Category archive: Louisville Cardinals
Oral Roberts at Oakland: With a 76-74 win against IPFW on Saturday, Oral Roberts completed a season sweep of the third-place Mastodons and improved to 10-0 in the Summit League. That leaves Oakland as the biggest obstacle in the way of a conference title. Yet when the teams met in Tulsa on New Year's Eve, Oral Roberts won by 22 points. Kevi Luper is a prolific shoot-first scoring guard who put up 29 in the last meeting, but Jordan Pyle (25 points, 8 rebounds) and Jaci Bigham (18 points, 11 assists) led the way against IPFW. Oakland, which beat Illinois and lost to Penn State in overtime earlier this season, scored 100 points against Centenary on Saturday without a single player attempting more than eight field goals.
Georgetown at Louisville: The Cardinals secured one important victory Saturday against Rutgers; Tuesday brings an opportunity to add a second of supreme postseason importance. Jeff Walz's team wasn't in Charlie Creme's Jan. 18 Bracketology, but the subsequent win against the Scarlet Knights moved the Cardinals to 5-3 in the Big East. And while there are no guarantees in the league, Louisville has three winnable road games remaining at Villanova, South Florida and Providence, as well as a home game against Seton Hall. It's difficult to imagine a team with 10 Big East victories missing the NCAA tournament, and Tuesday's game could end up being No. 10 when all is said and done.
North Carolina at Florida State: The Tar Heels got well after last week's loss against Maryland with predictable victories at home against Virginia and Virginia Tech. The two games produced six double-digit rebound performances for the Tar Heels. That's worth noting because, well, it's a lot of rebounds, but also because Florida State hammered North Carolina on the boards in an 83-72 win in Chapel Hill last season with Jacinta Monroe. For its part, Florida State was outrebounded by both Boston College and NC State last week, despite winning both games. It was a curious week for Alexa Deluzio, who entered with 34 fouls in her team's first 20 games and then picked up nine against the Eagles and Wolfpack.
Oklahoma at Baylor: If you want evidence as to why Sherri Coale might just be the best coach in college basketball, look at Oklahoma's recent victories against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. In both cases, Coale maneuvered her team to victory despite seeing the Sooners beaten on the boards and struggling to contain opposing offenses. If you want evidence as to why it's still not clear exactly what Oklahoma is this season, well, look at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State beating the Sooners on the boards and shooting 46.8 percent from the field. The Sooners won two of three games against Baylor last season, and hit just seven 3-pointers in 125 minutes in doing it. With Whitney Hand healthy and Aaryn Ellenberg and Morgan Hook around, will they be able to spread Baylor's suffocating defense?
Wyoming at BYU: TCU's penchant for puzzling losses (Air Force joining New Mexico on that list) opens the door for a first-place showdown between two teams that already lost to the Horned Frogs. The Cowgirls still don't have a road win against a team with a winning record, but they're statistically dominant, leading in scoring margin and field goal differential in conference play. Four days should be ample recovery time, but four Wyoming players played at least 38 minutes in Saturday's victory against San Diego State. BYU guard Mindy Bonham is coming off a productive week, totaling 14 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds in a win at San Diego State and 18 points and 10 assists in a home victory against New Mexico.
Auburn at Kentucky: Nell Fortner's team left itself a lot of work to do after understandable early losses against the likes of Florida State and Duke mushroomed into a funk that included neutral-site losses against South Florida and Sacred Heart, but things seem to quietly be coming together. Sunday's victory against South Carolina made it 6-2 in the SEC for an Auburn squad whose field goal offense and field goal defense are both improving in conference play. And with Kentucky riding a six-game winning streak in advance of Tennessee's visit on Feb. 7, might the Wildcats fall into the proverbial trap game? Kentucky loves to harass guards, so the matchup against Morgan Toles (2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio) should be fun to track.
