Opening the 2015-16 season with back-to-back losses, a four-point home defeat to California and a 71-69 loss at Western Kentucky on Saturday, wasn't the way Louisville head coach Jeff Walz hoped the campaign would start, but it the result of his preseason concerns.
While the Cardinals welcomed back their top two scorers from last season in sophomores Maryia Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen, as well as the nation's top-rated recruiting class, it didn't have any upperclassmen to provide leadership during a transition that saw the program's all-time winningest class depart following last season.
The rise in expectations at Louisville, coupled by the accolades of the incoming prospects, created an image that the Cardinals were ready to compete with the nation's best right out of the gate this season. When the Associated Press released its preseason Top 25, the Cardinals checked in at No. 8, something that may have effected the mindset of such a young and highly-heralded collection of players.
“It was flattering by writers and voters to put us up there in the Top 10, but they voted us in the Top 10 with two returning players,” Walz told Cardinal Authority following his team's loss in Bowling Green. “Expectations are a great thing and that's what we want at Louisville, but at the same time I think that it may have gotten to a few of us thinking, 'we're good,' and I've been trying to tell them for a few months now that talent's great, but if talent doesn't work hard it doesn't matter. At times, we're not working as hard as we need to work.”
Walz, who pointed to a lack of a consistent inside presence, explaining, “that's an area that we have to get better in a hurry and that's been a concern of mine since day one,” he sounds more concerned about the need for his rebuilt team to begin working better as a group.
“At this point in time we're really not competing. Unfortunately, we have a talented group of young women, very talented, as individuals, but we're not a very good team yet.”
Against WKU, the Cardinals had 21 turnovers, many of which came as a result of players not making the correct decision, such as not feeding a wide open Briahanna Jackson after she had connected on back-to-back three-pointers, instead choosing for a more tightly guarded teammate leading to a turnover.
“Remove your head from your rear-end sometimes as a player and actually pay attention to what is going on,” said Walz.
Next up for Louisville is a trip to Estero, Fla., for three games in the Gulf Coast Showcase, beginning on Friday, Nov. 27 versus Marist.
“Hopefully after an 0-2 start that might be a wake-up call, you would think. We'll find out, but unfortunately we have to take [Sunday] off,” said Walz.
Through two games, UCF transfer Briahanna Jackson leads the Cardinals with 23 points per game. Sophomore Myria Moore is averaging 16 points through two contests.