EVANS, JONES COMBINE FOR 41 TO PUSH UofL TO 18-1
An impressive start yesterday for the University of Louisville women's basketball squad against the North Carolina TarHeels women's basketball squad in Chapel Hill, NC. Louisville jumped out to a 27-14 first quarter lead and were able to build that to a 20-point difference before UNC came roaring back in the the final quarter to cut the margin to four.
The Cards were able to hang on, though, and eventually put the Tar Heels away 74-67 in front of 4027 attendees in Carmichael Arena.
Early on, Louisville could do no wrong. The Cards raced out to a 14-3 lead in the first four minutes, getting balanced scoring from Jazmine Jones, Dana Evans, Kylee Shook and Elizabeth Balogun while playing shutdown defense against the slow-to-start, error-prone home team.
Just about everyone Walz played in the first ten minutes was getting involved in the offense, two back-to-back buckets by Jones made it 18-5 Louisville with four minutes left in the first session and the Cards got a Evans layup with 41 seconds on the clock to hold a commanding 27-14 advantage over a UNC squad that had committed eight turnovers already and looked lost and confused on the hardwood. Once again, the Cards had roared out to an impressive beginning.
Louisville continued to hold UNC at bay in the second quarter. The Cards were having success in silencing the Tar Heels powerful post Janelle Bailey (who ended up with just four first-half points), Liz Dixon and Kylee were strong in the paint and Dana and Jaz were handling the scoring for the Cards. A brief, quarter-opening 7-4 run had gotten UNC back with 10 at 31-21 after the first four minutes but it was still a double-digit difference.
Louisville responded with a 8-2 run over the next three minutes, including one of those "she did it again" seemingly impossible Evans scores. At 37-21, Louisville would go on to take their largest lead after Bionca Dunham sank two free throws to make it 43-25 with 1:41 left in the half, Liz Dixon gathered the Cards last basket on the second quarter after two heads-up passes got her the ball and Louisville had soared through the first twenty minutes to build a 45-29 lead on the UNC squad.
The Cards shot 70% in the second quarter, 60% overall in the first half, they were out-rebounding UNC 15-8, Dana and Jaz had 22 first-half points for the visitors and UofL had forced 12 turnovers, four of them off steals.
UNC did begin the second half with a bit of fight in them, benefiting from an opening 5-0 run to get within 11 at 45-34 in the first three minutes. The Cards turned back the challenge, though, with two straight buckets from a driving Jones and two straight three-point plays out of Dana...one of them an "and 1" and the other a three-pointer from deep. UofL had responded to build the advantage back to 57-38 halfway through the third quarter.
The Cards equaled their largest lead, 20 points, when Evans drove to the hoop and scored to make it 62-42. The final two minutes of the quarter proved to be a scoreless stretch for the Red and Black, but UNC managed just three points in the same stretch. Louisville was sitting pretty after three at 62-45. Dana's eight points in the 10 minutes had spurred a 17-16 Cardinal win of the third quarter and the basic question I suspect many UNC fans were asking was:
Was there any fight left in UNC?
As it turned out, yes, there was over the final ten minutes. Almost enough to pull off an upset.
The quarter began slowly, in terms of point-production, a Jaz free throw early was the only point scored in the first 1:25 of the final session. Bailey was starting to wake up, and connected inside for UNC. Then, she added two free throws. Liz Dixon was now in the game trying to slow her down but another made Bailey bucket cut the margin to 12 with seven minutes to play. Louisville had not made a shot from the floor yet in the fourth, part of a five minute stretch where the only Cardinal points came from free throws. Starting UNC point guard Shayla Bennett had picked up her fifth foul with 7:15 left. The Heels had to turn to seldom used Kennady Tucker at point guard.
Dixon finally connected on a inside score to push the lead to 67-53, but, the Tar Heels had the answer, going on a 7-0 run over the next two minutes to make it 67-60 with 4:55 on the clock. Designated three-point shooter Leah Church had connected on a bomb and a steal by Madinah Muhammad from Dana had Cardinal fans wondering if Walz needed a time out, but, the fourth quarter media break stopped the action for him.