Penn State at Michigan: Both teams beat preseason conference favorite Ohio State within the past week. The problem for Michigan is that it followed up that performance with a loss at cellar-dwelling Minnesota on Sunday. Penn State beat the Buckeyes by following a familiar script: shoot the ball well enough to offset a propensity for turnovers. Freshman sensation Maggie Lucas hit 6 of 8 3-pointers for Penn State against Ohio State. The Lady Lions are running a turnover deficit in conference play after accumulating a significant surplus early in the season, but as long as they shoot 45.9 percent from the 3-point line, they can get away with it.
California at Arizona: It's too early for an elimination game, but this sure feels like something close as both teams begin the second half of Pac-10 play. The Bears play the league's bottom four teams at home down the stretch, and their five toughest games on the road. The Wildcats face the opposite scenario, making this a hinge game for each side. When these two teams met in the Bay Area, Cal nearly doubled up Arizona on the boards in an 80-60 victory. The Wildcats might be the worst rebounding team not currently running in the red in rebound margin. In addition to that game against Cal, they were outrebounded against USC and UCLA over the weekend by 14 and 24, respectively.
Princeton at Harvard: Few teams were more dominant relative to their conference competition last season than Princeton. Friday night will reveal whether a repeat is in order. The Tigers improved to 3-0 in Ivy play with a victory at Yale on Saturday. All three wins came by double digits and all came without star forward Niveen Rasheed, out for the season with a knee injury. Without Rasheed, Addie Micir and Lauren Edwards have taken the scoring lead, and with the exception of the Yale victory, Princeton has relied more heavily on 3-pointers. Harvard point guard (and phenomenally named) Brogan Berry has 14 assists and just two turnovers during Harvard's 3-0 Ivy start.
Florida Gulf Coast at USC Upstate: An otherwise light schedule just means more of the spotlight is available for an Atlantic Sun showdown between teams focused on regular-season glory. Florida Gulf Coast knocked off NCAA tournament regular East Tennessee State on Saturday in conference play and looks to secure another big road win here. USC Upstate dropped to 4-1 in conference play with a loss against Stetson on Saturday but has the league's leading scorer and rebounder in Chelsea McMillan (16.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg). Kelsey Jacobson needed just 10 shots to lead Florida Gulf Coast with 21 points Saturday, hitting five of 10 3-pointers and all six of her free throws.
West Virginia at Marquette: With apologies to St. Bonaventure, a good team with a distinctive style, this is the biggest true road test to date for No. 7 West Virginia. Before games against Seton Hall and Cincinnati last week, coach Mike Carey said the team was still adjusting to having Sarah Miles back. And while the Mountaineers didn't need anything close to perfection to rout both foes, 40 turnovers, including seven from Miles, suggests the adjustment continues. For Marquette, having the Angel Robinson who helped spark Saturday's double-overtime upset at Georgetown (18 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three turnovers) will be critical. She's just 8-of-34 from the field with 10 turnovers in three career games against the Mountaineers.
Illinois State at Missouri State: With Creighton off to a 3-0 start in Missouri Valley play and looking strong, neither of these teams wants to be saddled so early with a second league loss. Sophomore forward Christina Shorter, last season's MVC Freshman of the Year, led the Bears in each of their first two conference wins, scoring a total of 40 points in those games. But she attempted just seven shots to go with four fouls in 22 minutes in an 80-69 loss at Northern Iowa last week.
TCU at Wyoming: The Cowgirls effectively put all their eggs in the conference basket by playing a weak early schedule, but the strategy seems to be working thus far. Wyoming's Aubrey Vandiver put up 24 points in Saturday's win at New Mexico, and a win in Albuquerque is worth something, no matter what kind of season the Lobos are having. TCU has four wins in a row since a heartbreaking last-second loss against Georgia, including a 49-47 road win at San Diego State on Wednesday. Helena Sverrisdottir became TCU's all-time assists leader in Saturday's win over UNLV, totaling 24 points, seven rebounds and seven steals to go with her six assists.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State: Has reality set in for No. 25 Oklahoma State, which opened Big 12 play Sunday with a 63-45 loss at Kansas State? The Cowgirls head to Baylor after Wednesday's game against the Aggies, so it's going to take some work to avoid an 0-3 league start after cracking the Top 25 with a 12-1 start to the season. No. 5 Texas A&M, on the other hand, hasn't won by fewer than 25 points since a loss at Duke early in December. During that seven-game stretch, point guard Sydney Colson has 52 assists against just 12 turnovers.
Louisville at Notre Dame: Louisville plays at No. 12 Notre Dame on Wednesday and at No. 2 Connecticut on Saturday, a road trip that could only be less appealing if it came with a layover in Vladivostok. But the game in South Bend is big, both as a test of where the Cardinals fit in the Big East table after a 3-0 league start and whether Notre Dame builds off or wallows in Saturday's heartbreaker against Connecticut. Monique Reid has been on fire of late for the Cardinals, scoring 20 or more in three consecutive games, including 24 points in a win over St. John's on Tuesday and 29 points against Pitt on Sunday.
Iowa at Michigan State: It's the second week of January, and only three Big Ten teams own winning records in conference play, so 3-0 versus 2-2 qualifies as a big deal, especially when it's No. 13 Michigan State and No. 22 Iowa in possession of those records. The Spartans obliterated Wisconsin and Michigan on the boards in wins last week and lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin, but the Hawkeyes are second in the category. In two games against Iowa last season, Michigan State totaled just nine second-chance points and was outrebounded by 17. The Hawkeyes won both games.
Oregon at USC: The Ducks bounced back from a rough opening weekend of conference play with wins at home against Washington and Washington State, but Paul Westhead's team wasn't exactly dominant on the stat sheet in either victory. If Oregon is going to be any sort of factor in the league, it needs to win on the road outside the Pacific Northwest -- and USC is at least a better bet for that than Stanford or UCLA. On the flip side, if USC's Briana Gilbreath, Ashley Corral and Jacki Gemelos can't get their shot back on track against a defense allowing 48.5 percent shooting in four Pac-10 games, the Women of Troy might have reason to worry.
Tennessee at Florida: Is this a potential game or a potential rout? It depends on which Florida you believe is the real deal. The Gators are 8-0 at home, including noteworthy victories against Charlotte, Old Dominion and Arkansas. They're just 1-5 in true road games, although the one came in Sunday's win at South Carolina, in which the Gators shot 56.5 percent. One thing that should worry Florida fans is that their team has more turnovers than the opponent in all three SEC games thus far. If No. 6 Tennessee has a weakness, it might be its propensity for turnovers (see: Georgetown). But 20 turnovers won't hurt the Lady Vols if they force 30.
Duke at Florida State: No. 3 Duke had plenty of headline performances last week, including Chelsea Gray's fortunate "shot" to beat Kentucky, and a pair of big scoring nights from Jasmine Thomas against the Wildcats and Maryland. But don't overlook Tricia Liston's seemingly small supporting role. Liston hit three of seven 3-point attempts in the wins, one more than the total long-distance contributions of every other Duke player not named Jasmine Thomas. While the 3-point line was largely a barren wasteland for the Blue Devils last season, it's now home to a number of role players -- including Liston, Gray, Shay Selby and Kathleen Scheer -- who can play the role of X factor on a given day.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A blanket of snow outside kept the crowd inside Joel Coliseum to a bare minimum for Saturday's game between No. 13 Georgetown and host Wake Forest, but the library quiet just made it that much easier to hear a voice that could have been heard had the place filled to Tim Duncan-era capacity.
"Sugar, you've got to "
Play basketball Mad Libs for the rest of the sentiment: defend, rebound, hustle. Pretty much any admonition you can think of, Georgetown assistant Keith Brown tacked it on to the end of a bellow directed squarely at Sugar Rodgers, the reigning Big East rookie of the year. And this was on a night when Rodgers led all scorers with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting in a 64-49 win to help the Hoyas improve to 7-1.
Rodgers was an unqualified success story last season, averaging 17.6 points and setting a program record with 83 3-pointers. But with more college games ahead of her than behind, she remains a work in progress -- not altogether unlike the team around her, a team with the talent to beat Tennessee by 11 points the day after losing to Missouri by nine points. And neither Brown nor her head coach let her forget.
