Final Four Bound! Louisville Women’s Basketball beats Michigan, advancing to the national semifinals Wednesday, Mar 30 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

Big smiles, tears of joy, and even bigger celebrations filled the Wichita night as the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals defeated the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines Monday, 62-50, to advance to the Final Four.

Hailey Van Lith led the way late, finishing with 22 points on the night, marking her fourth straight game-breaking the 20 point threshold. However, it was an all-around team effort for the Cards, with multiple players contributing in a tough battle against Michigan.

Chelsie Hall stepped up early when the Michigan defense put substantial pressure on Van Lith, holding the Louisville offense down early. With Louisville’s best shooters covered, Hall stepped up and hit multiple shots to give the Cards the early momentum and finished with a critical 15 points on the night.

“We wouldn’t have won without her,” explained Van Lith. “She brought it on defense by pressuring their guards and was big-time tonight offensively.”

Although the Cardinals led for the entire first half, the game remained extremely tight, with their largest lead only hitting seven points. A late run from the Wolverines brought the game within one point with the chance to take the lead going into the half. However, Hall forced a crucial turnover in the closing seconds allowing Kianna Smith to extend the Cards’ lead to 30-27 going into the half.

In the third quarter, Louisville increased its lead up to nine with key jumpers from Van Lith and intense defense from the likes of Mykasa Robinson and Emily Engstler. But, the Wolverines continued to stay nearby and took advantage of foul trouble from Louisville’s starting forwards.

In a season that has been somewhat overshadowed by two fourth-quarter collapses, the game’s final ten minutes proved this team is ready for the next step forward.

Halfway through the quarter, the Louisville offense started to slow and gave Michigan the momentum. The Wolverines appeared to be on the brink of a game-ending run when Coach Walz called a timeout. The message in the huddle was clear, “We knew if we didn’t get stops in those last minutes, we wouldn’t win the game,” said Kianna Smith after the game. Coming off the timeout, the Cardinals did just that. In fact, more as Louisville held Michigan scoreless for the final 5:42 of the game.

Van Lith explained that their defensive intensity is something Walz has preached all year: “no matter what happens on the offensive end, we have to play tough defense and get stops down the floor.”

Forward Olivia Cochran, visibly exhausted, a foul away from exiting, and wearing an eye mask after getting elbowed against Tennessee, stepped up in a mighty way, icing the game and giving Louisville the Elite 8 victory.

For Head Coach Jeff Walz, it’s the program’s fourth Final Four appearance and first since 2018. The win also continues the trend of having every player under Jeff Walz appearing in the Final Four.

“‘I’m going to do whatever I can to win him a national championship,” stated Senior Emily Engstler, who shared what it means to play for Walz. Hailey Van Lith agreed, saying, “He always has our back and cares for us. It’s not just business or basketball; he works on the person you are off the court. Every girl on this team would run through a wall for him.”

While the team was rightfully excited about the win, they know it isn’t done yet. “We’ve accomplished something amazing, but I know we can go to the national championship and win,” stated Engstler confidently. Van Lith agreed, “We’ll do anything for each other, which makes us so dangerous; we’re doing this for our city.”

The Final Four begins this Friday, April 1, when the Louisville Cardinals face the defending National Champion South Carolina Gamecocks at 7 pm on ESPN.

Stay tuned here for more coverage as we preview and recap the final four and other U of L athletics news.

Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal

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Women’s Basketball advances to fourth straight Elite 8 Sunday, Mar 27 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

On Saturday, March 26, the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals took down the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers, 76-64. 

With the win, the Cardinals move one win away from advancing to the Final Four held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and three away from a program’s first National Championship. 

Sophomore Guard Hailey Van Lith lead the way with 23 points, her third game in a row with 20+ points. Emily Engstler also hit 20 points capping off another double-double performance.

Kianna Smith and Chelsie Hall also contributed a solid on both sides off the ball. Like most of the season, the Cards’ elite defense was the night’s story holding Tennessee to a 22.2% field goal percentage in the second quarter and forcing 18 turnovers on the night.

After the Cardinals took the lead early in the game, the Volunteers never gained back the lead. However, the game remained close until the last minute. 

