|NCAA Women's Basketball|
Louisville women defeat Michigan State 67-55
By JOSEPH WHITE
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Jeff Walz was back, his booming voice rising above the whistles, cheerleaders, fans and maybe everything except the bands. He even was coaching a team in red, just as he did when he was on the bench as a Maryland assistant.
The result was also familiar. Coaching a game on the College Park campus for the first time since he left five years ago, Walz led seventh-seeded Louisville to a 67-55 victory over 10th-seeded Michigan State on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament.
"It's nice to be back," Walz said. "A lot of the fans came down before the game and said hi. It was really nice to see a lot of them, and a lot of them stayed and cheered for us, which was really nice."
"Now," he added, "I don't expect them to cheer for us on Monday."
The win earns Walz a rematch against his old boss, Brenda Frese, when Louisville and Maryland play in the second round Monday night. The second-seeded Terrapins beat Navy 59-44 in the opening game of the doubleheader.
Walz was an assistant under Frese for five seasons and was on the bench for Maryland's national title run in 2006 before taking the top job with Louisville in 2007. His Cardinals have faced Frese's Terrapins once before, with Louisville winning in the NCAA regional finals in 2009.
"We're going to have our hands full," Walz said. "It's a game I'm not sure anyone would really expect us to win, but we'll come out here and at least try to play hard and see what we can do."
"I mean, we'll show up," he said, turning to a couple of his players, "right?"
Shawnta' Dyer and Shoni Schimmel nodded "Yeah, yeah."
Dyer and Schimmel were part of a relentless team effort for the Cardinals (23-9), who rattled the Spartans (20-12) with speed and defense, forcing 14 turnovers and pulling away with a 16-2 run late in the first half.
Becky Burke scored 14 points, Dyer had 13, and Asia Taylor and Bria Smith tallied 10 apiece. Schimmel had eight points, six assists and rebounds. Sara Hammond grabbed nine rebounds for Louisville, which led 39-23 at halftime and didn't allow Michigan State to pull within single digits in the second half.
The turning point, however, might have come much earlier, when Michigan State's Lykendra Johnson picked up her second foul just 4:27 into the game. The senior forward who was averaging 11 points and 8.7 rebounds didn't play again in the first half, and the Cardinals took advantage.
"When Lykendra Johnson went out, we knew we could go at `em," Hammond said. "We knew we were stronger in the post position, and that just kind of boosted our confidence. I know for me personally it did."
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said Johnson was too frustrated to re-enter the game in the first half.
"She's kind of the glue to the team," Merchant said. "The way she got that second foul, it was really avoidable. She had a frustration moment which has gotten her to a place that puts us at a disadvantage sometimes. That hurts us definitely. I kind of thought we played on our heels from that point on."
The Spartans' other two senior starters also had off days. Porsche Poole, who went on a scoring tear late in the season, went 3 for 10 from the field and finished with eight points. Taylor Alton, a reliable barometer of the team's success, was 2 for 8 and had four points. Johnson scored five points before fouling out with 1:29 to play.
It was the fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament for the senior class and the first one that ended without a win.
"Disappointment. I don't think we went out the way we wanted to," said Alton, her eyes still red long after the final horn. "Things just really didn't fall our way tonight. I think some of us just let it get into our heads a little bit."
Klarissa Bell scored 12 points, the only Michigan State player in double figures.
The Cardinals spread their attack around. The big first-half run including 3-pointers from Burke and Schimmel. When the Spartans threatened to come back with four straight points to open the second half, Burke made a pair of free throws and Smith made a steal in the backcourt and converted the layup to restore the 16-point lead.
"We just kept going at `em," Schimmel said, "and it turned out good for us."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
Updated March 17, 2012