By Matt Bradshaw —
No. 5 women’s basketball (10-0) remained undefeated this past Sunday by beating No. 19 rival Kentucky (9-1) for the third consecutive season. U of L controlled the first half and UK answered with a second half surge, leading to a narrow 80-75 victory for the Cardinals.
Asia Durr finished with 32 points and three assists as the senior continues to display performances worthy of National Player of the Year recognition. She began with seven straight points for the Cards, though the guard’s play fell off as the second half wore on.
“I’ve never seen her air ball two three’s in my life. She had two clean looks and she just air balled two of them. I asked her if she thought it was pop-a-shot and the goal was going to start to move,” head coach Jeff Walz said. “But the one thing I like about her is she keeps fighting.”
The Wildcats answered the home team’s hot start with an offensive run for a 14-14 score. From this point on, the rivalry became a game-of-runs as Louisville would take a definitive lead and Kentucky would surge right back.
UK’s Rhyne Howard mirrored Durr on the opposing end with a superb offensive performance. Through the ability to both shoot and drive the lane at 6-foot-2, the freshman kept the visitors in the contest and recorded 25 points with 10 rebounds.
The Cardinals led 36-29 at halftime.
Jazmine Jones became a big factor for U of L in the second half through her all-around versatility to score, rebound and spread the floor by passing the ball. The junior helped spearhead a 21-10 run in the third quarter for a definitive 52-37 edge.
An unlucky and controversial turn of events for Louisville kept their lead from becoming insurmountable. Durr passed an alley-oop to Jones, who received it in the air and converted a basket. The referees reversed the basket by calling a technical foul on Jones for reasons not totally explained.
Senior Sam Fuehring claimed Jones got excited and said “let’s go.” From a neutral perspective, this is only natural as an alley-oop in the women’s game is rare and comparable to an exciting dunk in the men’s game.
Whatever the case, Cardinal fans and Walz were extremely unhappy with the call. It led to a five-point run for the Wildcats and change in momentum.
“That’s college basketball for you,” Durr said. “She just scored, why can’t she get hyped?”
Kentucky made their final pull for a comeback in the fourth quarter. The Cards were winning by forcing turnovers and running the floor, and the Cats stayed steady with clutch three-point shooting and vital second-chance points.
Louisville would go on to be outscored 23-13 in the final quarter. Their rivals cut down the deficit to five points with U of L having trouble converting free throws as the clock ran down. The Cardinals gave the home crowd a scare but won the rivalry 80-75.
Also playing great for the Cards was Fuehring (12 points and seven rebounds), junior Bionca Dunham (11 points and seven rebounds) and sophomore Dana Evans (10 points).
The victory is a solid one to add to U of L’s resume, coming against a top-25 opponent. Tougher foes still remain in the likes of Notre Dame and UConn, however, and Walz tried to put the win in perspective.
“I know it’s a rivalry game, I understand that,” Walz said. “As a coach, you fail your players if you get them so hyped up for one game, win or lose, and then you’re not getting prepared as the season goes. Our ultimate goal here is to win a national championship.”
Women’s basketball hosts Northern Kentucky on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 11:30 a.m.
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
Photos by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal