This is not last year's women's basketball team. I am aware of this when I have to keep glancing at the roster on my phone because I keep forgetting all the new player's names. I'm also aware of it when Coach Walz sends in wave after wave of players with no dramatic drop-off in play. This team is deep. Mariana Trench deep. M-theory deep.
That said, the first quarter against the Belmont Bruins was not an exercise in domination. Louisville didn't take the lead until 6 minutes left to go. They expanded the lead but Belmont made a little run in the second quarter to get the game to within 9. However, the Cards began to wear them down and the half ended 47-25. That margin stayed pretty consistent the rest of the way with a final score of 73-50.
So what are the takeaways from this first game? One, a healthy Asia Durr is a joy to watch. She finished the game with 18 points and 3 assists but that doesn't tell the whole tale. Along with offensive consistency she mixed things up on the defensive end in ways that aren't always on the stat sheet---disrupting momentum, slapping at balls, forcing the opposing team into making mistakes. Her aggressiveness was the catalyst for the first big run.
If there's an area of concern it's rebounding which Coach Walz called an "absolute embarrassment." Louisville was outrebounded 32-52 and he said his team needs to learn to "match effort." He specifically talked about freshman Ciera Johnson who at 6'4" didn't grab a single board. Coach Walz said he told her that she needs to initiate contact and that the ball isn't going to just fall into her hands.
An interesting moment that reminded me why I'm a schmuck sitting in the stands taking notes and not the one coaching the team came during a defensive inbounds play. Coach Norman started yelling at the girls to get them in the correct position and explained "you need to be standing on this side because they're going to set a screen for #23 to get her a shot" and I'll be gosh darned if it didn't unfold exactly as she described it. Just a reminder of the talent and dedication on the bench that makes this engine run.
This is going to be a busy week with an away game Wednesday against Middle Tennessee at 8pm and then three home games in a row starting next Saturday. Coach Walz said that he told the girls they "gotta get a good night's sleep, eat well, and take care of their bodies---things that college students don't always think they have to do." I'd say that sounds like pretty good advice for the rest of us too. Have to get in optimal fan shape because it should be a fun year and you don't want to miss a minute of it.
Happy Basketball Season, everyone!