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Sunday, November 20, 2022

Cards Sunk in Atlantis -- SUNDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Louisville Falls in OT 79-67

When I traded writes with Jeff late Friday night, I was expecting to cover a victory, even if it was a little tighter than expected. Gonzaga is scrappy and has played the Cards well in recent meetings. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, as Louisville fell behind in the first quarter and never recovered the momentum. After trailing by 9 after one and bringing the deficit down to one before the half, Louisville was unable to turn the tide completely and take control of the game. Once the clock struck zero with the score tied, Louisville may as well have forgotten that they needed to continue playing.

The game started out well enough, with the Cards getting a steal on the opening possession and turning over Gonzaga on the second after the Zags got a defensive rebound. After a missed three by Gonzaga split a pair of paint jumpers from Olivia Cochran, Louisville led 4-0. What followed was the first of many Gonzaga runs. Another missed three by Gonzaga led to a put back to get them on the board. The ensuing play saw a steal from Cochran turn into a fastbreak layup to tie the game. A turnover by Liz Dixon gave Gonzaga the lead, and then Louisville missed three shots on one possession when they had the chance to tie. Cochran pulled down another defensive rebound on the next Gonzaga shot, but she had her pocket picked once more and Gonzaga doubled their advantage.

At this point, midway through the first quarter, an 8-4 deficit is ugly, but there is plenty of opportunity to clean things up. Louisville chose the opposite. While they traded baskets a couple of more times to bring the score to 11-10, the turnovers and Gonzaga offensive rebounds continued. After turnovers on back-to-back possessions for Louisville, Jeff Walz found himself on the receiving end of a T hand gesture from the official. Unlike when Walz makes the motion for a timeout, this one was a technical and sent Gonzaga to the line for two. They converted to move their lead to 13-10. A missed jumper kept Louisville from getting into too deep of a hole and the Cards responded by cutting the deficit back to 1. After a made basket by Gonzaga, Hailey Van Lith was called for an offensive foul and turned it over. Following in the footsteps of her leader, HVL expressed her displeasure and earned herself a two-for-one deal--adding a technical to her foul. This time, Gonzaga capitalized, making both free throws and scoring on the free possession to take a seven-point lead. In the final minute, they grabbed another steal and scored to make it a 21-12 game. HVL held for the final shot of the quarter, but her three was off the mark with one second left and the quarter came to a close.

Louisville appeared to have sorted things out during the timeout. After giving up 8-14 shooting in the first and handing Gonzaga 4 points at the free throw line, Louisville buckled down. They allowed just 4-12 shooting in the second quarter, including 0-1 from beyond the arc, and didn't send Gonzaga to the line once. On the other side, the Cards were 6-15, 1-2, and 3-4, respectively, and even took the lead briefly at 26-25. The good vibes of their 14-4 run were briefly disrupted when Gonzaga scored on back-to-back possessions and forced a turnover with a chance to extend their lead to two possessions. Nyla Harris was there to make up for her turnover with a pair of blocks, but Louisville couldn't cut into the advantage. As Gonzaga worked the clock to get the last shot of the half, Mykasa Robinson stepped in to avenge her previous miss and grabbed a steal to get a fast break layup. Louisville had brought the score back to 29-28 in favor of Gonzaga, but the momentum still wasn't quite in their favor.

The problem with struggling early in a game like last night's is that it's a lot harder to crush an opponent's dreams on a neutral floor. If Louisville goes down by nine against Gonzaga at home and then comes back to take the lead on a 14-4 run in the second quarter, Gonzaga is probably never taking that lead back. On a neutral floor, though, it takes more to swing Uncle Mo' in your favor. The underdog already knows they can beat you. They had been doing it soundly for the better part of two quarters. The only way to put a team like that behind you is to come out strong and refuse to yield.

Louisville looked, briefly, like they might do that to start the second half. Gonzaga was assessed a technical during the break that flipped the halftime advantage to Louisville after HVL made both free throws. A missed three was rebounded offensively and Gonzaga fouled to give Louisville another shot to extend the lead. The Cards responded with another missed three, but Gonzaga couldn't capitalize. Kayleigh Truong pulled down the rebound and found herself with the layup opportunity on the other end. Though she missed the shot, she pulled down her own rebound, before being called for an offensive foul while trying to clear out the lane. Louisville moved their lead to three with a Cochran jumper, but Truong immediately righted her wrongs by tying the game again with a three-pointer. 

