That's below the 75% standard set for the CASE Report, as the FG% is below the 45% benchmark. No letter.
Louisville finished their final game of the season with a C-_-s-_. It was not an ideal game, and the things that had been working for the Cards, namely their offense, fell out in last night's game. The Cards made it further than all but two other teams, though, and only one team can win it all. The final 36-3 record is astounding for Louisville and Vince Tyra's second major act as athletic director needs to be to quash all of these rumors around Jeff Walz. Keep Coach here. He's doing amazing things with the women's basketball program and it would be a shame to see that come to an end prematurely.
Finally, I couldn't end without praising Myisha Hines-Allen. Her career at Louisville came to a close last night, and it was a storied one. 2000 points. All-time leading rebounder. MHA has been a thrilling player to don the red and black. In addition to her work on the floor, she has been a great ambassador for the university off the court. Myisha is a very special talent, and I hope that she is able to continue her amazing career with success at the next level. I saw someone last night say that they hoped Louisville could find another talent like her soon. I don't see that being likely. Myisha was different. We may never see a player quite like her again. There will be more players that we celebrate when their career here is done, but none will be quite like her. Congratulations to Myisha on an outstanding career, and good luck to her in the future.
All photos of last night's game provided by Jared Anderson. More photos available on his Facebook page.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour returns today, perhaps with a bit less joy than last week. We'll spend quite a bit of time on the basketball game, as you could assume, with multiple call-ins to the show. Paulie will man the fort and we'll see just how he's doing after the long drive back in solitude rather than celebration. Tune in to WCHQ FM via 100.9 on the radio, the WCHQ app, wchqfm.com, or the WCHQ FM facebook page.
Until next time, Go Cards.