CRAWFORD | Moore heats up, leads Louisville women past Tennessee into NCAA Sweet 16
Eric Crawford on the Louisville women's basketball team beating Tennessee to reach the NCAA Tournament's round of 16.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As her teammates celebrated at midcourt in the KFC Yum! Center after Monday’s 75-64 NCAA Tournament win over Tennessee, University of Louisville junior Mariya Moore was stretched out near the sideline, in pain.
Trainers gathered around her to help her with leg cramps as the Cardinals embraced and celebrated the program’s seventh Sweet 16 trip in coach Jeff Walz’s 10 seasons.
It’s a trip that likely wouldn’t have happened without Moore, who had struggled so much shooting over the past couple of weeks that Walz finally told her to just follow every shot, because it wasn’t going to go in anyway.
She had made just one of her past 21 three-point attempts in the four games entering the NCAA Tournament.
“They were bad, you can say it,” when a reporter suggested that her last games of the season weren’t her best. “We keep things real around here. But we keep telling them, shooters shoot.”
Walz then told her to follow her shot, the same thing he’d told Antonita Slaughter before she caught fire to help the Cardinals reach the NCAA championship game in 2013.
“What that does for some of these kids is now you stay with your shot,” Walz said. “Instead of falling back, you get balanced. I was really proud of her, because every one she took tonight, she stayed with. She didn’t release it and get back. She kept going with her shots. And we made some big ones.”
None were bigger than Moore’s flurry to open the fourth quarter. Tennessee had seized the lead, and momentum, late in the third period, and was up 47-46, but Moore put the Cards back up with a left-hand baseline drive and layup in the first minute of the quarter, then hit a step-back three to put Louisville up 51-47 with 8:39 left and the Cards would never trail again.
Moore, fired up after that make, mimed putting pistols back into their holsters before running back up court.
“She was pretty fired up,” Walz said. “. . . After 1-for-21, she could’ve done a cartwheel for all I cared.”
“I’m going to be honest,” she said, smiling. “. . . I was so happy because coach always stresses how we need to get in the gym. And so after the AC Tournament I’ve been in the gym as much as I can. To finally see that work paying off, I was so happy. Before the game I told myself, if we do this, don’t celebrate. Get back on defense. So I don’t even know what happened, really. I’m going to have to look at the replays. It just came out.”
She hit another three, off a dish from Myisha Hines-Allen, a little more than a minute later, to put the Cards’ up seven.
“She was outstanding today,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “Five for five. I thought their three-point shooting separated them from us. She was outstanding. We knew how she could play, I mean, and we just let her get loose.”
Hines-Allen was matched up on Tennessee’s talented Diamond DeShields, and finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and five assists without a turnover. But her defensive work on DeShields was even more valuable. The Tennessee standout finished 3-for-12 from the field and scored 15 points.
“Myisha -- and I’ll show her on film -- this was probably one of the best games she’s played since she’s been her, because she stayed engaged,” Walz said. “She missed some shots, she didn’t make things, but she kept rebounding, kept defending. And normally she’ll check out on me for three or four minutes, and she did not do that tonight. And that’s the next step in the evolution of her game.”
Asia Durr was her usual self, finishing with a game-high 23 points and grabbing four steals.
But the Cardinals once again were too much defensively. They held the Volunteers without a field goal for the final 6:35 of the first half, and frustrated them when it mattered the most in the fourth quarter. Tennessee became the 21st team not to top 40 percent shooting against Louisville this season.
And Walz was particularly pleased that his team executed offensively late.
“There were two or three plays that we just drew up in a timeout that we hadn’t run before,” Walz said. “Because you get a feel of how they’re guarding you and what you’re going to do. As a coach, that’s what makes it fun. But you’ve got to have players who can sit there for two minutes or 30 seconds, see it, then go out and execute it. And we did. We made big-time baskets when we needed them.”
Early in the season, Louisville might not have made that translation from huddle to court. That it can do so now, at tournament time, makes the Cardinals a dangerous team.
Now they’ll return to Oklahoma City, scene of perhaps the program’s greatest win, an upset of then No. 1-ranked Baylor in 2013. The Cards will face the winner of a game between Baylor and Cal on Friday.
“Four years was a special run that we put together,” Walz said. “But you know, Shoni (Schimmel) is not going to come back and play. Antonita is not. So we’re going with this group. It’s a whole new team; it’s a whole new year. Sure, it’s going to be fun for us as a coaching staff, and Cortnee Walton because Cortnee was a part of that team, to walk in that arena. You know, just kind of put a smile on your face, going, ‘Boy, we did some pretty special things here four years ago.’ But you can’t really look back at those games and take anything from them.”
Walz did not hide his enthusiasm when he charged into the locker room after the victory. Check out this video posted to Twitter by Coach Sam Purcell:
The Cards will begin preparation for that on Tuesday. On Monday, they were still celebrating their return to the Sweet 16, and Moore was scolding herself for not being able to celebrate with her teammates when the game ended.
“Our nutritionist preaches to me all the time that I need to drink more often,” she said. “. . . Drink water. When I’m in the heat of the moment all I’m focused on is the next play and not my body. So I was in pain, but it was my fault. More water.”
And, for the Cardinals, more basketball.
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