BULLDOGS UNDER SCHAEFER ARE A 36-1 SQUAD
When Louisville women's basketball takes the court to play Mississippi St. in the NCAA Women's FInal Four semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday night, they'll face a squad that has been ranked #2 most of the season, is 36-1...with a lone loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament...and a team that did something last year that Louisville hasn't been able to do since 1993.
The Starkville program was at a cross-roads back in 2012. They had just hired Vic Schaefer as their head coach, who had left Texas A&M, where he had won a national title with the Aggies, and the affable head coach knew he had work to do to build MSU into a top-ten program.
Schaefer makes no bones about it:
" I didn't believe I was brought here just to build a top 25 team. I told then Athletic Director Scott Striklin that I wanted to build a top 10 program. There's a lot of difference between a top 25 team and a top 10 program. I believe I could do it."
Success did not happen overnight for Schaefer and MSU. That 2012-13 team ended up 12th in the SEC and were defeated by an average of 27 points per game in conference. They finished with a 13-17 record. Schaefer indicates it may have been one of his favorite teams, though...just like Jeff Walz often fondly remembers his 14-18 squad back in 2009-10 during his third year at Louisville.
"We didn't panic. I didn't think we'd win three games, much less 13." Schaefer jokes.
|MSU coaches like to put their hands over their|
heads in funny positions, it seems...
2015-16 got them to 28-8 and a second place SEC record. They advanced to the Sweet Sixteen but ran into Geno and the Huskies in the third round and things did not go so well. They took a 60-point beating and it humbled them going into 2016-17. Last year's squad was a juggernaut with a 34-5 record and the 68-64 -- 64-point turnaround against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament semifinals, before falling to South Carolina in the title game.
This team has no McDonald's Burger girls but features a very strong starting lineup that has started all 37 games for Schaefer.
Victoria Vivians is a do-everything guard on the MSU squad and led the 'Dogs in scoring with 19.6 ppg. She was also second in rebounding with 6.1 per night. She has many of the qualities Louisville's Asia Durr possesses and will be one that the Cards will need to know where she is on the court at all times, with her explosiveness and play-making abilities.
The 6'1" senior also shot 41% from the deep (61-161) and penetrates the paint with the ball very effectively.
Teaira McCowan patrols the paint for Schaefer and had a dominating season with 18.1 ppg and shot 61% from the floor. The 6'7" junior was far and away the leading rebounder with 502 grabs (13.6 a night) and fouling her isn't the answer, she shoots a solid 63% from the charity stripe. The other four starters average over 80% from the free throw line. McCowan had 76 blocks on the year and only fouled out of one contest. Jeff Walz has had success over the years in containing "bigs" and the Cards did a great job on Oregon State's Marie Gulich last time out...but McCowan will pose another set of problems for UofL.
Roshunda Johnson is the third double figures producer for the
|Ro, ro, Roshunda gently'|
down the lane...
Blair Schaefer, coach's daughter, averages 9.4 ppg and is a 5'7" senior. She leads the team in three-point attempts and makes (95-228) and the guard has logged the most minutes on-court with 32.2. A tough competitor, she's considered the floor leader for MSU and possesses great knowledge of the game. You won't see her at the free throw line much but she's deadly when she gets there (32-26) at 89%.
|"Captain" Morgan does some responsible celebration|
Jazzmun Holmes, Chloe Bibby and Zion Campbell are the first three normally off the bench for Coach Schaefer, none of them traditionally see more than 15 minutes per game, though and all average below 5 points per game.
|Matty couldn't get a win over the Cowbell Crew and|
his explanation pictured here was a surprise, it seems.
UK tried Mississippi three times and lost all three. In Starkville, the Cats went down 74-55. At Lexington, MSU left with a 85-73 victory and in the SEC Tournament, the Bulldogs eliminated Matthew Mitchell's squad 71-57.
In the NCAA Tournament, MSU has averaged 81.5 points in four contests and allowed 59.0 a night, for a +22.5 average margin of victory. They started at home against Nicholls St. with a 95-50 win, downed Okla. St 71-56 and went to Kansas City for the Regionals, downing NC State 71-57 and UCLA 89-73.
It will be a challenging test for Louisville, maybe their second toughest of the season. The obvious threats of McCowan inside, Vivians all over the court and Schaefer's three point-prowess give UofL several different aspects to consider in building a defensive game plan.
Jeff Walz is the "mad scientist", however, and there are very few who can analyze and develop a plan to beat a squad as well as he and his staff can. With Durr, Hines-Allen, Carter, Jones and Fuehring...Walz puts a formidable group on the hardwood and they do have the advantage of already playing a game on the Nationwide Arena court. You might remember that contest to start the season. A certain Ms. Durr found the shooting went well for her and with Louisville almost seven hours closer to Columbus than Starkville, one would hope that the Cards will have more in the seats than the Mississippi school.
The contest will be shown on ESPN2 and you can hear Nick Curran and Adrienne Johnson's call on 790 AM WRKD if you're unable to be there. CARDINAL COUPLE will have Paulie on Media Row, Jared Anderson taking photos and Jeff McAdams in the stands. Frequent CARDINAL COUPLE RADIO HOUR guests Mike Gilpatrick, Daryl Foust and Paige Sherrard will also be in attendance...so we'll have a contingent of friendly faces on-site.
We suggest you check out their work as well...at River City Cards, The Crunch Zone and Cardinal Sports Zone.
THURSDAY IN COLUMBUS
-- Louisville has a closed practice today in Nationwide Arena from 11:05 a.m. to 1:05 p.m. They'll follow Mississippi State's 9 to 11 a.m. closed practice.
-- Louisville will do Radio Interviews in Nationwide Arena from 1:15-1:35 p.m. (Sorry, but the Cardinal Couple nor River City Cards crew won't be there...not sure on the other members of the alliance.)
-- A news conference and open locker room for Louisville follows from 1:40 p.m. to 2:10 p.m.
-- The Associated Press Coach and Player of the Year will be announced at 4:30 p.m.
-- WBCA Coaches All-American Announcement is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
SOFTBALL FALLS TO LIPSCOMB
A trip to Nashville resulted in a 3-1 loss to Lipscomb College yesterday for Louisville Softball. The Cards hit the scoreboard first when "Poof" Nicole Pufahl led off the inning with a double and got home on a Jamie "New Pride of New Egypt, N.J" Soles single.
The Bisons (never would have guessed that as their nickname) tied it in the fifth on a single home run shot and combined three hits, a walk and an error in the sixth to plate the final two runs.
Megan Hensley (8-4) took the loss for the Hit and Pitch Cards. She relieved Danielle Watson who went 4.2 innings and surrendered one run.
The Cards (22-10) return to Ulmer for a three-game, ACC series hosting NC State that begins on Friday.
LAX LOSES AT BROWN 10-17
Louisville Lacrosse evened their season record up a 6-6 with a 17-10 loss at Brown University yesterday.
The Cards got the first two scores of the contest from Tessa Chad and Emily Howell, but could not maintain the edge and trailed 7-6 at the halftime break.
The Cards fell further behind in the final half despite the strong efforts of Madison Hoover, who led Louisville with three goals and Lexie Ball at goalkeeper. She tallied 11 saves.
Brown scored the final four goals of the match. Louisville brings in Virginia Tech to the LLS on Saturday at 1 p.m.