BOZICH | Walz says Louisville basketball loss not a good thing but there's more to the story
Louisville's perfect 20-0 women's basketball season ended Sunday against Florida State. Cardinals' coach Jeff Walz said the loss was not a good thing. He was right -- and wrong.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Don’t try to sweet-talk Jeff Walz with the junk that a loss will release the pressure to be perfect that was building on his unbeaten University of Louisville women’s basketball team, that the Cardinals were starting to believe the hype that they were better than Connecticut and blah, blah, blah.
Don’t tell Walz that losing to Florida State, 50-49, early Sunday evening in front of a season-best, 14,248 fans at the crackling KFC Yum! Center was a good thing for his now formerly-unbeaten second-ranked team.
“No, it’s not,” Walz said. “I’m never going to be one of those guys who says, ‘It’s a good loss.’ “
OK. Let’s do it Walz’s way after his squad lost for the first time in 21 games. Not a good thing. Just to start. I'll challenge him later with newsy tidbits like it was the program's largest crowd in 26 months with more than 1,500 fans walking up and buying tickets late Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t a good thing. Not with the Cards coming from 15 points ahead (20-5) to stumble and giving up the lead for good with only 64 seconds to play.
Not with Louisville scoring 22 points in the first 10 minutes and just 27 more over the final 30.
Not with Louisville throwing the basketball away 16 times.
Not with the Cardinals’ frontline wobbling around the glass as three Florida State players grabbed 10 or more rebounds as the Seminoles outrebounded Louisville 52-42.
Not with Louisville forward Myisha Hines-Allen earning five free throw attempts and the rest of the Louisville lineup taking only one.
Not with Louisville misfiring on 13 of 15 shots from distance the Cardinals attempted.
Re-read the last five sentences. Your next question is likely this: Are you certain Louisville only lost by one?
“We got our asses kicked,” Walz said. “There’s no other word for it.”
“We’re going to go back and watch it again, from start to finish,” Hines-Allen said.
No, the Louisville players were not bothered by injuries or illness. They did not overlook an FSU team ranked fifth in the Ratings Percentage Index formula, wines in 18 of 20 games. They simply got outplayed over the final 30 minutes by a wiser, older, quicker team.
I’ll drop another statistic on you: Florida State was credited with just three assists on 19 baskets.
Translation: FSU coach Sue Semrau spread her smaller, swifter team across the perimeter and let the Seminoles attack. They went to the rim – and they went to the glass. And it worked.
She also made a change on defense. After the Cardinals spurted to that 22-9 lead in the first quarter, Florida State changed its defensive philosophy. No more switching defenders on screens. Guard your person through the screens. Hope for the best.
“They were relentless,” Hines-Allen said.
Louisville made 10 of its first 18 shots – and then missed 33 of its last 45.
Unable to make threes or get to the free throw line, the Cardinals labored to score. From 22 points in the opening quarter, Louisville scrambled to add 10 more in the second, just six in the third and 11 in the fourth.
Asia Durr finished with 11, barely half her average – and got seven in the first quarter. She made one of eight from distance. She had a chance to tie the game from three in the final five seconds. Not Sunday.
“I thought it was a great shot,” she said. “I just couldn’t follow through.”
Credit Hines-Allen with 15 rebounds and 13 points, but she needed 13 attempts to get there.
Louisville limited FSU to 50 points, about 38 less than its season average. The winners made less than 29 percent of their attempts. Winning numbers for Louisville, right?
“If you would have told me that we would score 50 points and won, I would have told you that you were crazy,” Semrau said.
Call her crazy. But also make sure you call Semrau as complimentary as any coach could be of the experience her team had in downtown Louisville on Sunday.
Semrau understood this was a remarkable basketball evening. Walz did, too. Losing a game might never be a good thing, but a brief exception can be made when more than 14,000 people turn out to watch.
On Thursday, Florida State won an overtime game at Wake Forest – in front of 329 fans.
Florida State is ranked 12th in the Associated Press women’s college basketball poll and the Seminoles have played in front of 11,483 fans (total) for three conference games.
“It was an amazing atmosphere,” Semrau said.
Yes, it was. Fans who watched Walz’s team overwhelm Notre Dame 10 days ago returned for more. The turnout was more than double Louisville’s season average. The only special promotion was $3 tickets for fans that also attended the game the Louisville men won over Boston College.
This on a day when there was also the temptation to stay home and a full day of Tom Brady and the rest of the Super Bowl drama.
“Hopefully they’ll give the kids another shot next Sunday (against Wake Forest),” Walz said.
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