Earlier in the season, Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz offered the first 2,500 fans through the doors a voucher for a free beer. While I think this is awesome and I encourage him to do it again, Louisville fans shouldn’t need booze bribery to attend a women’s game. Basketball fans should be psyched to go see a team that is a national runner-up, ranked seventh in the nation and has potential professionals on its roster. But if you still need more convincing, here you go:
Jeff Walz: Not only does he want to buy you a drink, but he’s oddly charming in a very Brad Stevens-y way. Maybe that’s just me, but no one can pull off red-and-white-checkered button-downs like he can. When you watch Walz coach, he has that same passionate, in-your-face and often hilarious intensity as Rick Pitino. Whatever he says clearly works, because his kids deliver. They were a five seed in last year’s NCAA tournament and knocked off powerhouse after powerhouse to become the lowest seeded team to make it to the championship game. Their win over No. 1 overall seed Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen was the biggest upset in the history of the women’s tournament. At age 42, he’s only going to get better.
The Schimmel sisters: They’ve been everywhere recently, including Louisville Magazine, the front page of The Courier-Journal and the same Cracker Barrel as me. They’re seen as role models in the Native American community, and rightfully so. During last year’s Cinderella tournament run, Shoni was awarded Most Outstanding Player of the Oklahoma City Regional. She was the team’s leading scorer with 14.2 points per game, and ranked third in the Big East in 3-pointers made. Little sister Jude only averaged 5.7 points per game, but she’s a key role player and reliable force off the bench. Her 3-point shooting is second on the team at 35.6 percent. When Jude and Shoni are on the court together, they have this almost psychic connection, like they always know what the other one is about to do. Remember Shoni’s behind-the-back pass to Jude, who then laid the ball in for two against California? Stuff like that happens a lot.
Pretty much everyone else on the team: The bottom line here is that U of L has a really, really good team. They play fundamentally sound and exciting basketball, and like the men’s team, they’re deep. Junior Sara Hammond had the choice to attend the University of Connecticut, but instead she stayed close to home. Last season she led the team in rebounds, pulling down 6.4 boards per game, and was second on the team in scoring, with 10.8 points per game. Antonita Slaughter scored double figures in 22 games and was named a second team All Big East selection. I could go on and on about the likes of Bria Smith, Tia Gibbs and Asia Taylor, but we’d be here forever.
The atmosphere: It’s the Yum! Center. No further explanation necessary. The women’s games always have great energy and loud crowds. There was also a Russ Smith or Gorgui Dieng sighting at every game I attended last year.
It’s not like the attendance is bad at women’s games (in recent years, U of L ranked second in attendance nationally behind Tennessee), but the Lady Cards deserve a packed house every game. They take the court against Wright State on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. inside the Yum! Center. Go check them out. —Rachel Shulhafer