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Monday, December 9, 2019

Strong Second Half sends WBB past Norse 85-57 -- MONDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


As Jeff Walz  put it Sunday, it's all on the backs of his players now...this season. Either they want to play hard and win or they don't. And, if they don't, they won't play. 

Louisville showed up to play eventually in the third quarter against Northern Kentucky University Sunday in Highland Heights, KY at the B.B.&T Arena, going on a 12-0 run to begin the second half and continued to augment on a 37-35 halftime lead. After three it was 68-44 Cards and they went on to build the lead to 35 midway through the fourth before the game ended.

The game started out with a bit of an interesting twist. The starting Cardinal five consisted of Bionca Dunham, Dana Evans, Liz Dixon, Yacine Diop and Jess Laemmle. The first two in the sequence are starters we've grown accustom to. Liz did see some early season starts. Jess was a bit of a surprise. Speculation filtered through the media (basically me, Sonya and TCZ's Tom Farmer), plus on Twitter about this. Was it a disciplinary move? Turns out Walz picked out the five players he thought worked the hardest in the practices following the Oregon loss and put them out there. 

It was a slow beginning for the Cardinal starting five. NKU jumped out to a 7-1 lead. Eventually Louisville rallied, a few players entered from the bench and the Cards went on a 9-0 run at the end of the first to hold a 22-16 lead. 

NKU wasn't done battling, though. 

The Norse fought back to tale a 25-24 lead after three minutes of the second session on a  Carissa Garcia three. They led 30-26 halfway through thee second period after Ally Niece knocked in a jumper in the paint. Louisville picked up the defense , though, and reclaimed a 35-32 lead with 1:26 until halftime on a "E" three. The half ended with the Cards clinging to a 37-35 edge. 

The Cards had 12 from the resurgent Jaz Jones. Nine turnovers were costly but Louisville was holding a 12-0 fast-break for points edge. Molly Glick and Garcia combined for 20 for the Norse and NKU had made six threes. 

According to Jaz (who went 9 for 10 on the afternoon and scored 21 points), the halftime discussion centered around defense and getting the transition game going. Coach Walz gave a slightly different answer. Coach impressed upon the squad that the focus on things should be about what they want instead of what he wants. Walz reminded everyone he had six years left on his contract. If they wanted to have a disappointing season, he reminded them his goals were still to reach a Final Four and National Championship but he couldn't do it, they had to do it. That dialogue eventually morphed into a dialogue about the new players and the past. 

Coach got  ball from NKU celebrating his
return. before the game. He didn't shoot it. 
Whatever actually transpired in the locker room seemed to have an immediate effect on the Cards. Louisville roared out to a 10-0 start and never looked back. The defense was creating stops and the transition game was rolling. A steal and layup by "E" sent the Cards up 57-37, capping a 20-2 run to start the second half. After three, Louisville led 68-44 and Norse effort had turned into a worse effort. 

The Cards were never seriously challenged in the fourth, Walz played all 11 eligible and Molly Lockhart got in seven good minutes and responded with three points. Final: 85-57

Paulie and Barry Johnson, who was my fraternity
"little brother" 30+ years ago at UofL 
Jaz's 21 led the way, Dana had three threes as part of her 16 points and "E" added 12, with a couple of trifectas included. Everyone who played scored. Norika Konno sat out, she tweaked a knee after Oregon and could have gone but Walz wanted to rest her. 

Points off turnovers went 31-17 Louisville's way. The Cards did have 17 miscues but NKU topped that with 21. UofL won the points-in-paint battle 44-20, swept the fast break for points stat 23-0 and second chance points 14-5.

A tale of two halves, it was. 8 for 20 from the deep, with five players hitting threes, is nice and Jess even nailed one when she was on the court as a starter. Louisville eventually put away a Horizon League team picked to finish sixth in their conference but winners of their previous four by eventually adhering to two major important factors: 

Playing defense and creating off that defensive effort. Defense leads to potential points. 

I loved that second half version of the UofL WBB team. I hope Walz left the first half version in Highland Heights by the Skyline Chili parlor. 


FREE THROWS -- 11 for 14 is 78.6% and that passes our standard of 70%. Equally distributed among the seven Cards who attempted them. Yacine Diop goes to the head of the class by hitting all three of hers. We can award a Capital "F" for Sunday's effort at the stripe. 

REBOUNDS -- Louisville all the way with a huge 42-20 edge. When you consider NKU went 8 for 28 (28.5%) in the final half, Louisville corralled a lot of those misses. Kylee Shook had seven grabs in 18 minutes and Bionca had six in 21 minutes, those rebounding numbers look even more impressive. And, each Cardinal that played gathered at least one. Yes, we award a Capital "R" for the UofL rebounding effort. 

EXECUTION/EFFICIENCY --  Once again, a tale of two halves. Only seven second half turnovers and the transition game was working with the whitewash in fast break points. But, we look at the whole contest and the first half wasn't pretty in terms of getting things done with the ball. 38.9% shooting in the second quarter hurt the 53.2% shooting for the entire game. We'll compromise and award a lower case "e" for this stat. 

