LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Asia Durr was named the best women’s basketball player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Dana Evans was recognized as the league’s top sixth player.
Well-deserved recognition for both players, as voted on by ACC coaches, but I would argue that they’re not the most remarkable achievements by coach Jeff Walz and his players as the Cardinals ease into ACC Tournament play this weekend.
There were 28 spots on the ACC’s first-team (10), second team (5), all-freshman team (8) and all-defensive team (5).
Nine ACC teams featured players who earned at least two of those 28 spots.
Louisville earned one — Durr, first team all-ACC.
“I always thought I was good,” Walz said. “I’m even better than I thought.”
If I could insert a laugh track into a column, this would be the spot. Walz was having fun Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals were thrown the curve ball of facing a delay of at least four hours before their flight to Greensboro, N.C., where they will begin tournament play Friday.
Walz was not perturbed. He saves his sharpest opinions for people outfitted in striped shirts. Walz was entertained by the news about postseason awards.
I don’t blame him. It’s entertaining stuff, superb motivational fuel for the Cardinals as they begin a serious push for postseason recognition, like defending their ACC Tournament title and advancing to another NCAA Final Four.
Louisville and Notre Dame both won 14 of 16 conference games.
Notre Dame succeeded with a pair of first-team players, two second-team performers and one all-ACC defensive player.
Louisville had Durr.
Virginia Tech lost 10 league games with a first-team player, a second-team player and an all-freshman player.
Louisville had Durr.
No wonder Walz jokes that he considered having his coaching staff carry him into practice on a chair this week.
Louisville won as many ACC games as Notre Dame, and the Cardinals had three fewer players recognized than the Irish on the top two all-conference teams.
Somebody asked Durr to explain.
“It’s a great question,” Durr said. “We just have to keep pushing, keep going.”
Walz said that he understood. Check the numbers. If you vote according to statistics, which other Louisville player would you recognize?
Durr leads the ACC in scoring. She is also the only Cardinal ranked in the top 25 in that category.
Louisville’s top rebounder is Sam Fuehring. At 7 per game, she’s 19th in the ACC.
Assists? At 4.1 per game, Evans ranks seventh. Blocks? Kylee Shook ranks seventh. All league? Nope.
Any other questions?
Sure. Louisville also led the ACC in fewest points allowed per game and ranked fourth in defensive field goal percentage. But the Cards whiffed on the all-defensive team, according to the coaches.
“We defend as a team,” Walz said.
Credit Walz with maximizing the all-American play of Durr, who is capable of imposing her will in any game at any time. She is that poised, that determined and that talented. Durr is the best player to develop in this program since Angel McCoughtry.
Durr is Louisville’s signature player, but Evans is the player who explains why Louisville has won 27 of 29 games.
Put Evans on at least half of the programs in the ACC. She would start. She would average more than 30 minutes. She would score considerably more than her 10.5 average.
At Louisville, Evans has learned to embrace bringing energy off the bench. She understands how to change the tempo. She attacks weary defenders. As spectacularly fast as Evans is with the basketball, she has become Louisville’s best shooter, making nearly 42 percent of his shots from distance as well as nearly 87 percent of her free throws.
Credit the ACC coaches for recognizing Evans as the league’s super sub.
Even if they failed to recognize the remainder of Walz’s terrific team.
“We’ve got one really good player and a bunch of scrubs,” Walz said. “And look where we are.”
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