By Charlie Leffler
It wasn’t an epic by Homer, but Louisville’s game against Troy State quickly turned into a Nero classic as U of L (6-4) took out the Trojans (4-6) 73-55.
The Lady Cards Lori Nero once again dominated the floor by setting a new career high 16 rebounds and five blocked shots to go along with her 22 points.
“Lori Nero played an outstanding game,” said Louisville head coach Martin Clapp, “I was very proud of her.”
“We have confidence that we can throw it into Lori,” said Amanda Wolke. “Lori’s going to catch it and she’s going to score the bucket. If not score she’s going to draw the foul.”
After Angel Bradley got the Cardinals on the scoreboard it was Nero who took over the game by scoring six straight Louisville points and two blocked shots. However, despite her output, the game was tied at eight with 14:49 in the half.
Switching to a zone defense U of L was able to shut down the Trojans offensive production while their other scorers got on a roll. Back to back threes by Sara Nord, a Carol Brown putback, a Jessica Huggins inside shot and a three by Nina Simotes pushed the Louisville lead to 13.
However, the Trojans were not about to fall easily. Led by Chaquita Alexander four points and a assist, Troy State climbed back within seven at 24-17, but then it was Nero time again.
Continually going inside to their center, the Cards got six straight points and a block from Nero to pull out to a 30-17 lead with 2:31 left in the half.
At the break, Louisville led 33-21 and Nero already had 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 14 minutes of play.
Nero scored four points and picked up two more blocks in the first five minutes of the second half, but her inside play opened up the floor for the rest of the Lady Cards.
After taking a hard fall in which no foul was called, Wolke’s determination was set and she began to play with intensity scoring seven straight points to push Louisville to a 42-25 lead with 16:35 on the clock. “Sometimes little things that make you made get you going,” said Wolke.
Though the Louisville held a good lead, they were disappointed that they couldn’t pull away from the Trojans any further than the final 18 point margin.
Despite the margin of victory, the Lady Cards were not happy with their production.
“We have better athletes and players all around,” said Nero. “We should have won by 30 or 40 points. We should have beat this team by way more… We knew that they could play, but we knew that we were better.”
A definite sign that this is a different Lady Cardinal team than in previous years was displayed by Nero despite the win. “They out hustled us, we were just cruising. We didn’t play as hard as we should have.”
“I don’t think Lori Nero’s going to allow this team to get complacent,” said Clapp. “I don’t think Amanda Wolke is. I don’t think Kassadi Bishop is. They know we didn’t play like we should have. We were stagnant a lot of times… Lori Nero’s not happy with the way she played because she felt like she could have scored 30 and got 20 rebounds.”
Nero’s production could prove to be both an advantage and a hindrance for U of L down the road. “It can go both ways,” said Clapp. “It’s an advantage because we know we have a go to player. Every player knows who our go to player is and every player is accepting that. But what we’ve got to understand is that when the ball goes in, we’ve got to get Amanda Wolke crashing the offensive boards. We’ve got to get Kim Graham getting more offensive boards.”
Wolke finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Connie Neal scored 11 points, hitting three, three pointers. Nord scored six points while handing out seven assists. For the game, Louisville out-rebounded Troy State, 45-29.
Though he Lady Cards have won four of their last five games, the next two contests will prove how much they have improved. On January, 2 Louisville plays No. 9 Vanderbilt then on January 5, they have their instate rival matchup with Kentucky.