CRAWFORD | N.C. State shuts down Durr, but can't keep Louisville out of its first ACC title game
Opponents are working hard to shut down Asia Durr, but Louisville keeps countering with offense from elsewhere. On Sunday, the Cards will face Notre Dame in their first trip to the ACC Tournament championship in Greensboro, N.C.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When you come into the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament as league player of the year, you’re going to be a marked player.
For Asia Durr, the first two games of the ACC Tournament haven’t been fun and games. A day after struggling to make a shot against Virginia Tech, she struggled to even get a shot against a North Carolina State team bent on limiting her looks in Saturday’s semifinal.
But if Louisville has proven anything in getting to its first-ever ACC Tournament championship game, it’s that it is more than just Durr. For a second straight game, others took the lead on offense and Louisville put away No. 23-ranked N.C. State 64-59 in Greensboro. N.C.
The Cardinals will face a rematch with Notre Dame, the second meeting of the season for the teams, after Louisville beat the Irish 100-67 back on Jan. 11. Since then, Notre Dame has not lost. The two teams tied for the ACC regular-season title. Notre Dame’s only two losses of the season have been to Louisville and Connecticut. Louisville’s only two have been to Florida State and Connecticut.
There’s been speculation that both teams will be No. 1 seeds when the women’s NCAA bracket is announced on Monday. But the only way to be sure will be a win on Sunday.
For Walz, the chance to play for a championship is the main motivation.
“I’m proud of this team,” Walz said. “They worked really hard to get to this point. . . . We’re really excited about the opportunity to play Sunday, there’s no question about that. We know we’re going to have to play our best. We’re excited. We know what we have to do. We’d love to be able to win a championship tomorrow. This group has worked as hard as any group I’ve coached. They’re a wonderful group of young women, on the court and in the classroom. They’re great role models. When you get those kinds of players, it makes your job enjoyable. This is a remarkable group, because of their character.”
The reason Louisville is 31-2 is depth. And that’s the reason it outlasted an N.C. State team that may have locked up a Top 16 seed on Saturday. For a second straight day, junior Sam Feuhring came through for the Cardinals, leading the team in scoring with 15 points and grabbing four rebounds. Jazmine Jones had 13 points and 4 assists; Arica Carter added 11 points and five assists and Myisha Hines-Allen had 12 points and 7 rebounds.
The Cardinals were outrbounded by 10 but shot 52 percent from the field while holding N.C. State to 38.6.
The Wolfpack led by eight points early in the second quarter as the Cardinals fell behind early for a second straight game. But by halftime Louisville had grabbed a one-point lead and extended that to as many as nine late in the third quarter.
Walz said he’s “not concerned at all” about the slow starts, or Durr’s struggles.
“This time of year, you’ve just got to find a way to win,” he said. “Nobody cares. You can have a great game and still lose at this point. There is no consolation prize. So if we figure out a way to win a basketball game, that’s all that matters.”
Over the last two games, that has meant dealing with cold stretches from Durr, who is a combined 6-for-27 in the tournament. She was 3-for-8 on Saturday, but buried a pair of big free-throws with 15.8 seconds left.
“We’re trying to draw up a play for her to hit a step-back three if her girl went under a screen and everybody on the team thought she would make it,” Walz said of Durr. “She puts the time in. Her success is no accident. The accident has been the past two games. It’s nothing unusual to us to see her make baskets. And tonight, even, she’s 3-8 from the field. It’s not like she shot a terrible percentage. She just didn’t’ get a lot of looks. But what she did do was demand a lot of attention, and others were able to get easy baskets. That’s what great players do.”
Louisville got a couple of big plays late in the paint. Fuehring scored on a feed from Jones with just under two minutes left, and Hines-Allen fought for an offensive rebound and put-back with 33 seconds left to keep N.C. State at arm’s length.
And Louisville got strong point guard play for a second straight night. Carter made all three of her three-point attempts and freshman Dana Evans gave the Cards a lift off the bench.
“We’re going to need everybody Sunday,” Walz said.
Louisville is ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press poll, Notre Dame is No. 5. In the Ratings Percentage Index, Louisville is No. 5, Notre Dame is No. 2.
“I just hope it’s a competitive game for both teams,” Walz said.
Said Carter: “We’ve worked hard all season, so it’s great to get this opportunity. We want to make the most of it.”
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