UNC was on a 15-5 run since the start of the fourth quarter and "nervous" would be a good tern to describe how most Cardinal fans watching or listening were feeling.
"Uncle mo" was wearing a baby blue jersey and Walz went back to Dunham for Dixon inside to see ifs he could stem the tide. A missed UNC layup led to a Dunham rebound and she found Jones, who found Balogun for a much needed basket. 69-60 with 3:48 to play. Dunham then connected inside, off a great pick and roll, and the lead stood at 71-62 with 2:54 remaining
The Tar Heels had one last spurt in them. Two missed Cardinal shots and a turnover led to five straight UNC points and Taylor Koenen's deep three had trimmed the Cardinal advantage to 71-67 with 1:22 left. A raucous crowd in Carmichael roared their approval for the Tar Heels never-say-die, rally effort.
That three was UNC's final points of the contest, though.
The Cards were intent on burning some clock and ran off most of the ensuing shot clock until a Koenen steal led to a three-point shot from Muhammad. It missed the mark with 22 seconds left, however, and UNC was reduced to fouling to try and cut the margin. Dana sank two free throws with 22 seconds to go and "E" added one with three seconds left to close out the scoring. The Ta rHeels missed their last three attempts from three-point range and Louisville had held on for the 74-67 win.
This one could well be known as "the challenge at Chapel Hill". The Cards had gotten the "W" despite shooting just 3-11 (27.2%) in the final 10 minutes, committing four turnovers at crucial junctions of the quarter and had been out-scored 22-12.
The UNC knockout punch had fallen short...and Walz's squad had survived. 18-1 and 7-0 in the ACC.
It was a road win (and, you know what we say about those) against an opponent that doesn't lose very often at home and that had tested the Cards resolve in the final quarter.
THE FRED REPORT
|We'll go with Fred Gwynne -- aka|
Herman Munster, for that scary win.
REBOUNDING -- Cards get the edge here with 33, compared to 24 for UNC. Let's credit the "B&B" girls...(Balogun with nine and Bionca with seven grabs) who had 16 of them combined. Despite only two for Jaz in 36 minutes, I'll bring out the CAPITAL "R'.
EFFICIENCY/EXECUTION -- For three quarters, this category stat look great. But, the fourth quarter drop off allowed UNC to narrow the points-in-the-paint Louisville margin to 38-30, and hold the Cards to the 27% mark from the floor late. 15 turnovers isn't that bad but it's more of when they committed them (four of them late in the game). 48.3% shooting helps me to determine that I'll go with a small-case "e" here.
DEFENSE -- Once again, Louisville was spectacular in shutting down, Bailey, Koenen and Muhammad for thirty minutes but the three ended up with 50 of the UNC 67 points. And, the early, turnover-forcing defense Louisville had disappeared late. The Cards tied UNC in points-off -turnovers (16) and barely won the fast-break points battle 10-8. I'll offer a small-case "d" for this category, because it was a win and the defense looked great for three quarters.
FINAL FRED TALLY F-R-e-d
Norika Konno did not play in the contest, a knee issue might have her sidelined for a couple of weeks, according to reports.
Big minutes off the bench again for Kasa Robinson, Liz Dixon and Yacine Diop in a game that Louisville never trailed in, but, Louisville is still searching for that knock-out, killer punch and couldn't find it Sunday in Carolina.
A win is a win, the Cards did that and the season moves on. Dana and Jaz to the rescue once again, it's been a common theme this season and with half of Louisville's baskets between them (14 of 28), the "co-Alphas" are still leading the Cards in a season that has been enjoyable, a bit nerve-wracking at times, but highly successful.
I expect they'll be glad to see the Downtown Arena again and will return there Thursday for an 8 p.m. contest against Virginia.
Have a marvelous Monday !