CRAWFORD | Christmas sweater night? No sweat for No. 3 Louisville women in another rout
The No. 3 ranked University of Louisville women's basketball team turned the program's annual Christmas Sweater Night into a party by beating Tennessee State 95-56 at the KFC Yum! Center.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Yes, this is another Louisville women’s basketball team blowout column. But there is some entertainment value.
Where else, for instance, will you find a sequence in which a coach dressed in a Christmas sweater (adorned by Santa playing golf) gets into the face of a referee for not calling a foul when his team is up 49 points with 1:09 to play in the game?
It happened. At one point in No. 3-ranked Louisville’s 95-56 scorching of Tennessee State (making it four straight wins over teams from the Volunteer state by an average margin of 37.5 points), TSU coach Jessica Kern welcomed her team to a timeout huddle with claps and smiles after a couple of three-pointers, while Walz greeted his team looking something more like the Grinch who was about to steal Christmas, or at least cancel it in favor of double practice sessions.
But Walz knows that even as the semester draws to a close, his 12-0 basketball team’s tests are only beginning. The Cards travel to Kentucky on Sunday at 3 p.m. Their next four games will be on the road, then they’ll open home play against No. 14-ranked Duke. A week later, they’ll play host to No. 2-ranked Notre Dame in a prime-time Thursday night game on ESPN, the first of back-to-back games on ESPN networks.
“It’s for real now,” Walz said. “We’ve got Kentucky on Sunday. . . . We travel down to play Georgia Tech on the road, then N.C. State on the road, then we come back home and our first home game is Duke. You’ve got to be ready to play, there’s no question. I’ve had people tell me the ACC didn’t do us much of a favor on the scheduling. My way of looking at it is I’ve got two on the road starting off, well there’s two of my eight. It doesn’t bother me.”
With good reason. Louisville’s No. 3 ranking in the AP poll matches the highest in the program’s history. The Cards rank in the Top 25 nationally in the following statistics:
- Assists (7)
- Field-goal percentage (9)
- Free-throw percentage (10)
- Rebound margin (19)
- Scoring margin (8)
- Scoring offense (20)
- Three-point percentage (22)
- Turnover margin (22)
Walz knows all those stats. But the one that bothers him is his team’s rank in turnovers: 273 nationally, averaging just over 15 per game. The Cards had 17 against TSU, most of them unforced, and most from their post players (11).
Particularly against Kentucky, a team that thrives on turnovers, Walz said the time has come for his team to clean it up.
“I told our team, for a period in the third quarter it seemed almost like we were either scoring or turning it over,” Walz said. “We’re shooting it at over 50 percent on the season. I expect, if we can get it down between 10-14 turnovers a night, I’m fine with that, with how we’re trying to play. You can’t play up-tempo and expect to not turn the ball over once in a while. But we’ve got to eliminate the unforced turnovers, which to me are the skip passes in the backcourt, dribbling it off your leg, those are the ones we’ve got to cut down on, because on Sunday, it’s going to come down to who values the ball the most.”
Louisville continues to win with impressive depth and balance. On Tuesday, seven players scored in double figures. Asia Durr, Jazmine Jones and Sam Fuehring scored 12 each, while Myisha Hines-Allen, Kylee Shook and Bionca Dunham had 11. Dana Evans finished with 10. The Cards made 38 field goals, and dished out 22 assists.
“We all know how to play with each other,” Fuehring said. “We see someone open where they can make a shot, they get the ball. We know each other’s skill sets.”
Jones said, “Our chemistry is unbelievable, on and off the basketball court. We love each other like sisters, and we’ll go to bat for each other. I love this team.”
They had fun Tuesday. Their coaches and fans were decked out in Christmas sweaters, and Jones was the only starter to log more than 21 minutes, because Walz wants to get her more acclimated to the game. She’s capable of great athletic feats, like outrunning an opponent to a ball bouncing out of the end zone, diving, and slamming the ball back into the opponent to give the ball back to the Cardinals.
The crowd loved it. Photographers, too. Walz? Not so much. As she walked toward him, he said, “You realize it was going to be our ball anyway, right?”
Said Jones, after the game, “Yeah, see, in my head, it was a good play. In coach’s head, it was dumb, because either way it was going to be our ball, because it kicked off the girl’s shoe. So, lesson learned.”
Lessons learned. Sweaters worn. Games won. As far as sports columns go, I can do something with those.
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