The Truongs had just 19 points and 7 rebounds
but every one was backbreaking.
Two more traded baskets saw the game tied at 34, but Gonzaga's offensive rebounding continued to pressure the Cards. A foul by Dixon sent the Zags to the line for two and another missed three was followed by a fast break to push the lead to four. What came after was a clunky two minutes that saw a combined seven missed baskets and two turnovers. Louisville finally broke through with a basket, only to have their frustrations continue when Gonzaga responded with a three. Combine that with a pair of missed free throws, and the chance to retake control of the game was gone. Louisville would be able to cut the Gonzaga lead to one before the Bulldogs pushed it back to five. As Gonzaga held the ball for the final shot of the quarter with a chance to extend their lead even further, HVL nabbed a steal and hit Nyla Harris for a layup to bring the deficit back to one possession. On the ensuing possession, Gonzaga once more turned it over trying to hold. On the inbound play, it was Payton Verhulst who found herself with the game-tying opportunity, but her three was off the mark.

The fourth quarter started much the same as the others, with Louisville unable to make a real impression on the Gonzaga lead. The Cards cut the deficit to one point twice and both times Gonzaga pushed their lead back to five. After that, Louisville decided that maybe they should avoid trailing by one. A Chrislyn Carr three-pointer cut the lead to two and a steal and fastbreak jumper tied the game at 53 with 4:31 to go. Louisville called timeout and the final media timeout of regulation joined it. Out of the break, Louisville collected a rebound off of a missed Gonzaga three, but turned it over to give the Zags the chance to do what they had tried on the previous possession. They didn't miss again. 

HVL cut the lead to one with a jumper in the paint, but, if you recall, they weren't supposed to trail by one anymore. After Olivia Cochran grabbed a steal in the paint on the other end, it looked like Louisville might have a late chance to put a stamp on the game. Robinson's layup was off the mark though, and Gonzaga pulled down the rebound. The Cards had another shot, after an offensive foul by Gonzaga, but Van Lith's jumper was wide and Gonzaga collected the rebound. Another missed three gave Louisville life, but the Cards couldn't keep Gonzaga off the boards. An offensive rebound kept the play alive and the second-chance three was on the money. Trailing by 4 with 1:46 remaining, it was looking grim for Louisville. The Cards responded with calm. A foul sent HVL to the line where she made both to make the lead two. After a missed three (could someone have gotten Gonzaga to please stop shooting those?), Louisville turned the ball over, but HVL stole it right back. Again she was fouled, and again she sunk both free throws. All of the sudden the game was tied. With a Gonzaga turnover, Louisville took a 61-59 lead with just 44 second left, and fans allowed themselves to hope the Cards might just escape. During the timeout, Gonzaga drew up a play that ultimately didn't matter, as Cochran fouled to send the Zags to the line to tie it. Harris missed a layup with 22 seconds left to regain the lead, but the Cards pulled down the offensive rebound. As they worked the ball back inside for a chance at the win, Kayleigh Truong grabbed a steal with five seconds left. She hit her sister who took the ball up court and fired a three as time expired. It probably would have been less painful to lose that way.

Instead, the shot missed and the teams prepared for overtime. One team seemed to prepare for it better than the other. Louisville gave up a paint jumper in the first eight seconds. After pulling down an offensive rebound on their own miss, Nyla Harris was fouled and sent to the line. She missed both. Louisville returned the favor, but Gonzaga only hit one of two free throws. No matter, as Louisville was unable to score their first points of the period. On the following possession, the Cards gave Gonzaga another chance at that missed free throw, giving up an and-1 to trail by six. With HVL sent to the line, she made only the second, and the parade of free throws continued with a foul on Chrislyn Carr. Gonzaga extended their lead to seven before another missed shot and another foul by Louisville gave them the chance to extend it further. They made one of two to push the lead to eight with 2:34 remaining. HVL finally gave Louisville their first field goal of overtime to cut the lead to six, but Gonzaga responded immediately to stretch it back to eight. Ultimately, Van Lith would hit her only three of the game with 38 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 67-76 before free throws closed it out. Louisville went 2-10 from the floor in overtime, including 1-7 from three. They were just 1-4 on free throws in the period. Meanwhile, Gonzaga was 4-4 from the floor and 10-13 from the line. 

