By Matt Bradshaw —
Last year, the women’s basketball team started its season with a historic 20-game win streak. The possibility of the Cardinals reaching the same streak in 2019 receives its toughest test yet in two days time.
Second-ranked U of L (14-0) travels to face top-ranked Notre Dame (14-1) on Jan. 10. The Cards beat the Fighting Irish twice in 2018, including a 100-67 thumping at the KFC Yum! Center, so Notre Dame will certainly be looking for a statement win as revenge.
While true that Louisville is still undefeated compared to its opponent, the odds are not necessarily in the Cards’ favor. U of L holds a 6-14 all-time record against UND and a 2-5 record in South Bend.
The last time the Cardinals defeated the Irish in South Bend? Ten years ago, when Louisville went on to lose in the NCAA title game to Connecticut.
Moreover, U of L has played rusty as of late. They gave up big leads against Kentucky and North Carolina, both of which led to narrow victories. In addition, the Cards have won four games by seven points or less and nine games by 17 points or more.
“We’ve got some work to do,” head coach Jeff Walz said following the win over the Tarheels. “We’re not very emotionally mature. When a few things start to go bad, we’re not mature enough to stop them, to say hey we’ve got to get a stop. We’ve got to execute.”
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has won all its games by 10 points or more. Their only loss came at the hands of UCONN, who the Cards are set to host later this month on Jan. 31.
Both Louisville and Notre Dame entered this season as the teams to beat in the ACC and both returned four starters from successful seasons in 2018. All eyes will look to Asia Durr and Arike Ogunbowale, who will battle it out as players ranked top-10 nationally in points per game.
Senior Durr recently became the fourth player in Cardinals history to reach 2,000 career points. She will likely overtake another spot or two on the all-time list as the year progresses.
The All-American also remains a strong candidate for national player of the year and has become a top-notch facilitator in her final collegiate run.
“We’re all aware at the next level she’ll be asked to play some point,” Walz said on Durr. “There’s no question about it. So I want everybody to know she understands the game. She’s not just a scorer. She’s able to distribute the basketball. She’s done a great job of that, which makes her more difficult to guard now because she’s not just thinking shoot first.”
Mirroring Durr on the opposite side of the floor is Notre Dame’s Ogunbowale. The senior is averaging 23 points per game and faces U of L this time around as hero of the 2018 Final Four. Her last-second shots lifted the Fighting Irish past the Huskies into the NCAA title game, where they beat Mississippi State to become national champions.
Defense will likely become the name of the game this coming Thursday, as Louisville and Notre Dame are both high-scoring squads. If the Cardinals can guard well enough while shooting lights-out, then they may leave South Bend with their first win there in 10 years.
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Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal