Louisville-Purdue pits Cards' coach, ex -recruit
Louisville coach Jeff Walz has liked Purdue forward Drey Mingo's game since he recruited her back in high school. Now he hopes she misses every shot against his Cardinals.
That's because a trip to the Oklahoma City regional semifinals is on the line Tuesday night in the NCAA tournament when Walz and his fifth-seeded Louisville Cardinals host Mingo and No. 4 seed Purdue.
''I love the kid,'' Walz said Monday. ''I think she's great. Her family's great. I hope she misses every shot she takes. Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. Before the game I'm looking forward to seeing her and saying hi to her. After the game, I'll give her a big hug and we'll go from there.''
He successfully recruited Mingo out of high school to Maryland as an assistant coach. When Mingo transferred after two seasons, Walz failed to convince her to join him in Louisville.
''She ended up at Purdue, and I know she's been through a lot,'' Walz said. ''It's really neat to see the success that she's had with all the adversity that she's been dealt.''
Mingo missed last season with a torn ACL, and now she's a graduate student in her sixth year in college. Mingo says she had a really close relationship with Walz when deciding to go to Maryland. He made the home visit with Maryland coach Brenda Frese, and the 6-foot-2 forward loves his energy.
''I'm excited to see him'' Tuesday, Mingo said. ''He's just a fun guy. The thing that sticks out most to me, and I've always made fun of him, was his stutter. He's going to kill me when he hears that.''
If Mingo avoids foul trouble, she can cause Walz much more trouble. She averages 12.3 points starting every game this season. The Boilermakers also have 6-2 senior forward Sam Ostarello, who grabbed 17 rebounds in Purdue's first-round victory over Liberty. Freshman Taylor Manuel also adds to a strong inside presence to go with guards KK Houser and Courtney Moses.
''It is really impressive to watch them play,'' Walz said.
Louisville's supply of post players is lacking this season due to injuries.
Shawnta' Dyer tore her ACL and MCL in December, while senior Asia Taylor hasn't played all season because of a hip injury. Now fifth-year senior Monique Reid will be a game-time decision because her left knee, which will need surgery at season's end, swelled up after playing 23 minutes in the Cardinals' first-round win over Middle Tennessee.
Walz said the decision to play will be up to Reid. He does have junior Antonita Slaughter, 6-4 center Sheronne Vails and sophomore Sara Hammond ready to go as the Cardinals try to earn their second regional semifinal in three years and fourth overall.
Purdue has won all five games played against Louisville, but these teams last met in 1993. Now the Boilermakers have won five straight trying to advance to their first regional semifinal since 2009. Purdue lost on its own court in the second round a year ago as the No. 4 seed to South Carolina and in Storrs to Connecticut in 2011.
That loss to South Carolina has been driving the Boilermakers back to this point all season. Purdue coach Sharon Versyp, a Louisville assistant in 1996-97, said staying out of foul trouble will be key. Mingo played only 17 minutes in Sunday's 77-43 win over Liberty with three fouls.
''She's hungry,'' Versyp said of Mingo. ''She was very frustrated. I was very frustrated for her. Again, you've got to call things both ways, and we played like that for 30 games. When you can't play your style, it's very difficult. For Drey, she's fine. For me, she had more rest.''
The Boilermakers have tried to make themselves at home wherever they go this season, which worked as they won the Big Ten tournament title in Illinois. They also hope plenty of fans make the drive from West Lafayette, Ind., for this game.
Walz just wants people in the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville officials announced some ticket deals Monday, including $5 seats behind the baskets. The Cardinals averaged 9,577 fans during the regular season ranking third nationally but had only 5,977 for the first round. Walz asked fans to come out, even if they support Purdue freshman April Wilson who played at Louisville's Manual High School.
''It's not like they'll be cheering for us,'' Walz said. ''It's great for these players to have a chance to play in front of a full house. It's nothing like it.''
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker