CRAWFORD | Big crowd, big home debut from Jackson not enough to - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Big crowd, big home debut from Jackson not enough to carry Cards past Cal

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Junior transfer Briahanna Jackson scored 21 points in her KFC Yum! Center debut, but Louisville lost to California 75-71. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Junior transfer Briahanna Jackson scored 21 points in her KFC Yum! Center debut, but Louisville lost to California 75-71. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Louisville coach Jeff Walz watches his team during Sunday's 75-71 loss to California. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville coach Jeff Walz watches his team during Sunday's 75-71 loss to California. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky, (WDRB) — The recruiting class for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team was the most heralded in the program’s history, ranked No. 1 in the nation by many recruiting services.

Nobody talked about redshirt junior transfer Briahanna Jackson. The 5-6 guard from the University of Central Florida and IMG Academy practiced all last season with the Cardinals, but when she showed up at the team’s preseason banquet last month, the murmur went up: “Who is that?”

After her first career game in the KFC Yum! Center, not only do U of L fans know her, they seem to love her. Though the No. 8-ranked Cardinals lost 75-71 to a taller California team on Sunday, Jackson’s hustle and scrappiness captured the appreciation of the crowd of 16,524, fifth-largest in the program’s history.

Jackson had 21 points, six steals and just one turnover in a team-high 31 minutes.

“I thought Briahanna really stepped up,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “I thought she really has a chance to hopefully mold into our leader. I don't think anyone on our team can question that she plays harder than all of them. You know, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that. So I’m really excited with that.”

The rest? Not so much. The Cardinals are very talented, but also very young. They dug a double-digit first-half hole, then turned it on to lead briefly in the third quarter. But California’s size was just too much. The Bears outrebounded Louisville 50-27, helping to offset 27 turnovers.

U of L tried to impose a frenetic tempo on Cal, but really only got a sustained stretch of it in the third quarter, when the Cardinals outscored Cal 19-11.

“We had more energy on the defensive end and we were actually converting,” Walz said. “We get some steals and turn them into points. We get tied 46 all, and we had three opportunities to extend it. A (missed) three on one fast break, we threw it out of bounds and killed a poor cheerleader, I think, at the one end. A horrendous pass. You know it's like, ‘Guys you have got to be able to finish. You have got to be able to make a jump stop and make a pass.’ It's something we have to work on.”

Jackson said her first experience in the facility was one to remember. She averaged 17.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3 steals a game before leaving Central Florida for personal reasons in January of 2014 — but not after an impressive 28-point performance against UConn. Jackson transferred to Louisville and sat out last season.

By the second half Sunday, she had earned a large ovation for her second-half scrapping, which keyed a defensive surge for the  Cardinals.

“It was amazing — the fans are great,” Jackson said. “They really helped pick us up when we weren't doing so well. They definitely gave us an edge on the defensive end when we got stops. I had a great time playing.”

The Cards also got 20 points from sophomore Mariya Moore. She said the experience of playing a team that goes 6-2 or taller across the board will help the the team. She said Walz told the team he wants more intensity across the roster.

“We can't just have certain players more energized and willing to give their whole heart, with every play, like BJ (Briahanna Jackson), we need it from the whole team,” Moore said. “We're not going to win big games unless the whole team is in it, and that's not only physical, but mental. So, the few mistakes of not boxing out, or fouls, we're not penetrating when coach says, it's not a physical, it's a mental mistake. . . . He just told us we're going to work on it in practice and just make it up on Saturday.”

The Cards will visit Western Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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