In the final minute, the Louisville crowd who made the journey to Wichita filled the arena with sound as the time expired, and Louisville confirmed its fourth straight trip to the Elite 8. 

After the game, Coach Walz was visibly pleased with the win. However, the expectations for this team are much higher, “It’s nice to still be playing.” The mood around the team yesterday was “energetic,” as described by Emily Engstler. Still, the sights quickly move to Monday night when the Cards face the University of Michigan at 9 pm on ESPN.

The two are no strangers after the Cards’ picked up a 70-48 win back in December. Jeff Walz and his team will undoubtedly be looking to repeat their appearance to return to the program’s Final Four since 2018.

Stay tuned for more coverage as we preview and recap the upcoming Elite 8 matchup.

Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal

 

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Women’s Basketball prepared for Sweet 16 against Tennessee Saturday, Mar 26 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

Tonight, the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals continue their journey to the national championship in the Sweet 16 by facing the No. 4 seeded Tennessee Volunteers at 4 pm on ESPN 2.

The  energy was vibrant from the very beginning, even on travel day. The team is clearly excited for the next round of games but is very confident too, as one player said, “take care of business.”

After handling UAlbany and Gonzaga in the tournament’s first two rounds, the team has a lot to be confident about. Hailey Van Lith seems to have hit her stride at the right moment breaking 20 points in each game.

Emily Engstler, one of the highest-rated players in the country, has continued her strong performances with a double-double in round one and fell just short of an astonishing triple-double against Gonzaga. Engstler also holds a tournament-leading seven steals.

Tennessee, one of Women’s Basketball’s most historical programs, is currently 25-8 on the season with impressive wins over Belmont and Buffalo.

To advance to the Elite 8, the Cards will need to keep up their elite defense against the Volunteers. So far, Louisville holds a tournament-leading 28 steals, with Engstler contributing and also tournament-leading seven.

The crowd should be energetic tonight; Coach Walz told a crowd at a Louisville Alumni event that the arena sold 8,000 Louisville tickets. Many supporters made the long drive from Louisville to Kansas to see the Cards in their fifth straight Sweet 16. Should the Cardinals advance to the Elite 8, they’ll face the Michigan and South Dakota matchup winner on Monday, March 28.

The Final Four will be located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 1-3.

Stay tuned here for more coverage as we recap and preview upcoming tournament games!

Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal

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Louisville women’s basketball ready for the NCAA Tournament Friday, Mar 18 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

The journey to the Final Four begins tonight for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team as they set their eyes on winning the program’s first national championship.

At 6 p.m. tonight, the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals will face the No. 16 seeded Albany Great Danes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN 2.

The KFC Yum! Center will play host to the first and second round for eight of this year’s 68 national tournament teams, including the Louisville and Albany matchup.

Should the Cards advance to the second round, they will face either the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers or No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sun., March 19.

Following an upset loss in the ACC Quarterfinals to the Miami Hurricanes, there was some question about what the Cards’ final seeding would be. However, after a strong season finishing 25-4, Louisville secured the No. 1 seed.

Should Louisville advance to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, they’ll be making the journey to Wichita, Kansas to play in the tournament. A potential Elite 8 matchup could see the Cards face the No. 2 Baylor Bears, winners of the 2021 National Championship.

The location of this year’s Final Four is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where fellow No. 1 seed and ACC rival North Carolina State could potentially clash with the Cardinals.

For most of the year, The Cards have been one of the top teams in the nation. With Mykasa Robinson and Emily Engstler, the latter of which being a Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalist, Louisville shows off one of the best defenses in the country.

Throughout the season, the Cards have sometimes struggled offensively and with producing turnovers. However, Hailey Van Lith, Kianna Smith, Chelsie Hall and Engstler have all shown to be solid and reliable shooters capable of putting up big numbers.

Forward Olivia Cochran’s second year in red has shown a strong presence under the glass, accompanied by senior Liz Dixon.

While all signs point to a straightforward win for the Cards in this first-round matchup, it is March Madness and upsets are known to happen.

After the surprise Miami loss, Coach Walz’s message was clear, “One game at a time. We’re going to focus on Albany as you can’t focus on the round two opponent unless you get there.”

