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Saturday, March 23, 2024

Cards WBB Upset By MTSU; Softball Falls Late -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Louisville WBB Suffers Walz's First Round One Loss

Nyla Harris slid to the floor in disbelief as Merissah Russell's last-second heave bounced off the rim. The shot ended up much closer than I expected when it came out of the hand, and for a brief moment, I thought Louisville would be the ones doing the heartbreaking. It didn't turn out that way, though, and the Cards fell 71-69 to Middle Tennessee. The loss was Jeff Walz's first ever in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. As the announcers mentioned during the game, Louisville's magic number was 70, and Walz had stated that they would need at least that many to win against the Blue Raiders. Welp...

At the time that topic of discussion came up, Louisville held a comfortable lead up near 15 points. The Cards went on a 22-7 to close the first quarter and led 28-12. They shot 4-5 from three, which was a little out of their normal pattern, and they were 11-19 from the field in general. Louisville dominated in the first. They won in rebounds, turnovers, and fouls and led for 9:42. After that, the wheels kind of fell off. 

Going into the second, Louisville allowed a little push by MTSU to bring the lead down to 12, but the Cards were able to right the ship and extended it back to 18 after the media timeout. Louisville was up 38-20 with 4:18 remaining in the quarter. Then they began missing shots and MTSU began making them. Louisville didn't score again, giving up a seven-point run to close the half. The Raiders ultimately won the quarter 15-10 and trailed by just 11 at halftime. 

The Cards broke the MTSU run when Olivia Cochran scored the opening basket of the third quarter. Unfortunately, it was a brief interruption. Enjoying frequent trips to the free throw line, MTSU continued to chip away at the lead. Louisville scored again on a Jayda Curry layup, but that basket was followed by a three to make the score 42-37. MTSU was on a 17-4 run spanning two quarters and Louisville had no answers. They continued trading threes for twos and MTSU continued going to the foul line. The Blue Raiders took their first lead of the game with 49 seconds remaining in the third. Overall, they won the third quarter 24-12. MTSU was 5-7 from the floor in the third, including 4-4 from beyond the arc. They were 10-13 from the free throw line. Despite committing just three more fouls, Louisville took nine fewer free throws in the quarter. After watching a big lead disappear, the Cards headed into the huddle trailing 51-50. 

You might be able to guess what happened next. Based on how this Louisville team performed all season, you wouldn't be crazy to think they would fold. You'd hope that it wouldn't happen, given that this was the NCAA Tournament and half of the players on the team came to Louisville specifically for this moment. They didn't answer the call.  After trading a couple of baskets to open the quarter, Louisville went on a scoring drought that lasted 5:28. That's completely unacceptable in that stage of that game. MTSU stretched their lead to eight, and it could have gotten even higher. 

By the time Louisville started scoring again, it had become time to play the foul game with a team that shot nearly 80% from the line on the season. The Cards slowly chipped away at the lead, seeming like they might make something happen down the stretch. However, in critical moments, things went sideways. Louisville twice turned the ball over while inbounding, the second coming while down by just four with 40 seconds remaining. That Merissah Russell's heave even had the chance to win the game for Louisville was a bit of a surprise. The Cards didn't earn it, though. They'd have been stealing the game from a team that (although they probably shouldn't have been an 11-seed) came in undeterred and focused for 40 minutes.

I don't want to make a bitter comment just for the sake of it, but I can't help it. Someone should have at least taught Savannah Wheeler how to do the "L's Down" correctly. I'll also use this as my opportunity to be irritated by something else: this officiating crew was bad. It generally went both ways, but they took every opportunity to call a jump ball, including if players dove with their entire body on top of another player to "contest" the ball. MTSU played six players in the entire game. One of those players played just eight minutes. Despite that, after the Blue Raiders committed four fouls in the first quarter, they apparently committed just 11 over the remainder of the game. Louisville finished with 25, ten more than MTSU. They fouled in the late game situation only 3-4 times. MTSU took 33 free throws. Louisville took 10. That's probably enough of going down that path. 

Louisville got complacent in this game. For some reason, they decided that a team that shot as well as MTSU would not just shoot through their first quarter misses. But that's exactly what happened. As we saw many times throughout the season, Louisville seemingly ignored the scout, left players open that they shouldn't have, and tried to coast for 20+ minutes. As a result, they got what they got. This season's NCAA Tournament run falls short, breaking a streak of six-straight Sweet 16s and five-straight Elite Eights. MTSU will face LSU Sunday at 3PM. 

Jeff will provide a full bracket update in tomorrow's post when the first round has concluded. Nick O has a commanding lead as his bracket remains perfect after Friday.

The FRED Report 

"Lucy, I made the hotel reervations thru Sunday night..."

