The number one recruiting class in the nation went to school on Sunday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center. Coach Jeff Walz and his Cardinal basketball team struggled for much of the afternoon with shooting and rebounding, and fell to the California Bears 75-71 in front of over 16,000 fans. While the loss was disappointing, it was a tremendous learning opportunity for the young Louisville squad.
For her part, Briahanna Jackson hoped that defense and energy were lessons her young teammates learned. “I definitely focused a lot on defense today and trying to bring energy, because we are a young team so some of them don’t really know what it’s like. But they just got a good idea playing today. So I hope they can see how hard you need to play on defense and they come and play with me.” While the youth of this team is a reality, it is not an excuse. It at least isn’t an excuse Mariya Moore was willing to embrace. “We are a young team, but a mistake is a mistake no matter how old you are. We just have to learn from this and get better.”
Youth and defensive lapses weren’t the only areas of concern for the Cards. California out rebounded U of L 50-23 and outshot Louisville 47.4% to 41.4% from the floor. Another area of deficiency was with respect to the free-throw line. The Bears shot 17-22 from the charity stripe, while Louisville was a mere 3-4. “We’ve got to do a better job getting to the free-throw line.” Coach Walz said, in his postgame comments. He appeared to be frustrated with the shooting acumen of his team, even when they had done a good job of creating turnovers. “If you steal the ball, but throw it away yourself or miss a layup shots, who cares?”
Although the Cards missed easy shots, and were out rebounded mightily, the size advantage of Cal was not an excuse that Coach Walz seemed ready to accept. “Size is an issue for us, but it has been in the past, and you’ve got to be tougher. Sara Hammond and Shawnta Dyer were tough. They wouldn’t let you get wherever you wanted to get in the paint, and that’s something Myisha, and Cortnee, Sam Feuhring, and Erin DeGrate are going to have to learn to do.”
While there was disappointment with the outcome, there were a number of bright spots as well. Briahanna Jackson led the way for the Cards with 21 points, 6 steals, 3 assists and 1 turnover in 31 minutes of play. Mariya Moore pitched in 20 points on 6-12 three point shooting and Freshman Asia Durr added 12 points in only 23 minutes of action. If the interior defense, and the rebounding can be shored up, this team has unlimited potential. Clearly, it is too early to make definitive statements about the quality of this team, or wha their future holds, but the effort and intensity were present for much of the night. As with any youthful team, there will be bumps along the way, but Coach Walz is hopeful to have them playing their best by the end of the season.
Louisville will take on Western Kentucky University on the 21st at 3:30 in Bowling Green. WKU, an NCAA tournament team from last year, will begin their season on the 19th when they take on the Cardinals of Ball State in Muncie, Indiana at 7:00. The Cards then take on Marist on the 27th, and Michigan State on December 3rd in East Lansing before returning to the friendly confines of the KFC Yum! Center on December 5th to take on Valparaiso.
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