Luckily, readers, writers, national and local pundits alike can look ahead and speculate for them. Most agree: this is a powerful team that should expect at least a Final Four.

Baylor would undoubtedly pose a tough challenge but is certainly a winnable game. Dominant performances against Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut prove just that, as did the first three quarters against NC State. However, the fourth quarter has proven to be an issue for the Cards.

While Louisville is more than capable of winning against any team in the nation, they’ll need to keep the offense moving in matchups to seal the deal.

Earlier in the season, Coach Walz said, “We’re a good team, good enough to make the Final Four. But we could also be eliminated in the second round [of the NCAA Tournament].”

With the tournament underway, stay tuned for more coverage as we recap and preview matchups.

Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal

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Louisville hires Kenny Payne as men’s basketball coach Friday, Mar 18 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

After an extensive national search and eight weeks of rumors and speculation, Louisville fans and students finally have the answer they’ve been waiting for. 

Today the University of Louisville Board of Directors and Athletics Association have officially announced that New York Knicks Assistant Coach Kenny Payne will become the next head coach of Louisville men’s basketball. 

Kenny Payne, who becomes the 22nd head coach in Louisville’s cherished basketball history, is no stranger to Cardinal red. From 1985 to 1989, Payne played for the Cards under hall of fame coach Denny Crum, winning the national championship in 1986 and becoming 2nd team All-American in 1985. 

In the 1989 NBA Draft, Payne was selected 19th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers but lived a short professional career. Since then, Payne has found tremendous success as a coach on the collegiate and professional levels. 

The University of Oregon gave Payne his first opportunity in 2004 as an assistant coach. In 2010, Payne returned to the state of Kentucky as an assistant coach for the University of Kentucky.  

While in Lexington, Payne grew a national reputation as one of college basketball’s best recruiters. Even more impressive is his ability to convert elite college basketball recruits into some of the biggest stars in the NBA, including multiple all-star and world champion players. 

In 2014, Payne was promoted to associate head coach, becoming John Calipari’s right-hand man. Overall, the Wildcats won six SEC Championships and one national title in 2012 during Payne’s tenure. Louisville will undoubtedly be hoping Payne can bring similar success to the KFC Yum! Center. 

Recently, Payne has been serving as a New York Knicks assistant coach but today marks the beginning of a new era for both himself and Louisville Basketball. 

Stay tuned for more as we bring you exclusive coverage and reaction to Louisville Basketball’s new head coach.

Photo Courtesy // The Associated Press

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Louisville basketball wins ACC Tournament opener against Georgia Tech Wednesday, Mar 9 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

On March 8, the Louisville Cardinals took down No. 14 seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 84-74.

Senior Guard Jarrod West scored a season-high 20 points, leading both teams. Noah Locke contributed 16 points, including four from the 3-point range. Malik Williams finished the game with a double-double complete with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The defending ACC Champion Yellow Jackets started the game well, running to a 7-0 start. A three from Mason Faulkner and solid paint play from Williams allowed the Cards to remain competitive early.

Most notable early in the game was the limited rotation used by Head Coach Mike Pegues, who only used seven players the entire game. In a season with inconsistent playing minutes and different starting lineups, it seems Louisville has finally found their main core of players just in time for the ACC Tournament.

The first half remained competitive until the Cards pulled ahead comfortably midway through.

A 53.3 percent field goal and 50 percent 3-pointer first-half percentage kept the pressure on Georgia Tech and allowed the Cards to head into the locker room up 45-28.

In the second half, the Cards slowed down slightly offensively but continued to extend their lead. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Louisville had its largest lead of 27 points.

At this point, Georgia Tech re-tuned their defensive game plan and changed the game entirely with an aggressive 17-0 run.

Despite a timeout from Pegues, the Cards quickly found themselves leading by single digits late in the game. However, Louisville found a way to prevail thanks to late points by West and Junior El Ellis, securing the victory for the Cards.

“Credit to Georgia Tech they fought back and got in the game, and we allowed some [turnovers] in transition,” stated Pegues. “But our guys didn’t cave and stayed with it.”

Overall, it was an exciting ACC Tournament matchup and a great win for the Cardinals. After a disappointing regular season, any attempt to rewrite the team’s success in postseason play is a good start.

