LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — For most coaches, a team missing 10 of its first 11 shots is cause for intervention, if not an early timeout or two. For University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz, it provided an interesting test in Sunday's 79-59 victory over South Florida in the KFC Yum! Center.
The Cards couldn't make much of anything from the opening tip. They fell behind 7-4 in the first 5:13. Leading scorer Shoni Schimmel, in that time, missed a layup, a three-pointer and two free throws.
Walz, however, was pleased with his team at the first television timeout, a 4-4 tie.
"Other years, we'd be down 15-4," Walz said. "But we played defense. We rebounded. We did all the other things we're supposed to do."
And Walz turned to Jude Schimmel, who changed the direction of the game without scoring a point. She entered the game with 14:31 left in the first half and the Cardinals trailing by three. She had an assist in her first second in the game. Over the next 13 minutes, she had five assists, three steals, two rebounds and a handful of deflections. From her point guard spot, she dictated the pace of play, and created opportunities for her teammates.
By halftime, the Cardinals were up by 17.
You might not see her impact on the stat sheet, but her teammates and coaches know it. She was out with an ankle injury when the Cards won by six at South Florida. With her, they won by 20.
"I think Jude does a good job of controlling the game, especially on our side of the ball on offense," Sara Hammond said. "If we're struggling to settle on offense, Jude opens up her mouth and says `All right, if we can't run a set offense, we're three out, two in and just keep the ball moving.' So she does a good job of not letting us panic and not letting us get out of control. Obviously a six-point win to a 20-point win, she has a big effect in our game."
In the second half, Tia Gibbs got it going from three-point range, making all four of her three-point attempts to finish with a game-high 19 points. But she also credited Jude Schimmel with keeping the ball moving.
"That's what Jude does," Gibbs said. "She's our new Shelby (Harper). She does the hustle stuff, she distributes the ball very well, she's our best defender. . . . She brings the quickness, she's our leader on the floor and she did exactly what we needed to get the win today."
Walz said he was encouraged with the victory, U of L's 15th straight, matching the longest win streak in program history. The Cardinals, ranked No. 5 nationally, are now 21-1. Despite early struggles on Sunday, they didn't panic, kept working defensively and kept sharing the ball until shots started to fall.
Shoni Schimmel managed 14 points but made just 4 of 17 shots. Still, she finished with five assists, second only to her sister's six.
"You definitely don't want to start off like that, but I told them at the first media timeout, that we were 1 for 10. So I am like ‘Listen, you can't shoot much worse, as a matter of fact you can only miss one more, and make it worse, but we are 1 for 10, and the score is 4-4,'" Walz said. "So I mean we are defending, we are doing a good job, where in years past when we weren't making shots, we would stop guarding people. So I am really, really pleased with how our kids are playing right now at both ends of the floor. I tell them in practice all the time, that if you made every shot, then we wouldn't have coaches. So it is OK to miss a few, its job security. If they made every shot, why would Tom (Jurich) want to have me on staff? We wouldn't need a coach."
The Cards shot 39 percent form the field and made 11 of 25 three-pointers. They also made 18 of 25 free throws and forced 20 turnovers while committing only 11. They outscored USF 23-9 off the bench. Jude Schimmel only scored two of those, but her overall contribution was big.
"Jude has a very high basketball IQ as a player," Walz said. "She is one that is not always looking for her shot. She is willing to get the next person open. At the same time she is able to knock down some shots, so you have to guard her. She knows how to penetrate and get somebody an open look. I thought she did a great job for us."
It was Super Bowl Sunday, but the Cards still drew 8,280, which beat Walz's expectations.
"It's unbelievable, there were times when 8,000 was your packed house night," Walz said. "There are schools around here that if they got 8,000 they'd be jumping up and down and this is on Super Bowl Sunday. I am really very appreciative of all of our fans because this does not happen everywhere and hopefully they'll continue to come out. Because we have at least four more home games and it would be a shame if some people did not have the opportunity to come out here and watch this team play."