I don't know that it adds a ton at this point, but let's do the final FRED Report of the year. 

F-Free Throws: Louisville gets a capital 'F' here for their 90% effort. They were 9-10 from the line but took just six free throws after the first quarter. If they had taken 33, like another team in this game, and still shot 90% from the line, they would have won going away. But they didn't, so that's unfortunate.

R-Rebounds: Louisville had a larger advantage in this category at various points in the game, but they finished with just a 41-34 win in rebounds. Cochran led the team with 10 (also led in scoring with 17) to give her a double-double. MTSU had two very tall Russian centers. The Cards converted their win in the battle of the boards to win the second chance points category 15-7 as well. Capital 'R'.

E-Effort/Execution: Louisville finished with 15 turnovers and blew a 16-point lead. They had the five minute drought I mentioned, and as the game slipped away, they ultimately devolved into playing bad defense and hero ball. The last gasp at the end doesn't change how the game went overall. No letter. 

D-Defense: Same issues. You can't send a team to the line 33 times, regardless of how the refs are calling the game. Repeatedly, Jeff Walz told us that the team wasn't adhering to the scouting report. It seemed evident yesterday. No letter. 

F-R-_-_. See ya next year, Fred. 

Softball Gives Up Upset in Seventh

After the midday NCAA loss, Louisville softball was there to save the day with a big win over top-ten Duke. That is, right up until they didn't. Louisville led 2-0 entering the seventh, needing just three outs to make a huge statement to open the series against the sixth-ranked Blue Devils (side note: stupid blue teams). They couldn't get them. Duke scored three in the top of the inning, and Louisville couldn't respond. Turning an upset bid into an upsetting defeat. 

Louisville struck early. Chelsea Mack drew a four-pitch walk to open Louisville's offensive first and then beat out a potential double-play grounder. Daisy Hess rewarded the baserunning effort with a double to score the run and give Louisville an early advantage. That 1-0 lead would hold until the sixth inning, although it looked a bit nervy through the fifth when Duke stranded the bases loaded. 

Hess was involved again in the sixth, walking and then moving to third when the pitch she stole second on went wild. After a walk put runners on the corners with one out, Gabby Holloway knocked Hess in with a single. Louisville left a pair, though, and took the two-run lead into the final frame. 

Here, Coach Holly Aprile made an interesting choice. Alyssa Zabala had been very good in the game. Through six innings, she had given up just three hits and two walks. She worked out of a jam in the fifth. I get riding the hot hand. However, Zabala opened the inning preparing to face the top of the order for the fourth time. That's dangerous territory. She started with a walk and a bunt single. At that point, I think you should consider a pitching change to close out the game. Instead, Zabala was hung out to do it on her own. She got one out but gave up a double to make it 2-1. Aprile still left her in. A strikeout gave Louisville two outs, but a single scored the next two runners and set the final score of 3-2. After another walk, Zabala was finally relieved. Sam Booe walked another batter to load the bases, but induced a flyout to finish it. 

Louisville threatened in the bottom half, with Maddi Grant opening the inning with a double. A pinch runner moved the tying run to third on a Kylie Goff sacrifice bunt. Unfortunately, a strikeout looking and a ground out ended the game. The Cards will try again for their first conference victory of the season today at 1PM. The game will be carried on ACC Network Extra. 

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We aren't sure how much joy we'll have but there will be plenty of excitement. Internet gremlins are threatening the host quantity, but we'll just see what we get. As always, you can check out the live stream of the show by going to the Cardinal Couple YouTube page and clicking on the live video. Jeff usually creates that about an hour before the show, which officially starts at 11 AM Eastern. If the live time doesn't work for you, there are plenty of playback options, so be sure to check out whichever is best for you!

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Until next time, Go Cards!



  1. Softball - Holly April's loss. As you mentioned, there should have been a pitching change.

  2. How soon can we get the incoming freshmen class on campus?

  3. Cards up by 18 points but couldn't close the deal.

    I think the officiating this year and previous years have been (Horrible !!!!!!) so what's new smh lol.

    Everyone's talking about NIL money how about they get money for better officiating.

    I think CJW & Staff did outstanding job this year messing the transfers with the his current roster ,takes more than one year for the team to be a complete unit.

    This year's team was very competitive they won 12 ACC games, but never really was clicking on all cylinders. Kiki ,Jadya,Nina & Sdy would have a good game eventually but never together.

    Shout out to Olivia Cochran ,Nyla Harris & Merrissa Russell battling all game long.

    Also want to mention Elif İstanbulluoğlu effort this season was outstanding.

    What happened to Elysa Love what she hurt?

    Help on the way the shot blocker's return🏀

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