LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville women’s basketball team didn’t play a perfect first half against Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday.

But they played the game the way that John Wooden preached it – and Jeff Walz coaches it.

They shared the basketball. They made shots. They made extra passes. They defended the three-point line. They controlled the lane. They rebounded with attitude. They took the lead, stretched the lead and protected the lead.

They took advantage of their size. I'd better say that with emphasis because the Cardinals absolutely took advantage of their height advantages, positioning themselves to outscore Marquette 60-36 in the paint.

On a day when the Cards were favored to defeat the Golden Eagles by 9 ½, they won 90-72, racing to a 34-16 lead in the first quarter and 52-27 advantage at halftime.

"We needed a game like this just to get a little confidence back," Walz said.

"We moved the ball really well," forward Myisha Hines-Allen said. "We got the ball inside."

"Coach Walz has been trying to tell us if we move the ball great, we get great shots," said Asia Durr, Louisville's all-American guard. "We try to get tempo going every day in practice."

Was there slippage in the third and fourth quarters?

Absolutely.

Lapses on defense -- Louisville allowed 26 points in the third quarter.  Carelessness with the basketball -- they finished with 15 turnovers. Too many fouls.

"Nobody plays perfect," U of L guard Arica Carter said. "We made a couple of bad plays. But I'm really happy with how we played in the first quarter."

Twenty great minutes and 20 OK minutes won’t get this team to the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio in two weeks. 

But Walz can work with what he saw Sunday, the solid play as well as the sloppy play. Gives him things to work on in practice. Walz will have plenty of corrections to make with his players when they study the video. Marquette made 11 of 13 shots in the third quarter, cutting Louisville’s lead to 71-53 with 10 minutes to play.

The uneven play did not linger for the entire fourth quarter. Louisville stopped Marquette without a point for the first 2:21 of the fourth quarter and secured their 34th victory in 36 games.

"The fact that they ran it down our throats (in the third quarter) was good for us," Carter said. "You can't get complacent."

"We just did not come out defensively with the same intensity," Walz said. "I think we gave up three straight layups in transition. Now, we scored, but that was not the goal, to trade baskets."

The energy and efficiency that Louisville brought in the first half carried the Cardinals to the Sweet Sixteen.

Durr made her first five shots. So did Sam Fuehring. Hines-Allen made her first five, plus the next five, too.

On Saturday, Walz said the play of Hines-Allen would be critical to Louisville’s success. A senior, she was not only seasoned, she was two inches taller and considerably stronger than anybody on Marquette’s front line.

It showed -- as a robust gathering of 8.017 roared its approval.

She finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, the 45th double-double of her career. Only Angel McCoughtry had more (56) at Louisville. Hines-Allen played as if she did not want to leave the arena, stopping to kiss the Cardinal logo at center court -- and then returning from the locker room to pose for pictures and sign autographs.

'I was just worried about getting a win," Hines-Allen said. "It didn't matter how I played. I just wanted to get a win.

"I could have played phenomenal. I could have played crappy. As long as we got the win, that's what was important, what I'm most satisfied in and looking forward to."

"She knew she had to come out and play aggressive for us," Carter said. "We needed her to win this game. We needed her in the post. They couldn't handle her in the post. And this was her last (home) game on our floor. She was very excited. Of course, she was emotional. She tried to hide it, but you could tell."

Durr stopped all discussion about her shooting slump. She made her first jumper 65 seconds into the game. Two minutes later Durr made a three. A minute later she made another three.

Durr needed a game like this. She had missed nearly 70 percent of her shots over the past half dozen games. Against Marquette, Durr made eight of 15, including half of her six shots from distance. She scored 19.

"Asia is amazing," Carter said. "She's never going to go a long time without making shots. We just had to tell keep telling her that you're the best player in the country. You're going to make shots. I could tell that when she made that first shot that she felt so good it was over from there."

"When she saw the ball go in, I know she felt better," Walz said. "I just kept talking to her the last two weeks. I mean, it's what you do. You play basketball.

"Stop worrying about making every shot. I'm trying to get them to understand that if you make every shot, it would be a tie game and then they wouldn't need coaches. So, like, I appreciate it when they miss a couple because it's called job security. If you think about it, if you made every single shot, why pay anybody to coach?

"So like I told them, when you miss, I'm clapping. Just don't miss too many of them."

Fuehring was also excellent, contributing 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. At 6-3, Fuehring towered over Marquette's tallest defenders.

"When a 6-5 girl is guarding you, that's getting swatted," Fuehring said. "But when a 5-11 girl is guarding you, you still know, but you still go up strong in the same way."

"When you talk about Myisha and Sam, I challenged them both because we knew that's where our advantage was going to be in the post," Walz said. "I thought they both came out and really played aggressive and played hard and that's kind of what separated things for us."

The Cards will play Stanford or Florida Gulf Coast Friday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, likely at 7 or 9:30 p.m. If they win Friday and Sunday, they will advance to the Final Four for the third time in program history. 

Walz and his players earned the opportunity to play 70 miles from campus by winning 34 of 36 games and the the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles. The advantage will be enhanced if a large chunk of the 8,017 who watched the Marquette game drive to Lexington.

"What an absolutely, just wonderful, wonderful crowd we had today, especially with our men playing (an NIT game) at 6:30," Walz said. "You know, to get 8,000 to come out, and they were loud. They were into the game. That speaks volumes for what we can do here at Louisville athletics."

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