That was evident Sunday afternoon in front of 22,152 KFC Yum! Center as the Cardinals routed eighth-ranked Kentucky 78-52, avenging a 101-67 loss to the Wildcats last season. Louisville was in control throughout, taking an 18-point lead at halftime.
"It's a great win," Walz said. "We did a good job handling their pressure."
"I told our team at halftime this was going to be a game of runs," Walz said. "When they cut it to ten [in the second half] we had to be able to withstand it. [Shoni] Schimmel came up with some big baskets for us and we ended up finishing."
Schimmel, Louisville's supremely talented freshman guard, was the difference for the Cardinals. She was often spectacular against the Wildcats; sometimes frustrating while scoring a game-high 26 points, six assists and eight turnovers.
"The kid can play and I'd pay to watch her," Walz said.
Yes, Schimmel sometimes operates out of control. Yes, she makes ill-advised passes on occasion. But Louisville's highly-regarded freshman guard can deliver big plays, too. And Schimmel made a bunch of big plays against Kentucky, especially in the second half.
"She had a few turnovers, but she brings a lot of excitement to our team and this city with her style of play," Walz said. "She's only going to continue to improve. She brings flare to the game. It's going to take time for her to learn when to make the behind the back passes, the no-look passes. But she's getting better every single game."
Like her three-point dagger that extended Louisville's lead to 13 midway through the second half that stopped Kentucky's mini-run. Or the deep three from the hash that gave Louisville a commanding 65-48 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Schimmel, the highest-rated player ever to sign with Louisville, has absolutely no conscience when she's on the court and she definitely is not afraid to take, and make big shots. Kentucky simply had no answer for Schimmel, who made 8 of 15 shots, including 6-9 three-points.
When Schimmel wasn't hurting Kentucky with deep three's, junior guard Becky Burke was. Burke also made six three's on her way to 21 points, including an uncanny pull up three on the break with none of her teammates back to rebound.
Louisville also received a solid performance from freshman center Sheronne Vails, who finished with 10 points and nine boards despite battling foul trouble and UK star forward Victoria Dunlap. And Louisville also overcame an 'off-game' from leading scorer Monique Reid, who had just 10 points, in their big win over the Wildcats.
While Schimmel and Burke led Louisville offensively, Walz team pressured Kentucky into just 28 percent shooting from the floor, including only 3 of 15 three's. The Cardinals had 11 steals, blocked five shots and forced 22 Kentucky turnovers. Walz constantly switched his defenses, keeping the Wildcats off-balance the entire contest.
"One of our goals was to keep them off the foul line," Walz said. "They were shooting about 32 free throws a game and making 23. When you score 23 points at the free throw line that's a big advantage. When we took away their drives to the basket it gave them problems."