One of the most entertaining aspects of the gone-but-not-forgotten series with Notre Dame was listening to Geno Auriemma describe, in his own unique way, his feeling that the Irish got every imaginable foul call during the reign of Skylar Diggins under the Golden Dome.
No one knows how to plant subtle messages better than Auriemma. And when it came to Notre Dame he irrigated acres for the benefit of officials, past, present and future; for no other reason than to just make them aware of the situation, should it arise again.
He did it because he was acutely aware that how games with Notre Dame were called would have a direct impact on UConn’s ability to win them. Made perfect sense – and great listening.
So on Sunday it was interesting to listen to Louisville’s Jeff Walz strum that familiar chord. Louisville is lucky to have this guy; he is one talented, tough coach who in six years has built the program into a perennial national contender.
The Ladies’ Club that dominates the Atlantic Coast Conference of women’s basketball coaches will be greeting a true bull in its china shop when the Cardinals join next season.
Frankly, he’s one of the top personalities and coaching minds to come to the game in a decade. He demands a lot from his players and they seem to give him most of what he asks for.
But Walz loves to work the officials, probably a little too much for his own good. Geno was kidding him after the game that he was surprised Walz had any voice left to conduct his postgame press conference after straining it so much during the game. It all eventually earned Walz a technical late in the first half.
“I’m surprised he had anything left to say to you guys [the media],” Geno quipped. “I thought he left it all out there.”
And then after the game, Walz offered commentary right out of the Auriemma speech catalog.
“They do such a great job of not fouling,” Walz said of UConn. “I’m sitting here, watching them play, thinking ‘wow, if they are allowed to do things on the floor as well as they are, it’s going to be tough.’ You have play a perfect game to beat them. It’s an absolute battle. You need to have 40 minutes of mentally tough basketball, not just physically. You need to be into every play.”
I mentioned to Walz after he concluded his thought how reminiscent it sounded to Auriemma’s commentary about Notre Dame. He laughed.
“I would not dare say that,” Walz said. “If I said that, I might get into trouble. But if you want to insinuate that, that’s your right. How dare you say something like that? How shameful of you. Golly, wow! Now, make sure you all know I did not say that. Make sure that is in the notes.”
For the record, Louisville was called for 18 fouls. UConn had 16. And the Huskies outscored the Cardinals, 13-10 at the line.