LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) It's a Saturday morning before heading on an eight day road trip at the Yum! Center practice facility, and it's seemingly business as usual for the University of Louisville women's basketball team. Practice. Strength training. And of course, a pep talk.
But this isn't a normal road trip for the Cards. They're heading to Connecticut to take on the Goliath of women's college basketball, the UCONN Huskies. "It's a big game. There's no question about it," says UofL head coach, Jeff Walz. "It's going to be a great game. We're going to have to play hard. They're the best team in the country," said junior, Asia Durr.
Everything is planned from shoot arounds to the shoes they will wear on game day, and while Walz and the team try to keep this one game in perspective, there's no running from how big this game is for a program still fighting for respect, even while ranked #4 in the country. "Whenever someone knocks off UCONN it's like wow", said senior, Myisha Hines-Allen. "You know, for Coach Walz to be willing to play UCONN in February. Not in non conference which was already a crazy schedule, but in February, while in conference, it's exciting for our staff and our players," said assistant coach, Sam Purcell.
After a brief practice on Sunday morning, the ladies along with interim athletic director, Vince Tyra fly from Louisville International Airport to Hartford. After dinner, they meet in the hotel conference room for more film study. The team still trying to contain its excitement of playing against the team many of them grew up watching. "When I was younger I actually really wanted to go there, but as I grew up, went here for an official visit, I loved it here," said junior forward, Sam Fuehring.
Monday morning shoot around arrives, and it's the team's first time in historic Gampel Pavilion. The star struck UofL players getting their first look at all of the great names and players who have built this UCONN program. "I think my favorite moment when I walked in, I saw Ray Allen on the thing, I said oh, make me like Jesus. You know, Jesus Shuttlesworth," joked sophomore, Jazmine Jones. Eleven women's national championship banners literally stretch the length of the court in the rafters. "I pulled out my phone right away and just panned this whole place. It's just amazing," said Hines-Allen. Even former UCONN great, Rebecca Lobo, who's calling the game for ESPN, recognizes how intimidating this place is to opponents.
Soon, AM turns to PM, and it's game time. The Cards Arica Carter scores the games first points with a three, but the Huskies threw an early hay maker. A 19-0 first quarter run that left U of L reeling. The Cards would keep the game close, but it wouldn't be enough. UofL would fall for just the second time this season, 69-58. "Losing sucks", exclaimed a frustrated Walz after the game. "Whoever sits there and says there's a such thing as a good loss I think's crazy," he would later say. Durr, obviously upset with the loss, was able to put the team's effort in perspective. "I thought we fought back hard. We could've easily given up, but we didn't," said Durr.
Although the loss is disappointing, the next game is always right around the corner. "Even if we had won tonight, we still got to play on Thursday," said Walz.