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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Louisville Women's Basketball -- Knowing the Foe -- Miss. St. -- THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


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. 

Defeat UConn. 

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...
But, the coach had a blueprint and plan and the next season they went 22-14 and made it to the quarterfinals of the WNIT. Year three under Schaefer got them to 27-7 and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

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...
Starkville school at 11.7 ppg and the 5'7' red-shirt senior guard can also connect from trifecta range at 42.2% for the year (74-174). She's a transfer from Oklahoma State after her sophomore year. She sat out 2015-16 and has played two years for the Rebs. Tough defensively, she also has speed and another that will beat you down court and make you pay if you lose track of her.

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
Morgan William, a 5'5" senior, rounds out the starters and averages 8.2 a contest. She's the assist leader for Schaefer with 170 on the year and, although not a huge three-point threat, she's one you want to avoid fouling and sending to the line also at 86%. She'd easily qualify, as would Schaefer and Johnson, for our "Attack Yorkie" status here at Cardinal Couple and was quite instrumental in the latest MSU win over UCLA. 

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.
In common foes, the Cards and Miss. St share five different opponents. both MSU and UofL were undefeated against them.  MSU began the season defeating Virginia in Starkville 68-53. Oregon visited Starkville on 12/13 and fell 90-79. Quentin Hillsman put his Syracuse Orange on the floor against them in the Duel in the Desert in Vegas and recorded a 76-65 "L" against them. NC State faced Miss. St. in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament and Ms. Wuf's Pack suffered a 71-57 defeat. 

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 we'll have a contingent of friendly faces on-site. 

We suggest you check out their work as River City CardsThe Crunch Zone and Cardinal Sports Zone


-- 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. 


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. 


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.



  1. Nice summary, Paulie.

    One correction - Louisville's one and only win against UConn occurred in 1993 rather than 1983.

    Miss State is a two-point favorite. That sounds about right.

    This should be a fast-paced game where bench play might make the difference. I look for a big contribution from Dana Evans.

    1. Good eye, Mike! A slip of the index finger, it appears for non-millennial, no opposable thumbs, typing challenged Paulie. It has been corrected, kind sir, and thanks for the heads-up. Don't want Geno calling me giving me grief or Walz texting me an calling me a moron.


  2. Following up on yesterday's discussion, here's some more information for you C-J defenders to ponder....

    C-J website Home page has four articles about Mack and one Mack-related article about Bill Murray. Zero articles about WBB.

    C-J website Sports page has seven Mack articles, the Bill Murray article, an article about a seldom-used MBB freshman who will return next year, and an article about the Cincinnati Reds. Zero WBB.

    1. The C-J just isn't the paper it was back before the Gannett/USA Today era. We do like what Danielle Lerner brings us (wish it was every day) and love or hate him, Tim Sullivan occasionally stumbles upon something that can be interesting.

      I grew up with a Courier-Journal that had Billy Reed, Dave Kindred, Charlie Springer, Earl Ruby, Eric and Byron Crawford, Rick Bozich, Pat Forde and some other very great and prolific writers. Those didn't always agreed with them, but they made you think and informed you. They weren't pushing their own agendas.

      Fortunately, you can still find a few of them around at other websites and media outlets. They were part of my early motivation to write.


  3. This should be a battle for your little Birdies Paulie. I sat through two of the Miss-a-sloppy State wins over my Kentucky Wildcats and that big McCowan is impressive but she can also be slow and if "Where's Waldo" can capitalize on that, you just might have a chance against them.

    Now onto Walz and the potty language. I know our Matthew Mitchell hasn't had a exactly clean vocabulary at times, and I'd wager that a lot of the coaches out there drop a few words that can make ya wince from time to time. I know sweet Jen Hoover at "Wake-up" Forest can imitate a sailor with her choice of phrasing as well, sat behind their bench a while back and she was tossing out obscenities and profanities like Sam "Furious" Fuehring unloads illegal elbows.

    Is it appropriate?

    I got mixed feelings on that. I'll give "male pattern baldness Jeff" a break on the occasional slip-up, just like I will Matty. Things happen during the heat of the moment and during exciting and stressful situations. No one expects a Baptist preacher on the sidelines or in the huddles.

