LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There won't be many more nights quite like Friday night at the KFC Yum! Center for the University of Louisville women's basketball team. That is to say, a carefree 76-40 win in front of the home fans against Murray State, a seriously overmatched opponent.
The No. 9-ranked Cards (2-0) will play three more at home, then seven straight away from home, against opponents like Oklahoma State, Oregon, Ohio State and at Kentucky. Their next home game, Thursday, Nov. 14, is against a Central Michigan team that will pose a challenge.
That's why Louisville coach Jeff Walz had a serious undertone as he watched his team. He might've looked festive in the Hawaiian shirt, which was the theme of the night for Cardinals' coaches, but he knows he'll say aloha to these stress-free nights pretty soon.
"As my grandfather would have said, the bakery was open tonight," Walz said. "Apple, cherry, whatever you want. Turnovers for everybody."
There's a great deal of firepower on this young Louisville team. Elizabeth Balogun is a polished scorer and big-time pickup. Everyone knows what Dana Evans can do, and Jazmine Jones has expanded her game. Kylee Shook had 13 points and 12 rebounds in 17 minutes Friday night.
But folding new players into a system is not a quick process. As good as some of the newcomers are, there are hitches. Things the returning players know and do by instinct, they forget that the newcomers are still learning. The result is turnovers. The Cardinals had 14 at halftime and finished the game with 21.
"Yes, we turned the ball over. You can skip that question," Walz said when he walked in to his postgame news conference. "We've got to learn to throw it to our team. The game is brutal right now. It is so choppy. The best basketball we played tonight was probably the 7-minute mark of the third quarter, and, for about 6 minutes, we didn't turn the ball over one time. But it's hard to play a game when you turn the ball over 21 times. We're very fortunate they only scored 5 points off our 21 turnovers. A lot of times, you turn it over 21 times, you're going to get beat."
Louisville got a team-high 14 points from Jones. She also pulled down four rebounds, had a pair of assists and five steals in 15 minutes. But she also had five turnovers. Walz can't have that from his experienced players. Evans finished with 12 points, and Balogun added 11. Freshman Norika Konno had a team-high five assists, but three turnovers.
"The turnovers have to stop," Jones said. "We have to get into a rhythm. It never happens overnight, especially with six new people. We just have to get more comfortable with each other."
Walz said he's hoping it won't take a loss or two to make that happen.
"It won't surprise me if it takes a butt-kicking before some of them really realize we've got some work to do," Walz said. "You're preseason all-this, all-that, it's just a number. Nobody cares. It's good for the paper. It's good for TV. But we're not playing as well as we can. That's a good thing, but I don't want to have to go somewhere and get beat bad to have to us learn that you can't turn it over like this."
Louisville returns to action on Thursday, when Central Michigan visits in a 6 p.m. tipoff that will be televised by the ACC Network.
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