Behold! Paradise! While you’re gathering with family and filling your guts with gobbler giblets the Louisville women’s basketball team will be sweating it out in sunny St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The eighth ranked and undefeated Cardinals will no doubt face their toughest test on Saturday against Oregon but will first have to face two comparatively daunting opponents in UT-Arlington and OK State.

Game Info:

SITE: U. of V.I. Sports & Fitness Center (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)
WATCH: FloHoops (subscription required)
$29.99 / month
LISTEN: 790 AM WKRD
DATES/TIMES:

vs. UT-Arlington
Thurs 28 Nov
1:00 p.m. EST

vs. Oklahoma State
Fri 29 Nov
1:00 p.m. EST

vs. #1 Oregon
Sat 30 Nov
3:15 p.m. EST

The offensive onslaught from Dana Evans and Jazmine Jones continues to impress as the Cards have defeated their first five opponents by an average of 26 points. Evans’ shooting ability is well known but she seems to be settling in quite easily at the point as defenses focus on her and open up opportunities for her teammates. The experiment of Shook as a starter with Dixon off the bench seems to be bearing fruit as Kylee’s production has steadily increased while Dixon’s has remained steady. Most impressive, however, is the sheer depth the Cardinals have this years. With the newcomers (both transfer and freshmen) contributing so heavily it’s shaping up to be a deep run for a deep team.

But of primary concern is the performance against Boise State last Sunday afternoon. Despite a fiery offensive beginning it was the Cards’ late game defensive collapse that gave pause. It’s a pattern that’s been seen in the second halves against Murray State, Central Michigan, and most recently the Broncos and could spell trouble against strong opponents such as the Ducks. The initial tests against the Lady Mavericks and the Cowgirls will be an excellent opportunity for Jeff Walz to fine tune his lineups and keep the pressure on opponents in late game scenarios.

Univ. of Texas – Arlington Lady Mavericks

The Lady Mavericks of UT-Arlington are out of the Sun Belt and the first of two opponents in the Paradise Jam whose school’s choice of mascot has relegated them to gender-specific titles. The Lady Mavericks are coming directly off of a strong win against Kansas State led by sophomore guard Terryn Milton’s career-high 18 points. When not taking it herself, Milton’s primary assist target is senior forward Marie Benson. The transfer from UT-San Antonio has had an immediate impact with 20 points and seven rebounds per game to lead the Lady Mavs.

UTA is a fairly deep team with eight players returning from the 2018-2019 Sun Belt co-champions that earned a WNIT appearance. Despite losing much of their offensive power the addition of Benson and three other transfers has provided a much-needed boost. It will be a tough contest for the Cardinals in the post and a defensive lapse could easily spell doom for Louisville.

FINAL SCORE: UofL 76 – UT Arlington 67

Oklahoma State Cowgirls

The Cowgirls are no strangers to tough tests thanks to yearly struggles against Baylor and will face back-to-back ranked opponents with Oregon first and then Louisville. From the Cardinals’ perspective it will be another wrestling bout under the basket. 6’4″ junior forward Natasha Mack commands an impressive OK State defense that’s limiting opponents to under 50 points per game. Mack brings it on both sides of the court with a 14 point, 12 rebound average double-double to boot. Up top is the diminutive Ja’Mee Asberry. Louisville has struggled against small guards and Asberry could easily prove to be a tough match-up.

In the negative column is the Cowgirls marked lack of depth, with very little offensive production coming off the bench. Jeff Walz should be able to wear down OK State with his rotations and come out on top. But it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals powerful offense contends with a defense that’s markedly stiffer than any they’ve encountered this season.

#1 Oregon Ducks

The Ducks 2018-2019 season ended with a heartbreaking loss to eventual champion Baylor in the Final Four. Whether that was a primary motivation for Sabrina Ionescu’s return or not, the outcome is the same. Ionescu is a triple-double machine and is already averaging 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists per game. The Oregon offense recently became even more powerful with the return of Satou Sabally who had been out while participating in the FIBA qualifers for her native Germany. Her 23 points and 9 rebounds were instrumental in the Ducks most recent win over Syracuse.

Any mistake will be exploited by the top team in the country. Ball movement has the Ducks leading the country in assist totals, and tenacious attention to the glass has them tied for fourth in rebounding margin. The combination of the recently returned Sabally and 6’4″ senior Ruthy Hebard (13.3 reb/game) presents a daunting task in the post for the likes of Dunham, Shook, and Dixon. And though it doesn’t need to be said, the Ducks did just beat the literal assemblage of the best women’s basketball talent in the country, i.e. Team USA.

Offensively the Cards should be able to keep pace with Oregon but the defensive performance against Boise State is worrisome. Defensive guard play will have to maintain perfect angles while in the post the Cardinals must get fierce. It will be an uphill climb, but it’s an early test that will tell us a lot about this Louisville team while hopefully letting Jeff Walz solidify his plans for the upcoming conference schedule.

Game Info:

SITE: U. of V.I. Sports & Fitness Center (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)
WATCH: FloHoops (subscription required)
$29.99 / month
LISTEN: 790 AM WKRD
DATES/TIMES:

vs. UT-Arlington
Thurs 28 Nov
1:00 p.m. EST

vs. Oklahoma State
Fri 29 Nov
1:00 p.m. EST

vs. #1 Oregon
Sat 30 Nov
3:15 p.m. EST

#8 Louisville (5-0)
G #1 Evans
G #4 Balogun
G #23 Jones
F #33 Dunham
F #21 Shook

UT-Arlington (4-0)
G #12 Benson
G #20 Chastain
G #21 Milton
G #24 Evans
G #41 Ferrell

#8 Louisville (6-0)
G #1 Evans
G #4 Balogun
G #23 Jones
F #33 Dunham
F #21 Shook

Oklahoma State (5-1)
G #21 Asberry
G #23 Fields
F #12 Gray
F #4 Mack
C #1 De Lapp

#8 Louisville (6-0)
G #1 Evans
G #4 Balogun
G #23 Jones
F #33 Dunham
F #21 Shook

#1 Oregon (5-0)
G #20 Ionescu
G #23 Moore
G/F #1 Sabally
F #21 Boley
F #24 Hebard

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Your source for UofL Women's Basketball + Men's/Women's Soccer news via the The Crunch Zone. If I'm not at a UofL game you can find me at a Louisville City FC game, or doing Men's Basketball post-game on ESPN680/93.9 The Ville with my man Joe Kelly. Husband, cat owner, sports consumer.

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