By Sam Draut–
After losing perimeter scorers Shoni Schimmel, Antonita Slaughter and Tia Gibbs to exhausted eligibility, Louisville head coach Jeff Walz knew he had to replenish the scoring mentality.
Midway through the year, freshman Mariya Moore has provided the scoring boost needed from a team that lost four seniors from last season.
Moore leads the Cardinals in scoring at 13.9 points per game and, along with fellow freshman Myisha Hines-Allen, has packed the scoring punch throughout the year.
“When we recruited Myisha and Mariya especially, we knew they were going to have to come in here and play,” Walz said. “When you’re sitting there recruiting, you’re looking at who you’re losing and who you’ve got coming in. Those are two that I penciled in anticipating them to start. I’m not shocked at what they’re doing. We need them to do what they’re doing. I’m very confident that they can play this way consistently throughout the entire season.”
Moore came to Louisville as a McDonald’s All-American from Salesian High School in Hercules, California.
Over the summer, she played on the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U-18 National team and won a gold medal.
After sealing her pre-collegiate pedigree, Moore burst onto the scene as a Cardinal, averaging 18.3 points over her first four games.
However, her hot start soon became a model for consistency as Moore has scored in double figures in 14 of 17 games.
“They’ve been preaching to me the whole season that I can’t just come out and perform. I have to push harder in practice,” Moore said. “So my main focus, especially after the Evansville game, was to come out harder in practice and see if I can just do better and see if it changes in the game.”
“She’s very efficient for us,” Walz said. “She’s not lightning quick. She’s not out there with the best handles of anybody on the floor, but she just figures out a way to get things done. And that’s really what impresses me most with her right now. When she’s out there, normally I’ve got her going hard. And when she plays hard, good things will happen for her.”
Last year, Louisville connected with 257 three-pointers but only returned 36 of those made threes this season.
Though the Cardinals have an interior focused offense, Moore has been a threat from behind the arc, shooting 34.2 percent and hitting a team high 26 three-pointers.
“Mariya Moore can knock threes down, but it’s not one you’re just looking for every single time you knock down a bunch of them because I don’t want Mariya out there taking nine threes a game,” Walz said. “She needs to take two or three, because what she does is she puts the ball on the floor and she drives it well, and she can shoot jump shots, and that’s what we want her doing.”
Beyond her scoring abilities, Moore is leading the team with 62 assists and has a tremendous two-to-one assist to turnover ratio.
“She passes the ball so well. If we can get her moving, she sees the floor great,” Walz said. “That’s what we need from her, not just become a three-point shooter but an all-around player.”
Against Lafayette, Moore dished out 10 assists to go along with 11 points for her first career double-double.
“When my shots aren’t falling, I know my teammates will be there, so I just want to drive and see if I can get them good shots,” Moore said.
And to complete the stat stuffing, Moore is tied for second on the team in rebounding with 5.1 boards per game and third in steals with 29.
Additionally, Moore is the Cardinals’ best free throw shooter at 73.1 percent.
She was 9 of 12 from the line against NC State, hitting clutch free throws down the stretch to seal a 65-58 victory.
“She knows how to get to the line. She knows how to get fouled. She knows how to put her body in between the ball and the basket, so if someone goes to block the shot, they’re going to end up hitting her. That’s what smart players do,” Walz said.
Moore has been a standout performer on a 17-1 Louisville team playing in its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I think she is a special player and has proven that by playing on the USA U-17 team, being a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. I think us as a team – when she came in, she had high expectations for herself, and she has lived up for that,” senior forward Sara Hammond said. “She has gone beyond what coaches have expected of her as a freshman, having to count on her to be the best three-point shooter or come out and score 12 to 14 points a night. She’s becoming mentally and physically tougher. At the beginning, she didn’t really like all of the running that we have to do, but now she doesn’t really think about it. She sprints up and down the floor, so I’m really proud of her and how far she has come.”
Moore will continue to grow and develop during her freshman year as she helps to start a new legacy of perimeter players.
Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal