GREENSBORO, N.C. (WDRB) – You watch Sam Fuehring limp out of the locker room and down the hall to the bus. You listen to Arica Carter talk about the knee injury she suffered at the end of Saturday’s semifinal win over N.C. State and say she’ll have an MRI tomorrow.
And you realize that for the Louisville women’s basketball team, the biggest gift the NCAA basketball calendar affords is time. The women’s selection isn’t for a week. Louisville can absorb Sunday’s 99-79 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament championship game.
It has absorbed those things before. It lost to UConn 74-35 in the 2009 Big East title game, and went on to play for a national championship. It did the same thing after a 24-point loss to Notre Dame in 2013.
I asked Walz if he remembered what happened in that 2013 game.
“No. Did they blow us out?”
See? Unless you win the tournament championship, it’s not what you remember. What you remember is what comes next.
Louisville even can absorb the loss of head coach Jeff Walz to a one-game NCAA Tournament suspension handed down after last year’s Final Four.
What it can’t absorb is both senior starters on the bench, at least not for very long once the NCAA Tournament begins.
Louisville will still begin NCAA play at home next week. It probably will do so as a No. 1 seed, but that was of less concern to Walz than learning more about the medical conditions of his seniors.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Walz said. “We didn’t have much time to prepare for it. But I thought we did some good things. We’re down seven and we get a turnover and come down in transition and trip and fall – or whatever happened – and they get a three-point play on the other end. Instead of being down five we’re down 10. If we score a bucket there it puts a little more pressure on them. It’s hard to go into a gunfight with a water gun, and knowing AC isn’t going to go a half-hour before and Sam goes down 12 minutes into it, all of a sudden you’re asking some kids to do a lot more than they’re used to doing, and that’s tough, right at the moment. Now if you have a few days of practice, and kids can get prepared, it changes.”
Notre Dame was planning to go inside anyway. That was the game plan. It worked to the tune of 27 first-quarter points. The Irish are good. And on Sunday, they were disciplined offensively. Louisville didn’t get a single offensive rebound in the first half. It had to shoot 69 percent in the second quarter just to outscore Notre Dame by one.
In a game like this, Louisville was going to need really good three-point shooting. That made the loss of Carter even more of an issue. The Cards went 2-for-18 from three-point range. And Notre Dame was doing its business in the paint, outscoring Louisville there by a whopping 72-40. Of its 42 field goals in the game, 29 were layups.
Watching from the bench, Carter said that’s what frustrated her the most.
“When we play as a team, we’re a great team,” she said. “We didn’t do that, mostly on defense. Notre Dame was scoring easy layups, put-backs. And we can’t let that happen. And we have to figure out a way to rebound. . . . Losing like this will affect us, but it’s supposed to light a fire under us. That’s what it does when we lose, it turns something on and we click and get to work fixing why we lost and come back better than we were. That’s what we have to do.”
Fuehring wanted to come back into the game in the second half, and talked her way onto the court, but knew after a single trip down the court that she could not go.
That pretty well sealed Louisville’s fate on this day.
“When you play somebody and they get more offensive rebounds than you get defensive rebounds, it's not going to be a good day,” Walz said. “And unfortunately for us that's what took place. So you've got to tip your hat to them. I thought at times we fought, we made some really nice runs. But then we just couldn't keep them off the glass.”
So now they move forward, and will hope that their 29-3 record against a schedule that was ranked No. 4 in the nation coming into the game will be enough – and that their two senior starters can get healthy in the next week or so.
“We wanted to win this,” senior All-American Asia Durr said. “But it’s over and it wasn’t our final goal. We just have to push forward.”
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