DEFENSE --  The defensive effort really picked up in the final 20 minutes, especially in holding the Norse to that 28.5% shooting, compared to 50% in the first half. Nine steals (Diop and Kasa with three each) and 21 turnovers committed by the Norse. For fairness, we'll split the difference, Louisville played a half of great defensive and a so-so half of guarding. We'll assign a lower case "d" for Sunday's overall defense.  



Coach Walz and Dana shared the post-game interview. Their words are worth hearing and you can access these words at the link below. They didn't pass the microphone around to the media for this one so I hope the questions asked aren't too hard to hear. The guys from the AP and some local Northern KY writer must have been under the delusions that they were the only ones in the room, so you won't hear Paulie on here except once. We left before the NKU interviews, sorry bout that, y'all. 



Sonya and I hoped for a blowout win, and we got one. Eventually. Hoped to see the Louisville vs Oregon team instead of the Louisville vs Ohio State squad and we got that for a half. 

Give NKU a lot of credit for sticking around that first half. Glick, Garcia and former Mercer County star Emmy Souder took the fight to the Cards and should probably make the All-Horizon Conference All-Star teams. 

I'm not sure this was the type of contest leading up to UK I wanted to see, though. I hope that Walz finally impressed upon his players that going full strength and hard all the time you are on the court, in practice or in a game, is what will get you playing time. 

He's Norse, of course. 
It was good to see Jaz come out of the three game slumber she had been in and I hope that emergence stays around. Walz teased that she was prone to picking up fouls even in the pre-game warm up and gathering just two in 20 minutes is a start in the right direction. The Cards WBB squad, now 9-1, has to realize they are going to get everyone's best shot from here on out and must be ready to come out and take on the fight for 40 minutes. Regardless of who Walz starts or ends with. 

I hope they take his words to heart over the week between games. I hope they work on the "jelling" and remember that defense leads to the opportunity for offense. I hope they can play two halves in Lexington like they played the final half against the Norse. 

Time will tell. 



  1. Yep, heard the questions clearly.
    Hate commenting on a game I didn't actually view, not sure if it was the new starting lineup or what about the first half.
    What I do know is...this is the time of year where most teams get to where they're going to be.
    Enough games played, and two weeks of practice before conference play starts.
    We'll see what we're REALLY made of by mid January - early February, as is the usual. Rotation set, players old and new get on the same page, etc.
    My opinion is we'll be a legitimate top 3 team.

    1. Walz has said this for a long time and it held true. If you put into efectt what the coaches are teaching you, you will be a good basketball players and you will win. They'll supply the game-plan, if you execute it and perform it, you will prosper. Several players weren't picking it up in post-Oregon practices, so Walz started the ones that were "getting it".

      Go hard all the time. It's what you hve to do to succeed.


  2. On another note...Stuffy Muffy's team ain't what we're used to seeing.
    Talk about growing pains, ouch😂

  3. This was a game that meant all the world to a lower mid major trying to get a program-changing resume win and another top 5 team that was looking to see how they would respond after being punched in the mouth and beaten.

    It was not the Cards best effort but they realized just what it was they needed to do (stop playing tentative and reactionary), decided to pick up the defensive intensity and go out and claim the "W". They eventually did just that.

    Walz can start whoever he wants, I could care less. As long as he has five in there at the end of close games that can produce. He wasn't tested in that closing type of line up yesterday. I feel the Cards will be tested greatly in Lexington next Sunday.

    I think Diop made a case for getting more time. I hope Konno can return soon, although he did say she'll miss UT-Martin because of Christmas break and the lengthy travel to and fro from Japan. That's fine. I hope the knee "procedure" took care of things.

    A game that had me groaning in the first half and fired up in the second. Thanks to Nick and AJ for a great call on radio.

    Curtis "My team is out on the court" Franklin

  4. A nice bounce back after OSU for UofL WBB. I certainly want to see that second-half squad against UK as well.

    We play so much better when we are on the attack, aggressive and forcing the pace. I hope Coach Walz goes over that point time and time again.

    The Real Joe Hill

  5. Jeff Walz named USA Coach of the Year:

    He shares the award with Bruce Weber (Kansas State), who also led his team to a 7-0 record and a gold medal.

    "It definitely an honor," Walz said. "And also, it shows what type of staff we had. I was very fortunate to be able to work with Cori (Close) and Natasha (Adair) the past two years. And then the players, obviously you don't get such an award without having an outstanding staff and a good team."

    Weber led the USA Men's U19 World Cup Team to gold medal from June 29-July 7 in Heraklion, Greece, as well as to two exhibition wins.

    "Just coaching a team for USA Basketball is a special honor in of itself -- to just represent your country -- and to win a gold medal like we did, made it even more special," Weber said. "To throw another honor on to it, there aren't even words to describe my emotions. It's a special recognition that I'm very proud of. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity to coach the U19 team and can't thank the players and the assistant coaches enough for their hard work and commitment to winning the gold medal."



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