With one of the most highly anticipated games in program history quickly approaching, Louisville had to take care of business on the road to start off the month of February, traveling to Virginia, followed by Syracuse, before coming back home to take on Clemson. While all three opponents would appear to be outmatched by Louisville on paper, the challenge would be to not look ahead of these road matchups before the marquee game against Connecticut.
For the Cardinals, the alarming trend of these games would be slow starts. First up, the matchup with Virginia, in which Louisville jumped out to a 7 point lead, but quickly allowed Virginia to climb back in, as the teams traded leads throughout the second quarter. Eventually Louisville took a 4 point lead into the half, although Virginia would continue chipping away in the opening minutes of the second half.
The Syracuse game started similarly for the Cardinals. Syracuse led for large chunks of the first quarter, before letting Louisville overtake the lead in the second, but only barely. The lead rarely stretched more than a couple points, before a Sydney Zambrotta three got it out to 6 points. Cause immediately answered, bringing the margin back to 2, before another Zambrotta three just before the buzzer made the score 40-35 at the half.
Finally, Clemson came into the Yum Center to take on the Cards. Louisville maintained a small lead throughout the first quarter and a half, but once again, weren’t able to put much distance between themselves and their opponents. The frustration reached its peak with 4:41 to go in the second quarter when Coach Walz picked up a technical foul. Clemson would make three of their four straight foul shots to take the lead, 19-18.
While the first half of all three games were very similar for Louisville, and the end result in all three would eventually be the same, not every game took the same path to get there. Against Virginia, once Louisville pulled ahead, they would show the full potential of their dominance. After Virginia cut the lead to 35-31 with 7:24 to go in the third, Louisville went on a 16-0 run to break the lead to 20. They wouldn’t stop their, holding Virginia to just 10 more points the rest of the way, and 14 for the entire second half. Louisville led by as much as 38 in the fourth quarter, and finally won by a tally of 77-41.
Early in the third quarter against Syracuse, it looked like Louisville was on their way to the same type of blowout they had against Virginia. The Cards scored the first 9 points of the second half to take a 14 point lead, and got up by as much as 17 towards the end of the frame. In the fourth, Syracuse clawed back a bit, and kept the game respectable while never threatening too much, as the lead hovered around 10 points the entire quarter. Cause cut it to single digits with just 2:08 left, before a three from Asia Durr sealed the deal, and the Cardinals won, 84-77.
Clemson’s attempt to hang with the Cards would not last as long as Virginia or Syracuse’s. After the technical free throws put the Tigers up by 1, Louisville would end the half on a 14-2 run, to take a 32-21 lead at half. From there, the Cards would stretch the lead to double figures and not look back. Frustration with the officiating continued, however, as Sam Fuehring picked up a technical of her own midway through the final frame (one which earned her a round of applause from her coach and the home fans). This wouldn’t be enough to rattle the Cardinals however, as they pulled away to win a low scoring game, 65-46.
After her slow stretch in late January, Asia Durr continued to right the ship, leading the team in scoring all three games with 21, 27, and 15 respectively. She also dished out a season high 7 assists against Syracuse. Myisha Hines-Allen also grabbed two more double-doubles, 10 and 11 against Virginia, and 19 and 11 against Syracuse.
But it wasn’t just the two stars who shined this week for the Cardinals. Five players scored in double figures against Virginia, with Arica Carter, Jazmine Jones, and Bionca Dunham jointing Durr and Hines-Allen, while Dana Evans passed out a team high 6 assists. Against Syracuse, Fuehring bounced back to score 12 points and grab 8 rebounds, while Zambrotta dropped in 8 points, after hitting two threes. And despite the low scoring contest against Clemson, four players again broke double figures, with Fuehring and Jones again joining Durr, and Kylee Shook putting together one of her best games of the season, with a 10 point, 10 rebound, and 3 block performance.
With the three wins, Louisville has now improved to 25-1, with an 11-1 record in ACC play. They remain in first place in the league, a half game above Notre Dame, while also holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Irish. They also now have 2.5 games separating them from Florida State and Virginia, two teams that were tied with them on top just two weeks ago.
Next up, the game most fans have had their focus turned too since the moment the Notre Dame game finished. Louisville vs Connecticut, in Storrs, Monday night at 7pm on ESPN2. The Huskies, to no one’s surprise, are still undefeated on the year, and will enter the game as the number 1 team in the country, to Louisville’s current ranking of #4.<