University of Louisville

UK-UofL women notes: Cards coach says losses to Cats don't define seasons

Louisville Coach Jeff Walz, left, took center Emmonnie Henderson to task after pulling her out of the game against Kentucky. "... We have to take this learning experience and go from it," Walz said.
Louisville Coach Jeff Walz, left, took center Emmonnie Henderson to task after pulling her out of the game against Kentucky. "... We have to take this learning experience and go from it," Walz said. AP

LOUISVILLE — After a difficult loss to Kentucky, Jeff Walz spent a long time with his team huddled up at center court of the KFC Yum Center on Sunday.

The Louisville coach reminded his players that there is more basketball to be played and to not let a single game define the season.

"It's one game and we're on to the next," he said. "Unfortunately for us, it's been four years and we're not thrilled with this."

He undoubtedly reminded his team — as he did the media later — that a loss to Kentucky hasn't caused the Cardinals to hoist the white flag on their season prematurely in previous years.

As he praised Kentucky, which has won four straight and five of the last six in the rivalry, he also was quick to point out that this game doesn't signal how or where a season will end.

"Three of the past four years, we have seemed to advance further (than Kentucky) in the NCAA Tournament, which is what we all play for," Walz said. "So we have to take this learning experience and go from it.

"Matthew (Mitchell) does a great job, but I'm sure two years ago, he would've traded a loss to have a chance to play in the Final Four."

It's similar to things the Louisville coach has said after UK losses in the past, including after the loss in 2012 when he noted: "Everyone wants to get up in arms that it's UK-Louisville, but I could give a rat's rear end. ... Come March, nobody cares about this ball game."

When asked about Walz's assessment of the game's meaning, Mitchell took a different direction altogether.

"Louisville has a fantastic basketball program," the UK coach said. "I think they're well coached, they have very good players and they've done a great job here and had great players and had great success. I'm real proud our players worked hard enough to win the game."

Comeback Cats

It has probably led to more gray hair or less hair in general for Mitchell, but his Kentucky team hasn't seemed to mind playing in a hole this season.

Including the 16-point deficit at Louisville on Sunday, Mitchell's team now has trailed by nine points or more and come back to win four times this season.

UK's deficits have included trailing by 14 points to Baylor and rebounding from nine points down to both Oklahoma and South Florida at the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands.

"This particular team has had several comebacks this year, so they probably felt like we can get this done," said Mitchell, whose teams are 5-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or fewer.

Previous experience made the 16-point deficit at the Yum Center not feel quite so heavy, junior Janee Thompson said.

"We had confidence, not necessarily because we've done it in past years (against Louisville), but because we've done it this season," she said. "We've been able to come out and be better in the second half."

Senior guard Jennifer O'Neill said the team has been good at not turning on one another when things aren't going its way.

"We have a lot of confident people who are always uplifting and encouraging other people on the team, so those starts don't get into people's heads," she said.

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