CARDS PREVAIL IN ONE-POINT SUNDAY THRILLER
Matthew Mitchell, skipper of UKWBB, described it as finishing one play short of the objective. He was correct as well, UK with a chance to take the lead on the final possession and falling just short of the goal. You can't blame one player for a loss...ever...but either the shot goes in or it doesn't. Thankfully, it missed.
|A great view of Matty's bald spot in the coaches pre game chat.|
The battle of the Bluegrass, hoops style, began with the Cards jumping out to an early 8-3 lead after four minutes of action. Three different Cardinals scoring and Louisville avoiding what most Cardinal fans hoped they would -- a slow start. UK devised their own "comeback Cats" strategy, though, and it was centered around two players -- powerful Rhyne Howard scoring from everywhere and KeKe McKinney dropping threes on the Cardinal defense. The Cats grabbed a 16-15 lead with 2:10 left in the first but Louisville went on a 6-0 run to finish the quarter, Liz Dixon and Dana Evans leading the charge to give Louisville a 21-16 lead after one.
UK was not backing off, though. Howard went on a second quarter, seven-point opening run to tie the contest at 25-25. Sabrina Haynes buried a deep three and drew a foul from Jazmine Jones to give the Cats a four-point edge halfway through the second quarter, and the media timeout couldn't have come at a better time for the Cards -- UK was on a 13-4 run in the quarter and led 29-25. The Cards managed to stay just four points behind until the final 106 seconds. Then, a half closing, Howard-led, 7-2 run changed a 33-29 score into a nine-point UK jaunt that had Louisville on their heels 40-31 at the intermission.
A 24-10 quarter for Big Blue, Howard had 15 of the second quarter points and 20 overall in the game on 7-15 shooting. Dana led Louisville with 11 points but the Cards, simply put, had to find a way to shut down the superb sophomore
They accomplished the task.
Howard was held to two made free throws in the third quarter, Louisville went on a 13-0 run that spanned the final three minutes of the third and turned a 55-45 deficit into a 58-55 lead. Yacine Diop exploded for six crucial points in the run. Louisville shot 64.7% in the session after halftime. Howard got just one look and missed it. Kylee Shook nailed two threes in the quarter and Dana added seven points to turn this one around in Lexington and the elated UK crowd had been partially silenced. The Cards led by three with ten minutes to go. Diop, Dunham, Jones and Shook had silenced the threat. Could they hang on, though?
The fourth started and three minutes passed before either team could add to their point total. UK reserve Jaida Roper was fouled on a three-point attempt and sank two of her three free throw attempts to draw the Cats within one. A huge blocked shot by Kylee Shook (she had five in the game) got the ball to Louisville and Diop scored her final bucket to push the lead back to three. 45 seconds later, Jaz pulled up for a jumper and sent Cardinal fans and the UofL bench into a frenzy when it went through the net.
Here came UK again, though. KeKe drained another three and suddenly it was 62-60 Cards and 4:52 showing on the clock. The Cards were trying to hang on and over a minute and a half of frantic hoops passed before the next points -- Howard bullying her way into the paint for two and a potential lead-changing free throw. The "gimmie" wouldn't drop, however and with 2:37 remaining, Diop found Shook for a jumper that put the Cards up 64-62. After a Howard bucket to tie it again , the possible play of the game occurred when Evans spotted Kylee alone past the three-point line, rlfled a pass to her and she played string music to set the score to 67-64 Cards.
Another costly UofL blunder had them fouling Haines on a three point attempt. She tanked the first but connected on the other two and it was 67-66 Cards. It stayed that way the rest of the way, a couple of turnovers and missed shots filling the time and leading up to final 11 seconds.
Tatyana Wyatt corralled a missed, potential Dana dagger from beyond the arc three. Wyatt advanced the ball to Howard and she drove down the right side of the court. She decided to launch a three instead of driving to the hoop. Three seconds on the clock. Howard soared to take the shot over the defending Bionca Dunham, my heart skipped a beat as the shot approached the rim and...it drew iron but did not go in. Jaz corralled the miss, the buzzer went off and a joyous UofL bench stormed the court to celebrate and congratulate their victorious teammates on the floor.
A nail-biting thriller had ended in Lexington. Louisville 67- UK 66. Four straight in a row for the Cards over UK. Yes, the joy and excitement of Louisville women's basketball came to fruition. I watched with pride and admiration as the Cards made their way off the court to the tunnel leading to the locker rooms.
Breathe, Cardinal fans. It's over. The epic battle had ended and pandemonium reigned for the Louisville contingent. A game I'll remember for quite some time. Two heavyweights standing toe-to-toe slugging it out. Louisville getting the decision.
THE FRED REPORT
|Fred G. Sanford. "Lamont, you got to get us|
tickets to watch those Cardinal women !
REBOUNDS -- A clear 37-17 advantage to Louisville. Kylee reigning supreme with 13 grabs. No UK player gathered more than five. Diop's six rebounds off the bench in just 18 1/2 minutes was huge, as well. I break out the capital "R" for boards dominance.
EFFORT/EXECUTION -- 15 turnovers for the Cards, not a bad number, considering the intense UK pressure. An eye-popping 10 assists for Dana. The Cards won the second chance points stat 11-6 and shot 51.8% from the floor (29-56). Yep, a capital "E" here.
DEFENSE -- A gutsy Cardinal effort on defense. Six blocks, and shutting down Howard to just six second-half points in 20 minutes. Hanging in there at the end with both Dana and Jaz sporting four fouls. The 13-0 run in the third, after the media timeout when Louisville held UK to 0-4 shooting with Diop and Shook turning up the intensity pressure to"11" was the key for me. Let's close it out with a capital "D"
FINAL FRED TALLY: F-R-E-D (our first perfect Fred report of the season)
|This photo says it all. Heart-thumping eventual happiness|
Maybe my MVP goes to Yacine Diop, though. When it mattered, when she was truly needed, she produced. Consider out of her almost 19 minutes, 10 of them came in the pivotable fourth quarter and 17 in the second half. The poise and experience of the veteran was a stabilizing force in the Cardinal third quarter rally and in the maintenance of a Louisville lead that withstood as much UK hammering as the construction efforts on the Rupp Arena property. .
I saw a basketball battle yesterday that any basketball fan anywhere had to appreciate and talk about. After attending 16 straight contests between these two, I didn't think anything could surprise me anymore. I was wrong. I saw the continued emergence of maybe the best women's basketball player in the nation in Howard. I saw Louisville do a outstanding job of largely negating Howard's efforts in the final 20 minutes.
I saw why future Cardinal opponents will have feelings of dread and insecurity when they come to grips with having to face Louisville. From Shook to Jaz, to Diop, Dunham and Dana...this is a team that grew up a lot yesterday and went out with a competitive spirit.
I saw a classic.
THEY SAID IT:
Walz, Shook and Evans post-game video : https://youtu.be/iPs3s7xQz8k
UK Players post-game video : https://youtu.be/CAfnv7YFYEs
Matthew Mitchell post-game video : https://youtu.be/fanliOwOeS8
(A HUGE THANK YOU AND JOB WELL DONE TO JARED ANDERSON FOR THE PICTURES IN TODAY'S ARTICLE AND THE ACCOMPANYING VIDEO OF THE POST-GAME).