"She knows she has a lot of work because we tell her every day," Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We don't sugarcoat her at all."
Against Wake Forest, much of the positive, and otherwise, reinforcement came when Wake Forest had the ball. A key part of Georgetown's omnipresent pressure, Rodgers had 60 steals last season -- good but perhaps not as many as her talent indicates is possible in 30-plus minutes per game. And ballhawking, relatively speaking, is the easy part of playing defense for the Hoyas. Rodgers has a distinctive quick release on the offensive end, looking at times as though she starts her shooting motion while a pass is still en route. It's the slow grind of playing 30 seconds on the other end that takes time.
"She's the type of kid that you have to stay on top of because she is very good," Williams-Flournoy said. "Things do come easily for her, so she does have a tendency to get lazy and take breaks on the defensive end and pick it up on the offensive end. So we're trying to get her to understand that to be a full, rounded player, she's got to play both ends of the court."
Rodgers carries an undeniably heavy burden on the offensive end. She took roughly one-quarter of the team's field goal attempts last season, and she's on the same pace this season. As of the Wake Forest game, Monica McNutt is the only other Hoyas player averaging more than seven points per game. When the Hoyas need a big shot, as when Tennessee made its run late in that game when the teams met in the Virgin Islands around Thanksgiving, or as Georgetown overcame a sluggish start and a good effort from the Demon Deacons to claim the lead for good late in the first half of Saturday's game, it's Rodgers who is going to get the ball.
And as suggested by the final score in the Tennessee game, or the 26 wins last season, she's generally going to do something pretty special with it. But the Hoyas will have leads to protect, particularly as Big East play arrives, only if the defense earns them by wearing down opponents and taking away the ball.
"To be honest with you, we have to turn teams over because we can't rebound," Williams-Flournoy said. "That's almost like our only defense to not getting any rebounds; we've got to turn them over. I think we've gotten outrebounded every game, but we're 7-1. Maybe we outrebounded Augusta State. Maybe."
They did get the best of Augusta State, as well as La Salle, on the boards, but it's easy to see where she's coming from. Georgetown has quality wins over Maryland, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Richmond and Wake Forest despite losing the battle of the boards in all five games. What the Hoyas have is 98 steals and 197 turnovers forced in eight games, including 15 steals and 29 turnovers forced in the win over Tennessee, assuredly one of the biggest in program history. If Rodgers is as big a part of that as she is the offense, Georgetown will be an intriguing team come March.
And so even on snowy nights on the road in December, when it's quiet enough to hear the sound of the net as one of Rodgers' shots rips through it, Williams-Flournoy, Brown and the rest of the coaching staff will keep the volume dialed up on making their best player even better.
"She's got to play defense constantly, all the time, because that's what we do," Williams-Flournoy said. "Our defense dictates our offense. It does not work the other way."
Three things that caught my eye
1. The battle for Kentucky is on. Texas has the edge when it comes to in-state rivalries this season, with Baylor and Texas A&M fighting for space in the top 10 and the Longhorns angling to make a move, but put the state of Kentucky squarely in the conversation for No. 2 on that list. Getting a signature win to go with respectable losses against Tennessee and at Xavier and Old Dominion, Louisville handled No. 9 Kentucky with surprising ease in a 78-52 victory Sunday. Freshman Shoni Schimmel scored 26 for the Cardinals and, despite eight turnovers, is playing remarkably efficient basketball for a freshman (shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and 39.7 percent from the 3-point line to go with a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio). The domino effect is Becky Burke can return to the shooter's role she thrived in alongside Angel McCoughtry -- and in scoring 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting from behind the arc against Kentucky.
As long as Jeff Walz and Matthew Mitchell are on the sidelines, the battle for state supremacy is one worth watching.
