CRAWFORD | Louisville beats Duke for 17th straight win, but Walz wants more
It wasn't pretty, Louisville coach Jeff Walz said, but his No. 3-ranked Cardinals beat No. 17 Duke 66-60 Thursday night to improve to 17-0, and break a school record for consecutive wins.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I feel bad for Jeff Walz. I really do. Nothing is going right for him. He had a pipe freeze and burst at home this week. His Powerball numbers aren’t hitting. And at work? Whew. Don’t ask.
His University of Louisville women’s basketball team play to the scouting report, got stagnant on offense in the second half, lost a double-digit second-half lead and didn’t talk on defense Thursday night against No. 3-ranked Duke. The Blue Devils shot a school-record 80 percent in the first quarter and 71.4 percent in the first half.
“Maybe,” Walz said, “In 15 years when I’m no longer coaching, they’ll come up with something where they can wear it on their watches and text as they’re running down, ‘You guard 20.’ And that will buzz. . . . Because it’s difficult for them to talk on the court. Hopefully someone out there in Silicon Valley will get to work and do something that will help us during a game, because we are bad at it. . . . That was an ugly, ugly ballgame defensively for us.”
You see what he’s dealing with.
“It’s so bad for me, I’m banking on that MegaMillions tomorrow night,” Walz said. “You all won’t see me if my numbers come up. I was off by four last time, that’s it.”
I should mention at this point, Walz’s No. 3-ranked Cardinals won the game, 66-60. I should also probably mention that the win improved their record to 17-0, and secured for this team the longest winning streak in program history.
Among those five wins is a victory over No. 5-ranked Ohio State on the road, a double-digit home win over an Oregon team ranked in the Top 10, and a victory over nationally ranked Michigan and now Duke, as well as a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference wins on the road and two other road wins.
Walz isn’t crazy, or ungrateful. He’s just facing the reality of where he wants his team to go. And despite the accomplishment, he knows that a game against No. 2-ranked Notre Dame is coming on ESPN next week. And one at No. 1 Connecticut is next month. And his team has held double-digit leads in the second half of its past three games, only to have to hold on at the end.
After every game, Walz gathers his team at midcourt for a brief discussion. Thursday night, he said he told them, “I don’t want to have to lose, for them to finally realize, ‘Oh, that jerk’s actually right.’ . . . I don’t want to get there, because we don’t need to. We’ve just got to figure out a way to perform for 40 minutes. ”
Louisville opened this game hot. Asia Durr had 14 points in the first quarter and the Cards were up a dozen when she fell to the court with 7:54 left, lying in the silent arena with a spained ankle. Walz walked over, and she told him she’d sprained her ankle. He said, “We’ll you’ve got two of them, let’s go.” That, he was kidding about. She was carried off the court, but walked it off in the tunnel and wound up returning to the game nearly six minutes later.
Louisville’s lead had only diminished by two. It wasn’t the first time Louisville has been fine without Durr on the court. Depth is one of the reasons Walz likes his team so much. The Cards led 43-33 at the half, but, Walz said, “The lead could’ve been 20 if we hadn’t played our worst defensive half of the season.”
In the second half, Duke began to assert itself on the boards, and made 5 of 10 three-point tries in the half while Louisville went 0-for-6.
Duke trimmed the 14-point deficit to three, but Louisville got a stop with less than a minute to play, and junior Sam Fuehring was fouled. She stepped to the line and made a pair of free-throws, and after another stop Durr made one of two free throws, and Fuehring grabbed the offensive rebound off the miss, and Louisville had its historic victory.
“This group of young women just put their stamp on a 17-0 start, the longest winning streak in program history. They did that. I didn’t score a point. They did it,” Walz said. “They’re the team that did that and I give them all the credit. I love them. They’re a great group of young women. They’re fun to coach. But what coaching is about is developing them, trying to get more out of them, trying to get them to believe that they can give us more, that they have more to give. And as soon as we can get a few of them to believe that, we have a chance to be something special. I said at the beginning of the season, I thought we’d be pretty good. I never dreamed we’d be 17-0. We’ve had a pretty competitive schedule. But I like that we’ve figured out a way to win some games. We could’ve folded when it got down to three, but we found a way to win.”
Durr finished with 22 points. Myisha Hines-Allen added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Fuehring had 12 points and seven rebounds. Louisville held Duke scoreless for the final 2:54 of the game.
“We talked about it. I told them congratulations on 17-0 and a school record,” Walz said. “But there’s no trophies handed out in January. We know what we’re playing for. Our goal is the end goal – to compete for an ACC championship and hopefully to get to a Final Four and compete for a national championship. Now that’s everybody’s goal, and it’s not easy. But it’s something we’re striving to attain.”
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