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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Basketball Advances to ACC Semis; Softball Falls in Home Opener -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Cards Crush the Orange en Route to 71-46 Win

While storyboarding today's article in my head, I kept trying to come up with good orange juice jokes about yesterday's game. Unfortunately, the metaphor became hard to disengage from so I scrapped the idea. The ultimate point is this: Louisville beat the tar out of Syracuse in the first half yesterday, driven by an outstanding team defensive performance. The Cards slacked up a bit in the second half, winning the third and fourth quarters by two points apiece, but the margin that had been created by holding Syracuse to just 13 first half points was more than enough to secure the with little worry.

Louisville set the tone for the game early, opening with a 7-0 run to put Syracuse on their heels. Though the Orange would go on to keep the score close in the quarter, trailing only 14-8 at the break, the writing was on the wall that they may be in danger. That point was driven home when Louisville opened the second quarter with an identical 7-0 run to stretch the lead to double digits. Instead of clawing back, Syracuse was left to watch the Cards continue their dominance in the quarter by outscoring the Orange 13-5 for the remainder of the quarter. At the half, Louisville led 34-13.
Louisville's defense paced play, as the Orange shot just 17.2% from the floor in the half and only four players scored. Three of them had just two points, and Kiara Lewis was about the only person keeping the Orange in from being even worse off. In addition to the poor shooting, Louisville was outrebounding Syracuse 28-17. The Cards weren't shooting much better, at 37.5%, but the rebounding margin was ensuring no second chances on Syracuse's increased number of missed shots.

Both teams were better offensively in the second half, with Syracuse nearly eliminating their turnovers (just four in the second half). Louisville was loose with the ball, but shot nearly 50% from the floor and already had a 20 point cushion. Of course, Coach Walz is not likely to be thrilled by a 19 turnover performance, but a conference tournament win is what it is. Despite the higher turnover numbers, Louisville still managed to win the second half by four points, 37-33, and got minutes for most of the bench. In the conference tournament, where games are back to back, player rest is important wherever you can find it.

Louisville was led yesterday by Dana Evans' 23 points in 31 minutes. Evans was just 8-17 from the floor but shot 6-10 from three to contribute heavily to Louisville's 12-23 effort. Also contributing to that effort was Bionca Dunham, who hit her first career three as the shot clock wound down from an Elizabeth Balogun assist, her only one of the game. Also working hard throughout the game was Jazmine Jones, who finished with a double-double, snagging 11 points and 10 rebounds. Jaz also dished four assists, the highest mark on the team yesterday.

The CASE Report

C-Care: Louisville did not take particularly good care of the ball, as mentioned previously, finishing with 19 turnovers. Syracuse protected better, turning it over just 12 times, and the Orange force just 17.1 turnovers per game. Turning the ball over more times than the opponent and more times than the opponent's average is worth no letter.

A-Assists: Similar to the above, the 19 turnovers are really going to hurt the Cards here. The assists stat is about more than just assisted baskets, it's about how well you're passing the ball. If you out turnover your assists 19-14, you weren't making very good passes or good passing decisions. On the flip side, Louisville wasn't shooting lights out for the game, so the 14 assists on 27 made baskets is still good for a better than 50% assist rate. Lowercase 'a'.

S-Steals: Louisville, despite playing lockdown defense in the half court in the first half, was not very active on the ball. For the game, the Cards came away with just six steals, three in each half. That's fewer than the Orange and fewer than the benchmark. No letter.

E-Efficiency: Louisville's improved second half shooting performance wasn't enough to claw their way up to the benchmark of 45%, as they would finish at just 42.9% (though the 52.2% from three was nice). The Cards also didn't get to the line very often, but they did make nearly the most of their opportunities there, going 5-6. Lowercase 'e'.

That rounds out the Cards performance in the CASE Report at _-a-_-e, which is not a great showing. Looking at just those statistics, it looks like a poor game for Louisville. If I had to guess Paulie's FRED Report, I'd say they earned an F-R-e-D, with the biggest knock being the high turnover rate. That just goes to show that a box score review can give you different impressions of a game depending on which stats you prefer to value. 

