LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It’s was the talk around the water cooler and on social media: Thursday night’s huge win by the University of Louisville’s Coach Jeff Walz and company over women’s basketball powerhouse UConn.
The crowd at the KFC Yum! Center was the largest for any women's college game this season. It was also the first win for Walz over UConn, currently the second ranked team in the nation, since taking the Cardinals head coaching job. The win says a lot about how far Walz has taken the program.
The 11 time national champion UConn women have built a reputation much like Alabama in college football - they are known for crushing opponents. When you can take them down, your program has arrived.
The thrill of victory was easy to see Thursday night as the third-ranked Cards posted the 78-69 win. The team that traditionally trounces opponents with ease had its Hall of Fame coach speechless. UConn’s Geno Auriemma paused and sighed at the beginning of the post-game press conference.
After the game, senior guard Asia Durr, the Cards leading scorer with 24 points, stopped to look out at the season-high rowdy crowd of 17,023.
“This is something we’ve never done before, so it was a big win for us,” Durr smiled, “It’s kind of like when you’re a small kid, you get up Christmas Day go downstairs and you got a big bike out there and just get so excited.”
The presents keep coming for Walz. He’s been to three Final Fours and two National Championship games (in 2009 and 2013), but both were blowout losses to UConn. When your team gets to the point that it can beat UConn in the regular season, “it’s a huge win for our program,” Walz said, “there’s no question about it.”
For Walz, who spent years promoting his team and trying to get more and more fans to games, the crowd attendance is everything. Especially when the game before the UConn matchup was packed against a Pittsburgh team that's rebuilding.
"They were 9 and 11 coming into the game," Walz said, "and we still have 10,000 fans show up."
Chris Mack, the UofL men's head basketball coach, was part of Thursday night's crowd. Mack couldn't be happier for Walz and his team.
"It was really cool to be in the Yum Center as a fan," Mack said.
After a tough period for the University of Louisville and several coaching changes, Mack understands the importance of fans. He's growing crowds in his first year as his men's team has surprised many, standing at 7-1 in the ACC.
“It means a lot it certainly, it gives our guys a boost when they run out from the tunnel," Mack said of fan support. "I think it rattles the other team, you know, we have some of the best programs in the country coming in, so any advantage we can get, we certainly need and we're very appreciative of how loud our fans get."
In true Jeff Walz fashion, right after the game he told the players to enjoy the moment but to get right back to work Friday morning for Saturday’s road game against Clemson.