With the round 1 win, the No. 11 seeded Cards now advance to the second round, playing the Virginia Cavaliers today, March 9, at 9:30 p.m. The round 2 matchup will be aired live on ESPN 2 from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Louisville will have to learn from previous experiences after losing in their first two matchups against the Cavaliers earlier this season.

In previewing the game, Pegues explained that “[Virginia] is going to punch sometimes in the game and we’ll have to punch back.”

Should the Cards advance, they’ll face the University of North Carolina Tarheels on Thurs., March 10 at 9:30 pm.

Photo Courtesy by Adam Creech // U of L Athletics

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Women’s Basketball dominate Notre Dame in regular season finale Monday, Feb 28 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

On Feb. 27, the No. 4 Louisville Women’s Basketball team won big against the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 86-64.

The contest made national headlines, with the Cardinals jumping out to a 41-3 lead in the second quarter. Louisville’s largest lead was 48-6 before Notre Dame finally strung together consecutive baskets.

The win allowed the Cardinals to finish the season 25-3 and 16-2 in the ACC.

Sophomore Guard Hailey Van Lith and senior Kianna Smith finished with an impressive 20 points. Seniors Emily Engstler and Chelsie Hall had 17 points and 13 points, respectively.

The Cardinals finished the game with 16 forced turnovers and an overwhelming 40-22 rebound advantage.

In the first quarter, Louisville was perfect, shooting lights out 7-7 from beyond the arc. It took the Cards almost five minutes before they missed their first game shot. The opening quarter ended with an astonishing 31-3 Louisville lead.

Despite multiple timeouts and substitutions from Notre Dame, nothing was stopping the Cards.

The second quarter saw the Louisville offense slow down to a ‘normal’ shooting performance, but the defense still had Notre Dame’s number.

By the time Notre Dame figured out how to score, the game was out of reach, with Louisville up 54-15 at halftime.

The Fighting Irish lived up to their name in the second half, including a 30-15 fourth quarter. But, the gap was too far for Notre Dame to mount a serious comeback.

Overall, it was an outstanding performance, especially considering Notre Dame is ranked No. 14 in the nation.

The defense has been elite all season for the Cardinals, arguably the best in the country. But the offense from time to time can go through some droughts.

While the second half wasn’t perfect, Sunday’s nationally televised game will make teams wish to avoid the Cards in their brackets come tournament time.

But with the regular season over, that time has now arrived.

A 23-win season is nothing to be resentful about, but the expectations for Coach Jeff Walz and his team are always high. After finishing second in the title race to NC State, the Cardinals will be eager to win the ACC Tournament Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

Louisville’s first game will be in the ACC Quarterfinals on Fri. Mar. 4 at 6 pm.

With tournament season upon us, stay tuned for more Women’s Basketball Coverage!

Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L women’s basketball beats Virginia Tech Monday, Feb 21 2022 

By Daniel Rankin —

On Sunday afternoon in an ACC Matchup, the No. 3 ranked Louisville Cardinals beat the No. 23 Virginia Tech Hokies by a dominant score of 70-56.

With the win, the Cardinals move to 23-3 on the season and a second-place ACC record of 14-2.

Sophomore Guard Hailey Van Lith led the way with 20 points and forward Emily Engstler finished her 8th double-double of the season with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Engstler was one of three graduating seniors honored before the game as part of the Senior Day festivities, along with guards Kianna Smith and Chelsie Hall.

Three other seniors were missing from the pregame festivities as Liz Dixon, Mykasa Robinson and Ahlana Smith announced earlier this week that they’ll be returning to play another season in Louisville thanks to the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility.

Coming off a surprising one-point road loss to North Carolina, the Cardinals started the game hot by grabbing a quick 8-0 lead. The Cards’ physical play and tough defense forced the Hokies to turn the ball over and fall behind.

After a 22-14 first quarter, Virginia Tech was able to pick up the pace. However, the Cards still extended their lead by 3 points heading into the locker room.

Good ball movement inside and outside the paint and impressive Van Lith jumpers pushed the Cards to a 14-4 run to start the second half. Kianna Smith capped off a successful senior day scoring 4 of her 11 points in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Louisville had its largest lead at 24 points, but the Hokies managed to get it down to 14 by the end of the game. Although the starters had fewer minutes in the final quarter, the Cards will undoubtedly need to keep the pressure on late in games come Tournament time.