Either way, Louisville will clearly need to play better today to continue their chances to complete the double conference championship. The Cards get a rematch against the Seminoles today, who thoroughly handled Wake Forest yesterday to the tune of 76-47. According to Paulie's reporting from inside the building, the Demon Deacons couldn't get off of the floor fast enough, as FSU bullied them for much of the second half. The Cardinals' semifinal game will tip-off at 12PM, and will be the first game of the day, so no fear of being delayed. Tune in to ESPNU for the game, or set your radio to 790 KRD.

Be sure to check out Paulie's report below for a rundown of all of yesterday's action from the Greensboro Coliseum.

Softball Falls to Illinois in Extra Innings

It was an exciting opening game for the 2020 home season at Ulmer Stadium. Unfortunately, the excitement ended in favor of the wrong team after a hard fought battle. Louisville took an early 1-0 lead but were unable to extend the lead before Illinois tied it. Despite numerous opportunities, for both sides, the game headed to extras tied at 1. The Illini struck first in the top of the eighth to take a 2-1 lead, and Louisville was unable to answer, giving the Cards a loss in their home opener. 

Louisville opened the game quickly, as Taylor Roby sat down the Illinois side with two strikeouts and a grounder and Celene Funke knocked a leadoff single into center field. Funke moved to second on a steal and to third on a passed ball, before a Carmyn Greenwood bunt single brought her home. According to Jared Anderson, Funke had been pleading her case to steal home, but to no avail. After a Roby walk, Greenwood moved to third on an error, but a strikeout and foul out ended the inning with Louisville holding the 1-0 lead. 

Illinois got their first baserunner on a walk in the third inning, but nothing would come of it. Meanwhile, Louisville managed just two singles spread over the next two innings to keep the score at 1-0 going into the fourth. Illinois (8-9 coming into this one) finally got their offense going with a bit of help from the Louisville defense. A hit-by-pitch put a runner on first with one out, and she quickly advanced on a steal and a throwing error. A ground ball to Caitlin Ferguson at short looked like it might help keep Illinois off the board, but a throwing error scored the run. Illinois wasn't done pushing yet, as a single up the middle put runners on first and second with one out. A line-out to third got the second out, but on the attempted double-play, the runners advanced to second and third. Roby was able to strikeout the batter at the plate to keep the game tied at one.

The next couple of innings looked much like the previous two, with both teams struggling to get runners on base. In the bottom of the sixth, Louisville threatened when Carmyn Greenwood singled aboard and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Unfortunately, she was thrown out trying to steal third and the threat ended. The Cards again put a runner on second in the bottom the seventh, but couldn't score a walk-off. To the eighth they went.

Louisville looked poised to take care of Illinois quickly in the top half, after a liner and a ground-out gave the Illini two quick outs. However, a two-out single was followed by a double that found a gap to score the go-ahead run. Louisville got out without any more damage but three grounders in the bottom half sealed the final score at 2-1, Illinois.

This one was a pitcher's duel to the end, with Taylor Roby going head-to-head with Illinois' Addy Jarvis for all eight innings. Roby pitched well, allowing just the two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five. Unfortunately, Jarvis was just as good. She allowed just six hits and one walk while striking out eight Cardinals. Roby's bad luck came in the eighth as two of her four hits allowed combined for the winning run. 

Louisville is back in action at 12:15 today when they'll take on the Northwestern Wildcats. They'll get two more games tomorrow, with a rematch against Illinois on the docket, followed by a game against Evansville.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour

For the third week in a row, get ready for a Cardinal Couple Radio Hour brought to you by just Jeff and me. Paulie is obviously down in Greensboro, and Jared is off gallivanting around wherever. He'll probably be snapping photos at Ulmer. It'll be an afternoon show again this week, as we'll get the live show started at 1:30. We'll talk all of the happenings throughout this week, as well as the games ongoing during the show. Check out the Cardinal Couple YouTube page for the live show as well as the replay any time after the show ends. 

Until next time, Go Cards!

As always, be sure to check out more of Jared Anderson's photos of Louisville athletics and more on his website.

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