The hatred of all things Duke basketball extends far and wide across our great nation. But every now and again the Blue Devils do something that makes you stop and think, “Hey, maybe they’re not all that bad.”

On Monday night, one of those instances occurred and was to the benefit of Louisville women’s basketball. With Duke’s defeat of N.C. State, the #5 Cardinals are just one win away from clinching their first ever outright ACC title. The first opportunity comes Thursday night against the offensively talented Eagles of Boston College.

Game Info:

DATE: Thurs 27 Feb 2020
TIME: 6:00 p.m. EST
SITE: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY)
WATCH: ACC Network
LISTEN: 790 AM WKRD

While both 2018 and 2019 featured co-champion credit for the Cards, a win on Thursday or Sunday would signal the first time they’ve stood alone at the top of the ACC. Achieving that task becomes just a bit more difficult with the possible absence of Dana Evans, Elizabeth Balogun, and Bionca Dunham.

Evans and Balogun, of course, sat out against a Pitt team where they were clearly not needed. The extra downtime was deemed essential after both players rolled their ankles against Georgia Tech. With both being game time decisions, the news today that Bionca Dunham’s knee issues have flared up brings additional worry as the post-season approaches.

You may recall that Dunham was benched with a similar issue when the Cards took on the Eagles up in Boston on January 16. Her absence was keenly felt as Louisville’s normally stout defense gave way to an offensive shootout, from which the Cardinals fortunately came out on top. With the additional absence of Balogun, the Cards would be playing without two of their key defensive players.

That becomes more worrisome when you look at how key Louisville’s defense has been over the past four games. The Cards have held all four of their last opponents to under 60 points and the last three to under 50. Even with sub-average offense against N.C. State and Georgia Tech the Cards managed to get the job done. So on paper things look good, where Louisville is averaging 73.6 PPG to BC’s 73.3 but with the Cards scoring margin a healthy +16.5 to the Eagles’ mere +6.2. Dunham and Balogun’s combined absence would throw a considerable new variable into that equation.

As for BC’s offensive production, it hasn’t been quite as impressive at 67.6 PPG with only ACC games considered. But that’s been enough to win seven of their last eight, including a win over then #14 Florida State. The Eagles come to the KFC Yum! Center riding a five game win streak that’s featured Dana Evans-like production from sophomore forward Taylor Soule, who once again nabbed ACC player of the week honors. Her 18.8 PPG and 9.0 rebound average over those five games is marred only by her continued propensity to turn the ball over. Pressure from Jaz Jones will be key in that area.

Assisting Soule, as has been the case all season, is 6’3″ senior forward Emma Guy. Over those same past five games she’s contributed 15.4 points per game on 60% shooting. That being said, the fact that Kylee Shook was named as one of 10 finalists for the Naismith women’s defensive player of the year award should bring some relief. Shook’s 3.1 blocks per game absolutely dominates the ACC, while her offensive production has improved to nearly averaging a double-double.

The Eagles may even have a few surprises in store. Jeff Walz was quick to point out that head coach Joanna Berbanei-McNamee is a crafty one. The two coaches have known each other since their mutual time at Maryland, and adjustments and schemes seem to be a talent for both. As for player contributions, guard Cameron Swartz has been coming off the bench with solid numbers after returning to the lineup from injury. Swartz did not play against Louisville in January so this is the first time the Cards will see her in action. Meanwhile, senior forward Georgia Pineau got the start for senior night against Miami and dropped 20 points on a Miami team that once again features Beatrice Mompremier.

Despite having the top seed for the ACC tournament locked up, there’s a lot on the line Thursday night besides the aforementioned regular season title. With a win, the senior class will tie the record (123) for all-time winningest class at Louisville. Jaz Jones herself is just two games away from holding the record for most games played by a Cardinal. But, and this is more important than anything else, an Angel McCoughtry bobblehead is available to the first 1,000 fans.

Priorities, people.

Game Info:

DATE: Thurs 27 Feb 2020
TIME: 6:00 p.m. EST
SITE: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY)
WATCH: ACC Network
LISTEN: 790 AM WKRD

PROBABLE STARTERS:

#5 Louisville (25-3 | 14-2)
G #5 Robinson
G #2 Diop
G #23 Jones
F #22 Dixon
F #21 Shook

Boston College (17-10 | 10-6)
G #4 Ortlepp
G #14 Garraud
G #10 Dickens
F #11 Guy
F #13 Soule

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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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