Overall, a comfortable ranked win after a heartbreaking loss on the road is a positive moment for the Cardinals.

However, early foul trouble, unforced turnovers and allowing a late run from Virginia Tech highlight areas of concern that need to be addressed before elimination games begin.

“We’re a good team, good enough to make the final four,” stated Head Coach Walz after the game. “But we could also be eliminated in the second round,” he said, referring to the NCAA Tournament.

But before the Tournament, the Cards will compete for the ACC Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. After tonight’s win, Louisville has secured a double-bye for the ACC Tournament, with their first game starting in the Quarterfinals on Fri., March 4.

Up next for the No. 3 ranked Cardinals are two road games to finish out the regular season with Pittsburgh on Feb. 24 and Notre Dame on Feb. 27.

Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal

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Louisville Basketball legend Wes Unseld dead at 74 Tuesday, Jun 2 2020 

By John McCarthy–

Wes Unseld, 74, passed away on May 2. Unseld was a former U of L basketball player and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was a sight to see on the basketball court displaying unrivaled skills at the collegiate level and excelling in the NBA as well. Unseld’s number, 31, is one of only four numbers to be retired in the history of U of L basketball.

Unseld grew up in Louisville and attended Seneca High School. He played all of his collegiate years for the University of Louisville. He still holds the single-game scoring record for U of L with 45 points.

“Wes is one of my all-time favorite players. He was a local player who had great success at U of L,” University of Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra said. Unseld is one of only five Louisville Cardinal basketball players to collect over 1,000 rebounds in their career.

Unseld goes down in U of L basketball history as the 11th highest scoring player and 2nd on the U of L all-time rebounding rankings. His record with the Cardinals throughout his career is an impressive 60-22. Following an unforgettable career at U of L, Unseld was the second player selected in the 1968 NBA Draft. He played 13 years in the NBA and became only the second player ever to be named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and led the Bullets to an NBA title in 1978.

Unseld was welcomed into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 and was selected among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 in honor of the NBA’s 50th anniversary.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Key players to watch in men’s basketball Tuesday, Nov 12 2019 

By Luke Graham —

Last year, there were no expectations for the Cards. Head coach Chris Mack impressed during his first year and seems like he will get the best out of his players.

Mack has real talent now and players are expected to perform.

Forward Jordan Nwora is the most talked-about Card and will be the scoring leader. He shot 45 percent from the field last year and 38 percent from behind the arc.

In his first game against Miami, he picked up right where he left off with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

His biggest issue last year was his defensive abilities. If he can improve his defense and ball-handling abilities, he has first-round NBA potential.

Freshman and McDonalds All-American Samuell Williamson looks like he will play a big role as well. He has the ability to be an infamous one-and-done, but if that’s the case, Cards fans hope to remember that one year as spectacular.

It seems that after the first game, he will get every opportunity to play and be a big player in Mack’s second year. He has already shown flashes of good offensive talent with an eye for the court and good defensive abilities.

Junior Malik Williams and senior Steven Enoch look to protect the basket and cause damage to it on the other. If Williams can come back from a broken foot, and Enoch can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, then they could be the key to advancing deep in “The Big Dance” in March.

This can only happen if they both stay healthy and aggressive.  They are forces down low and can determine a game by their defensive presence and offensive capabilities to finish and score.

The Cards need the McDonalds All-American to live up to the hype, Nwora to be the leader of the team and the big men in the paint and Williams and Enoch to stay healthy and on the court.

If all goes well, Cardinal fans could be in for an exciting year. The country has already taken notice of a No. 5 national ranking.

With teams like Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky on the schedule, Louisville’s key players will have to step up and play like some of the best guys in the country.  North Carolina top recruit Cole Anthony versus Williamson will be fun to watch this year.

Freshmen Matthew Hunt and Vernon Casey from Duke will be show stoppers too. This is the game that Enoch and Williams must show their experience and lockdown both young freshmen and show the country why Louisville should be on high alert.

The Cards look to face off against Youngstown State in their next game on Nov. 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the Yum Center.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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