Despite loss, future bright for Cards
Louisville returns starting lineup, majority of bench next year
NEW ORLEANS -- One team didn’t miss on Tuesday in the national championship game, but unfortunately for the Cardinals, this time it wasn’t them.
Louisville’s deadly 3-point threat had gotten them through some fierce, improbable matchups during the NCAA tournament, including defeats of No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 2 seeds Tennessee and California. Prior to the title game, the team had averaged nearly 50-percent from beyond the arc in the tournament.
Against Connecticut though, it was quite a different story. The Cards couldn’t connect from 3-point range, going 5-for-23 to finish at 22-percent in the loss. Compare that to the Huskies’ 53-percent field-goal shooting and 50-percent from behind the arc, and Louisville had no shot -- literally.
“They just made big shot after big shot,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said. “Starting the second half, we come out, we score. Then Faris hits a 3. We come back down the floor and score again. Faris hits another 3. … Unfortunately we were never able to get it to where a shot actually started to matter.”
There’s no question that it was an amazing run for the Cardinals, the most thrilling of this year’s tournament. Not many teams could’ve paved the way through the bracket that Louisville did, perhaps not even UConn.
“I’m proud of every single one of our players,” Walz said. “It’s without a doubt going to go down as one of the greatest runs in women’s basketball.”
And the good news is, Walz is bringing back all of his starters and the majority of his bench, along with a group that has a national championship game under their belts. Not to mention the hopeful return of Asia Taylor, Tia Gibbs and Shawnta’ Dyer, all of which were injured this season.
“Everybody’s coming back, and so that’s bad for everybody else because we did make this run at the end of the tournament, and it’s just going to continue into next season and we’re just going to get better and grow as a team and learn from this and hopefully be back next year,” junior guard Shoni Schimmel said.
It’d be easy to pat his team on the back and tell his players they should be proud of making it this far, of being the first No. 5 seed to be playing in the title game. But Jeff Walz doesn’t want his team to be satisfied with just making it this far. There’s some unfinished business at hand, and he wants them to feel the hunger to get back here next season and then take it one step further.
“We’re honored to have the opportunity to play for the national championship, but we’re not satisfied with the results,” Walz said. “We’re going to continue to get back to work and hopefully be able to be the ones that are out there celebrating.”
• Louisville ends its season at 29-9 overall, reaching the national title game for the second time in school history.
• The 29 wins is the second-most in school history, behind the 35 victories posted during the 2008-09 campaign.
• Louisville is the lowest seed in history to reach the championship game.
• Senior forward Monique Reid played in her 141st career game and is Louisville’s all-time leader in games played.
• The 33-point loss was Louisville’s largest loss of the season.
• UConn’s 13 3-pointers made were the most given up by the Cardinals this season.