By Jason Wyrick
Photos by Roscelle Griffin
Without the safety nets of point guard Arica Carter and head coach Jeff Walz, the Cards took on 16-seed Robert Morris in the first round of the NCAA Tournament; a tournament the squad, talking heads and fans alike believe the Cards have as good of chance to win as any program in the country.
Carter, a senior who has started at point guard for three seasons has been nursing a minor injury (a knee contusion she suffered during the ACC tournament semifinal against North Carolina State) which also caused her to miss the championship, an eventual loss to Notre Dame along the way. As much as I am sure she would have loved to play, this match-up with Robert Morris simply did not warrant the risk of re-aggravation. If this were the Final Four or even a potential Elite Eight showdown with Connecticut, there is no doubt in my mind she would have played as usual, but today, the names of the game were rest and precaution.
Walz was suspended for this opening round match-up after using defaming and derogatory language to emphasize his frustration with officials during and following last year’s Final Four loss to Mississippi State.
Associate head coach Stephanie Norman took the reigns in his absence. Norman has been Walz’s right hand woman since his hiring in 2007 and even served as the acting head coach during December’s blowout of Tennessee-Martin in preparation for this day- one that Walz spent enjoying mingling with fans at Sidebar downtown.
Even without Carter and Walz, Robert Morris proved no contest for the Louisville Cardinals.
The Cards jumped out to a very commanding early lead of 21-4 after the opening quarter. At one point, the scoring run was 27-0, a nearly 15-minute stretch of dominance on defense and the glass from the early minutes of the first quarter and late into the second. Robert Morris put together a nice scoring run of their own, 9-2 very deep into the second quarter when Cards’ reserves were sprinkled into the lineup. However, Louisville clamped down and eventually put their foot back on the gas to seal a victory that for the 39:33 following Louisville’s opening bucket, did not show any semblance of a close contest. This game was truly the epitome of 1 vs 16 if I have ever seen one.
The length of the entire squad proved to be the biggest nuisance to the Colonels, not only crashing the glass but by blocking shots. Louisville out-rebounded Robert Morris 47-28 and had a total of six blocks. Jazmine Jones and Sam Fuehring led the way with three and two blocks, respectively.
My personal player of the game is Sam Fuehring. Going 9-9 from the field before giving way to the bench and reserves in garbage time, she also stuffed the box score with 11 rebounds and two blocks en route to a +/- of 33.
Asia Durr ended with 19 points, three rebounds, a steal, a block and a +22. Dana Evans saw significant minutes off the bench, playing 28 of the 40 and collecting 13 points, six boards, five assists, a steal and an eventual +29.
This 69-34 victory was Louisville’s 30th of the year. They will face the winner of Michigan vs. Kansas State in Sunday’s Yum! Center finale, a second round NCAA matchup.
Jason Wyrick is a contributor to River City Cards. He is a Louisville alumnus (‘18) and can be followed on social media @Steagles1.