CRAWFORD | Even 'haters' can't diminish Walz's excitement for Louisville's Final Four run
University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz met with reporters Monday to talk about Louisville's Final Four matchup with Mississippi State.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – One day after his team concluded a dominant run through the NCAA women’s basketball Lexington Regional in Rupp Arena, University of Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz was answering his text messages, returning some email, and planning the Cardinals’ next postseason challenge – a Final Four meeting with Mississippi State.
He was nearly Twitter trending on Sunday after a live microphone caught some obscenities in his postgame huddle with players, but Walz said much of his feedback was positive, as his 36-2 team moves into the program’s third Final Four with two freshly named AP All-Americans: Asia Durr was named to the first team and Myisha Hines-Allen the third team on Monday.
“It's a lot of text messages and a few emails from people that don't like the fact that I said a bad word, and I apologize for that,” Walz said. “And got one that said I slapped our kids on the rear end. And one says don't put your hands on their hips when you're talking to them. It's comical. There's haters everywhere. They just don't like people to have success, but I always reply to them very nicely. It's entertaining.”
Less amusing is the prospect of facing Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 36-1 and have three All-Americans, led by three-time All-American Victoria Vivians, a 6-1 senior guard, on the first team, 6-7 junior center Teaira McCowan on the second and 5-5 guard Morgan William honorable mention.
MSU is ranked No. 4 nationally and is led by Vic Schaefer, who was named Women's Basketball Coaches Association national coach of the year last Thursday.
“Vic is a good friend of mine,” Walz said. “He’s done an unbelievable job at Mississippi State. We know we’re going to have to be prepared.”
The Bulldogs rank 11th nationally in scoring at 81.8 points per game and are the nation’s sixth-best three-point shooting team at 39.1 percent. But it’s the 6-7 McCowain that worries most foes. Averaging 18 points and 13.4 rebounds per game, she’s a matchup most teams have little answer for, and Louisville is no different.
“The more I watched her last night, she was going over people, around people, she's really talented,” Walz said. “She's an X-factor. We don't have that matchup to try and go one on one, but at the same time, you look at everybody else on that team, they shoot the ball well, Victoria Vivians shoots close to 45 percent from three and 49 percent from the field overall, and you've got four or five other ones. Vic’s daughter (Blair Schaefer) is a great three-point shooter. So it's one we're going to have to continue to watch some more film. I thought UCLA did some really nice things throughout that (regional final) game. But I've always said it's a game of momentum, and Mississippi State got the momentum early and built a nice lead, then UCLA makes a run but it wasn't enough to get it back to where it was a one-possession game. So we'll go through different games and try to pick where teams did some different things and try to implement them.”
Implementing game plans is something Walz’s team has become adept at. Not only that, but embracing Walz’s habit of drawing up plays in the huddle, and having them run them in a game without having practiced them.
At one point in Sunday’s 33-point regional final win over Oregon State, Walz said he did watch his team – which held the Beavers scoreless for a nearly 9-minute stretch and which turned the ball over only three times in the whole game – and feel some enjoyment.
“It was fun to watch,” Walz said. “The fun part for me is when you're able to coach a game and orchestrate it as it's going, use shot clock, and then wear somebody down, and when we execute. From the Stanford game too, when you've got a 16-17-point lead with about six or seven minutes left, and I can talk to them, 'Hey at 12 (seconds on the shot clock) I want to run this,' and then we do it and execute and score, it's depressing when you're on the other bench. They just took off 24 seconds of the shot clock, and then they're able to execute and finish. We've been able to do that, and that's really important for us, because we have to be able to control tempo, push it when we want, and slow it down when we need to.”
With his team playing its best basketball, Walz said it will go to Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday with confidence, and a plan.
“We're going up there with one purpose, and that's to win two basketball games. But we know we've got to win the first one, and we've got a big test ahead of us,” Walz said. “. . . One thing I do know is we will play hard. I've got a wonderful group of women who aren't afraid to compete, and will compete. . . . Offensively and defensively we're playing as well as we have all year long. If we've got another gear this weekend, I'll take it. But if we keep playing the way we played this past weekend, I'll take my chances too.”
WDRB WILL HAVE COVERAGE OF THE WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR, ON AIR AND ONLINE, BEGINNING LATER THIS WEEK.
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.