It’s cold outside and campus is quiet post-exams but things are about to get heated in Lexington as Jeff Walz and the #7 Cardinals women’s basketball team get set to travel to Rupp Arena tomorrow afternoon. This time around the rivalry will feature two high caliber top 25 teams with the Cats undefeated at 10-0 and ranked #14. The Cards bounced back last Sunday from the Ohio State loss with a win at NKU and now look to extend the three-game winning streak against the most hated of their in-state rivals. As Jeff Walz was quick to point out, the last time Louisville played at Rupp Arena was a pretty good night as the Cards punched their ticket to the 2018 Final Four.

Game Info:

DATE: Sun 15 Dec 2019
TIME: 1:00 p.m. EST
SITE: Rupp Arena (Lexington, KY)
WATCH: ESPN
LISTEN: 790 AM WKRD

While it’s true that the Wildcats dominate the overall record in the rivalry you’ll find Jeff Walz quite eager to point out that the Cards are 6-6 in his time at UofL. To get the seventh and make it four-straight he’ll once again have to lead his squad past the eminently capable Rhyne Howard. As Walz succinctly put it, “You aren’t national freshman of the year by accident.”

And Jeff would know, having coached Howard on both the U18 and U19 national teams over the past couple of years. The 6’2″ guard is a scoring machine and does so in a frighteningly efficient manner. Averaging 19.6 PPG, she already has five +20 point games on the season while shooting 43% and averaging just 28 minutes on the court. Stopping her is likely an impossibility, but forcing her into poor shot selections and keeping down her efficiency will be key.

The other starting guards, Haines and Paschal, offer a great combo for a UK team that’s shooting the three ball quite well. Haines is a potent threat from distance while Paschal’s small stature and quickness are creating plenty of opportunities. What really impresses, however, is the bench contribution from Jaida Roper and Blair Green. Roper had herself a game, albeit against Winthrop, with 30 points on 12 of 13 from the field. Together she and Green are combining for about 18 points in 50 minutes of play per game.

Roper and Green also display another hallmark of the Wildcats, namely dynamism. Just as they are quite willing to drive to the basket, the post play of McKinney and Wyatt for the Cats is both tough under the basket and ready to step out for the three. McKinney will prove to be a particularly tough match-up for Dixon, Shook, and Dunham. Her ability to go strong and finish through contact is matched by her tenacity in denying on defense and creating turnovers.

And those turnovers will be a key. The Cats are bringing a +10 turnover margin for the season into this game and it’s served them well with over 30% of their scoring coming off that stat. They’ve done it while remaining a relatively low fouling team as well. Ball control is always a key to victory but on Sunday it will mean life or death.

Shall I Compare Thee

While much has been made of the Wildcats depth (10 contributing players) there are still plenty of questions about what kind of team the Cards will face tomorrow. The depth exists for sure but it’s truly only Roper and Green that contribute heavily. And from a schedule perspective the Wildcats season leaves much to be desired. Their biggest test so far came in a 50-47 win at Virginia, representing their only top 25 RPI opponent thus far. They’ve only played one other top 100 RPI opponent, that being a relatively easy win over Middle Tennessee State.

The Cards, meanwhile, will face their sixth top 100 RPI opponent with Kentucky on Sunday. Three of Louisville’s opponents (WKU, Oregon, Ohio State) are top 50. Are the Cards more battle-tested? Perhaps, but it’s doubtful that Jeff Walz or anyone on his team are going into Rupp Arena with overconfidence.

After Walz’s…unique starting five last Sunday, we’ll likely be seeing the standard five on the court to tip off against the Cats. Dana Evans now consistent offensive contribution will be a key, but the Cards’ defense is going to have to be on point. Suffice to say, Jaz Jones doesn’t need to pick up three fouls in the first quarter. And if Kylee Shook can get six blocks to match Angel’s all-time record? Well that wouldn’t be too bad either.

Game Info:

DATE: Sun 15 Dec 2019
TIME: 1:00 p.m. EST
SITE: Rupp Arena (Lexington, KY)
WATCH: ESPN
LISTEN: 790 AM WKRD

PROBABLE STARTERS:

#7 Louisville (9-1)
G #1 Evans
G #4 Balogun
G #23 Jones
F #33 Dunham
F #21 Shook

#14 Kentucky (10-0)
G #12 Paschal
G #1 Haines
G #10 Howard
F #3 McKinney
F #14 Wyatt

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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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