Louisville had plenty of chances to take control of the game and just couldn't do it. While the commentators on the Louisville radio broadcast were upset with officiating, it's hard to think it's too biased when the teams combined for 31 first half turnovers and 49 overall. Louisville only had six more fouls than Gonzaga, and that can be expected as you foul out a game you're trailing in. The Cards led on points in the paint, points off turnovers, and fast break points. What this game came down to was Louisville's inability to end Gonzaga possessions. Louisville was outrebounded 31-50. Gonzaga had nearly as many offensive rebounds (18) as Louisville had defensive rebounds (19) and led the second chance points battle 24-3. If you can't punish your opponent for missing shots, you will have a very difficult time winning games. Louisville's leading rebounder was Olivia Cochran, who had seven. Second on the team was Mykasa Robinson with five. I, like most Louisville fans, love Kasa. She cannot be second on the team in rebounds.

The Cards couldn't hit the broad side of a barn last night. Morgan Jones and Nyla Harris were the only players to shoot over 50%. If you include free throws, which I'm going to do just to nail this point home, Harris drops off the list, but only Robinson joins it. Hailey Van Lith and Payton Verhulst, the two players many are expecting to lead the way scoring, were a combined 8-31 from the field and 2-12 from three. HVL finished with 18 points, thanks to 7-8 free throws, and scored all six of Louisville's overtime points, meaning Louisville's highest scorers in regulation were HVL and Jones with 12. 42% shooting in regulation will do that.

The FRED Report

It was Louisville who bit the dust last night.

F-Free Throws: Louisville finished 10-16 from the line. They shot four free throws in each period except for the first, in which they took none. 62.5% from the line doesn't get it done. While only three of those misses came in regulation and they were clutch in the fourth quarter, every point matters. The opponent was 20-23 from the line. I award no letter.

R-Rebounding: I don't feel I need to get into this one much. See two paragraphs prior. Ick. No Letter.

E-Effort/Efficiency: 42% from the floor is not great but it's not super terrible. However, that fell to 39% after overtime. Add in 20 turnovers and the efficiency is looking rough. That said, they did win in a number of categories and didn't appear to give up, despite their struggles. They came back from large deficits and played hard, final score notwithstanding. I'll give a generous lowercase 'e'.

D-Defense: After the first quarter in which Gonzaga shot 57% from the floor, Louisville held them to 35% or lower in each remaining quarter (until the 4-4 in OT). That turned into a final shooting line of 43%, which is better than Louisville's. The Cards forced 29 turnovers and had 15 steals, but man those second chance points are hard to ignore. Since they played much better after the first quarter and they've already been punished in rebounding, I'll be generous again and award a lowercase 'd'.

The final line of _-_-e-d won't win many games, just like it didn't win this one. Louisville has to improve on the defensive glass if nothing else. The road ahead doesn't get easier. I'll spare you a CASE Report this week. Spoiler alert: it wouldn't be good.

The Cards don't have long to lick their wounds as they'll get #3/5 Texas tonight at 7:30. Like last night's game, this one will be on FloHoops, which is a paid service. You can tune in on the radio, as 93.9 is listed. It's a matchup the Cards expected, but not in this way. After topping 100 in both of their exhibition games, Texas is now 1-2, having failed to score more than 76 points in the regular season, with that number coming in a loss at UCONN. The Longhorns fell 68-61 to Marquette in their opening game in the Bahamas. Both teams will be looking to get their seasons back on track after upsets, and tonight's game will be a test of who can better recover. 

Until next time, Go Cards!

1 comment:

  1. A team with good guards gave Louisville trouble. Expect that to play out more this year


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