The University of Louisville women's basketball program played its first Atlantic Coast Conference contest on Friday night and it met the challenge with resounding success.
Facing a Georgia Tech team that had won five straight since dropping an overtime thriller at No. 16 Michigan State, the 7th-ranked Cardinals used a late first half run to fuel a dominating 75-48 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
The Cardinals received a near double-double from freshman Mariya Moore. The McDonald's All-American equaled a career-high with 22 points, while also dishing out a game-high 8 assists. While no other Cardinal reached double-figures, 11 players scored and four players had at least 6 rebounds. Senior post Sara Hammond was limited to just 6 points and 2 rebounds due to early foul trouble.
“I think its speaks volumes for our team right now,” U of L head coach Jeff Walz said of the offensive distribution. “Mariya shot the ball extremely well, really did some good things, I thought she passed the ball well, we’ve just got to cut down on a few turnovers. She really did a nice nice job of cutting without the ball, she got some layups. She’d actually been struggling shooting the ball in practice, and we talked about just don’t become strictly a three point shooter, and I thought we did a nice job of getting her moving and getting her a few layups to see the ball go in. Sara Hammond plays 13 minutes because of foul trouble and we’re still able to do what we did. I think that talks about the depth that we have on this team, players are willing to step up. ”
Following a Georgia Tech layup that trimmed Louisville's lead to 22-20 with 4:30 remaining in the first half, Walz hopped off the bench to signal a timeout and was rather animated as his players walked to the huddle.
“Just play hard,” said Moore, explaining that their coach greeted them with, “this isn’t us. Pick it up. There’s no need to slow down now and get out of character and push harder and to come out and jump on them ... not literally.”
An 11-0 run that ended with the halftime buzzer and a 33-20 advantage, marking the sixth time this season in which they have held an opponent to 20 points or less in the opening half.
Louisville remained hot throughout the second half. A layup by Jude Schimmel with 4:02 to play gave the Cardinals a 31-point lead. The senior point guard finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds and a pair of steals.
“I feel like our team is pretty solid and it’s kind of crazy because a lot of us are almost averaging double doubles and we haven’t had a team like that in a very long time,” she said. “So we’re really fortunate to have great players, but I mean to get a 27-point win in our first ACC game, I think that says a lot about us and a lot about our coach that we all are ready to take on this really tough conference.”
The Cardinals shot 50 percent from the floor, including a blistering 63 percent in the second half. However, it was the team's efforts on the defensive end that sparked the sizable margin of victory. The visitors had zero fast break points and the team's leading scorer connected on just 2 of 15 attempts.
“I thought it was a game that we could win, but at the same time, I was expecting it to come down to the last five, six minutes of the game,” said Walz. “Especially with a player of Kaela Davis’ talent, because that’s a kid that’s like Shoni (Schimmel) and Angel (McCoughtry) that can drop 25. That three she hit on the wing was contested. It wasn’t like she just caught it and lined up, she crossed it back over and put it up. Then those are the kind of shots that she’s made four or five in a row, and that’s what we didn’t want to allow to have happen. We didn’t want her to get into a groove. So I expected it to come down to the last five, six minutes. But if this is how this can work out all year, I’ll take that too.”
Up next for Louisville (12-1, 1-0) is a road trip to Pittsburgh (10-3, 0-0). The contest is scheduled for 2:00pm on Sunday at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh. The meeting between the two former Big East Conference foes will be broadcast on ESPN3.
“Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve in the ACC. We’re 1-0 right now, our goal is to go up to Pitt and get to 2-0. But we know it’s going to be a battle. They’re playing extremely well, they’ve won some big games, they won at Ohio State a few weeks ago, Ohio State just beat Rutgers at home. So Pitt’s a very good basketball team, so we know what we have to do. Every night is going to be a challenge, and hopefully we’ll go up there tomorrow, get a good night’s sleep, and come out on Sunday and play hard.”
Jude Schimmel, Mariya Moore