2. Unbeaten, untied and unproven describes more than a few teams. We're coming up on the end of the first month of games, and there are still 16 unbeaten teams, including seven that weren't ranked in last week's Top 25. Among that latter group is Oklahoma State, which followed a supremely soft opening stretch with quality wins over New Mexico, Arkansas-Little Rock and, most recently, Wisconsin on Sunday. None of the three wins came easy, and it's a long Big 12 road ahead, but it's still an accomplishment for a team that lost 43.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists and three steals per game with the departures of Andrea Riley and Tegan Cunningham.
Fellow unbeaten Arkansas also took a step toward legitimizing a fast start against a modest schedule with 65-54 win at Utah on Saturday, following a win at UTEP over Thanksgiving weekend and against Middle Tennessee earlier this season. After suffering through a bit of a sophomore slump, at least statistically, C'eira Ricketts seems to be closer to the form that earned her a share of SEC freshman of the year honors two seasons ago.
3. North Dakota State earned a big win. North Dakota State lost by 18 points at home and 25 points on the road against its rival to the south last season, seemingly an indication of how far ahead the Jackrabbits had surged as the two programs make their way in the Division I world. So full points to the Bison for ending a 10-game losing streak against the Jackrabbits with a 78-71 win on the road in Brookings, S.D. Hannah Linz scored 12 points for North Dakota State, which is almost certainly 12 more points than anyone else diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in April scored this past weekend.
The week ahead
Monday: Having spent the weekend in the Triangle, I can attest that it will be frigid in Durham on Monday night. But hopefully the lure of No. 5 Duke versus No. 7 Texas A&M (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) will bring the students out and make Cameron the hot, noisy place of basketball lore. This is a big stage for Aggies guard Sydney Carter, who has been tremendous taking care of the basketball (27 assists, eight turnovers) with Sydney Colson limited. Can Carter keep things running against all the pressure Jasmine Thomas and the Blue Devils will apply? No. 21 Green Bay can't overlook a road trip to Eastern Michigan, which has a good pair of guards in Tavelyn James and Cassie Schrock and gave Ohio State a bit of a game earlier this season.
Tuesday: Speaking of Georgetown and Rodgers, they get another ACC test with a trip to Miami. The Hurricanes missed an opportunity to make a statement early against Nebraska, but they've rolled through some more modest competition in recent weeks. Riquna Williams had significantly more turnovers than assists last season, but she's working with about a three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio so far this season. It's never too early for a conference game, as DePaul and Pitt get their Big East schedules under way in Pittsburgh. The Blue Demons have been shooting the lights out (37.4 percent from the 3-point line), taking care of the ball and scoring at an Oregon football-like clip, so a conference road game should be a good measuring stick.
Wednesday: Nebraska doesn't get an easy game as it attempts to bounce back from Sunday's surprising loss to Indiana. The Huskers visit in-state foe Creighton. Cal State Bakersfield has dropped three of its past four games to fall to 7-3, but give the Roadrunners credit for playing up with their schedule, beating San Diego State and Oregon this season. Fresno State's visit is a rare chance to get a big game at home. (Bakersfield also will play Dayton at home three days before Christmas.) Albany transfer Britney McGee has an interesting line so far for Bakersfield, averaging 7.5 3-point attempts per game but also 5.8 rebounds.
Thursday: Iowa consistently produces some good players, but you're not talking about the Lake Baikal of recruiting. Which is another way of saying it's nice to have bragging rights when Iowa (six Iowa natives on the roster) and Iowa State (five Iowa natives) meet. Iowa showed some resolve in bouncing back from a tough loss at North Carolina to beat Kansas State three days later. Lauren Mansfield, the Cyclones' latest Aussie import, is shooting 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from the 3-point line and 30 percent from inside the arc -- not to mention seven assists per game. Xavier again proves it will go anywhere and play anyone with a trip to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to play Middle Tennessee (ESPN3.com, 8 p.m. ET). The Blue Raiders have hit 48 3-pointers in seven games, and the starting trio of Anne Marie Lanning, Tina Stewart and Kortni Jones has 46 of them.
Friday: It might not fall under the marquee heading, but Oakland visits Toledo in a nonconference tilt between teams likely to be in the mix for their respective automatic NCAA bids.