    Touching players -- same thing. None of these coaches are making sexual advances on the women when they slap a hiney or hug them. They're a close knit family and expressing graditute and congratulations. Believe me, I slow danced with guys back in the day that had octupus arms and Roman fingers and didn't know me nearly as well as these coaches knwo their players. I also played for a coach that was female but was a bit grabby also.

    So, let it go, moral majority. Close your ears and avert your eyes if you don't want to see it.

    Paulie, that senile mind of yours should try to run a poll or something to get your readers thoughts on it. And, can we get Sonja on here to do an article on your language and hand-jive?


    You know me, I'm taking the SEC and Ol'Miss in this one. Hope Waldo jalopy he's driving in the pic today doesn't break down on I-71 and the girls don't have to get out and push. And he doesn't have to stop and ask directions. It could take three minutes to ask a simple "where are we and which way do we go?" query from him.

    Matthew Mitchell for Governor

    1. Where's my picture of you in a red shirt, Guv?

      Your Rebs are going down and there's nothing you can do about it, Lt. Cappy. (paraphrased from the movie "A Few Good Men")


    2. It's negotiable Mike D. I'd need a financial statement and health report first, though. Also a signed document indicating you'd switch to the blue.

      Matthew Mitchell For Governor

    3. Had a feeling you'd be here bandwagonning the SEC, gov. You're sooooo predictable.

  4. No love here for Durr first team AP All-American and Myisha third team AP All-American? What is up, CC?

    1. Thought we had covered that earlier in the week...but, if not, MUCH LOVE to those two and a pat on the butt and a few select curse words for them!


    2. don't forget to grab them by the hips when you congratualtin them P

  5. I'm thinking we gotta speed them up and wear them down. Mainly McCowan. Cede her some rebounds and points without fouling, but get the ball out of the net and push it. Make her run run run to get back on defense. And play Vivians closely, probably have Jaz faceguarding her. Not too many switches.
    Hopefully the mad scientist has come up with a plan that leads to success.
    GO CARDS!!!

  6. I like our chances vs. MSST

    - We've got fifteen fouls to use on McCowan with our three bigs. Shook is going to have to step up and play some solid minutes even if she fouls out. If she plays it right with her length she could be a difference maker. McCowan isn't a great free throw shooter although she has improved during the tourney.
    - Jones is going to have to clamp down on Vivians with help from AC.
    - AC & Dana are going to have to work together to shut down William and the coach's kid. William killed Nurse last year in UConn's loss. Nurse just wasn't quick enough to cover William. Dana is.
    - I think Durr can hold her own with Johnson and make things work.

    Should be a great game. Lots of folks doubting usual. If we can move McCowan off her game early we can win this one.

    Also, unless my memory is failing me isn't this the same clubs as the last time we went to the Final Four except MMST has replaced Cal?

    Good Luck Cards!

    1. Yes, three of four are same as 2013. I was at games in NOLA in 2013 and will be in the arena tomorrow night. Hoping for the same type of game as vs. California - close, well-played game with Cardinals coming out on top.

      I think Dana is the key to victory tomorrow night.

    2. Sonya was hospitalized back right before the 2013 Final Four and I did not get to make that trip. We watched it on TV though. I remember all the pundits were saying it doesn't matter who comes out of the Cal/Lou side of the bracket...UConn will win the Tournament.

      I hope that isn't the case this year. I'd much rather have a Notre Dame vs. UofL Final. WE know how to beat them.


  7. They’ve done a great job of not looking past opponents all season and I hope it stays that way tomorrow. Yes, the championship is within arm’s reach, but there’s a giant standing in the way that needs to be taken down first. Walz has a week to prepare his defense for Mississippi State. It could be interesting to see what game plan he draws up.

  8. On another note women’s golf came back to win the Anuenue Spring Break Classic, surpassing Hawaii at the very end.

  9. Go Cards beat Mississippi State Bull Dog. GO UofL C A R D I N A L S!This team can beat any body when they play there game.


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