A little pep talk from Louisville men’s coach Rick Pitino has helped the women’s team go on quite a run.
Pitino talked to the team at the end of the Big East tournament. The Cardinals haven’t lost since.
The Cardinals became the 10th school to have both basketball teams reach the Final Four in the same season. UConn was the only school to win both titles in the same season, doing it in 2004.
Both of Louisville’s teams are big fans of each other.
The women’s squad gathered to watch the men beat Wichita State on Saturday night at a local restaurant in New Orleans. They were joined by the team’s cheerleaders, the band and a couple hundred fans.
”Our relationship with the guys is great,” Shoni Schimmel said. ”We used to play pickup with each other last summer.”
The men had just finished their regional final game and were busing back to the hotel when they caught the women’s shocking upset of Baylor.
”We were yelling at our little TVs,” Louisville guard Peyton Siva said. ”On the bus, we were jumping up and down.”
”I’m so proud of them. I went to all their games that were in town for.”
Siva loves the up-tempo style of the women’s team.
”I think they’re exciting to watch. A lot of people say they don’t like girls basketball. I love watching them play, just their heart and hustle,” he said. ”They’re basically a carbon copy of us. They go out there and play with a lot of energy.”
Siva wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to watch the women play against Cal as he had to prepare for Monday night’s title game against Michigan.
”We probably have film. But I will try to catch it on my phone.”
The women’s players will be watching again Monday night when the men play Michigan for the title.
”The way I look at it, I think the men are trying to feed off of our success,” women’s coach Jeff Walz said with a smirk before adding on a serious note that he’d received word from Atlanta that the Louisville men ”were in the hotel lobby, jumping up and down and cheering for us.”
Pitino texted Walz after their victory ”congratulating us and telling me to tell the players what an unbelievable job they did.”
LACK OF PUNCH: UConn shut down Notre Dame guards Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride and the Irish had no chance to beat the Huskies.
Notre Dame shot an abysmal 24 percent from the field in the first half (9 for 38) and a season-low 30 percent for the game, well below its previous worst of 33.3 percent against Ohio State in its opener back in November. That game was played outside on the USS Yorktown.
”We wanted to make sure we forced the ball out of Kayla McBride and Skylar Diggins’ hands and just make other players make plays,” Connecticut guard Bria Hartley said. ”We know they have two All-Americans they were going to go to, so we just put a lot of pressure on them the entire game.”
McBride, who averaged 23 points in their first three meetings, had 16 points on Sunday night, but shot 5 for 20 with four turnovers.
Diggins had just 10 points on 3 of 15 shooting against the Huskies.
”You have to credit their defense and the pressure, making us take quick shots,” Diggins said. ”But I thought we did miss some layups and some jumpers that we usually knock down.”
FAN FROM AFAR: Counting Crows front man Adam Duritz is a huge fan of the Cal women’s basketball team. He grew up a few miles from the campus and has always been an avid supporter of the school’s sports.
He wasn’t able to attend their semifinal game against Louisville as he’s touring in Australia. He did send coach Lindsay Gottlieb a good luck text.
”I knew when I planned this tour I should have arranged the dates around the Final Four,” Gottlieb recalled the text saying.
USBWA AWARDS: Oakland University coach Becky Francis received the Pat Summitt most courageous award from the U.S. basketball writers’ association on Sunday.
Francis publicly disclosed in October that she was sexually assaulted by her dad, who is now deceased, from the age of 4 until she was in the seventh grade.
She was emotional on stage when she received the award from Summitt’s son Tyler, who is an assistant coach at Marquette.
”When you get a phone call that you received the most courageous award it’s really humbling,” Francis said. ”You know how much courage it took to speak out on an issue that society looks at in such a taboo way.”
RARE COMPANY: UConn fifth-year seniors Caroline Doty and Heather Buck are among four players in NCAA history to be members of five Final Four teams. They join Khalilah Mitchell and Marian Whitfield, who were with LSU from 2004-08.
”Can you believe it? People say I’m unlucky with the injuries and stuff, but I think I’m pretty (darn) lucky to be able to go to five Final Fours,” Doty said.
”It’s something every basketball player dreams of, and the fact that I was able to do it five years in a row with such a great team. I give all the credit to the coaching staff for preparing us.
”Every single year they’re on top of us from Day 1 about getting everything perfect and if we didn’t strive for perfection there’s no way that we’d be here. Just the way our team’s playing together and our freshmen aren’t playing like freshmen and people are stepping up big-time and other things are falling down. It’s huge and it’s just great that it’s happened right now.”
Said Buck: ”It’s really special. Every year you go to the Final Four is really special. But it’s special because of the group that we’re going there with and the way we’re playing as a team.”