Greensboro, NC – Asia Durr scored 17 points and Sam Fuehring converted a key three-point play in the final minute, helping No. 4 Louisville beat No. 5 Notre Dame 74-72 on Sunday to win its first Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title.
Arica Carter finished with 16 points and hit four 3-pointers, Fuehring and Myisha Hines-Allen each finished with 15 and Durr, the ACC’s player of the year, hit four free throws in the final seconds to help the top-seeded Cardinals (32-2) win their first conference tournament since 1993 — when they won the Metro Tournament.
Jessica Shepard had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Arike Ogunbowale added 20 points for the second-seeded Fighting Irish (29-3), who failed to win the ACC Tournament for the first time since joining the league. They had won the previous four years.
Notre Dame trailed 65-64 with the ball in the final minute before turning it over on a shot-clock violation with 45.5 seconds left. Fuerhing then hit a layup through contact from Marina Mabrey with 24.9 seconds left, and then hit the free throw to make it 68-64.
After Shepard countered with a quick jumper, Louisville went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 18.2 seconds to seal it.
Louisville Post Game Press Conference
MIKE FINN: Coach, just a brief opening statement and we’ll go to questions.
JEFF WALZ: First just want to start off by thanking the ACC, commissioner Swofford, Nora Lynn, Brad, everyone that’s a part of putting on this tournament. They do an absolutely wonderful job. It’s really impressive. It first class, from our host, to is the greeters when you walk in the arena, everybody just does a remarkable job, and it’s been like that since the days I was an assistant coach at Maryland. It’s a wonderful place and just appreciate the hospitality.
On the game, it was a great basketball game. You know, we sat there and knew it was going to be a game of runs, and you know, our largest lead is eight with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. They have got a five-point lead with 9:43 in the third.
It was a really, really good basketball game. If you’re a fan, you had to enjoy it. It had runs, had big-time shots, big-time plays. It was just entertaining. Got to give Notre Dame a ton of credit. Jess Shepard, we couldn’t handle her. She was phenomenal down low, wore us out. Had 23-10. I thought Kristina Nelson came in, gave them huge minutes. She normally does not score much but she really affected us and put the ball in the basket.
But I thought our kids defensively, we made it extremely difficult on their guards. I thought we did a great job on Marina. We just kept telling them, you can’t let her touch it. You can’t give her a touch. The kid, she’s fun to watch. She’s not fun to coach against but she’s fun to watch. She makes big-time shot after big-time shot. She only need a second to get it off.
Then Arike, I thought we did a great job. She ended up with 20 but she gets six there at the end on two three-point shots that she kind of throws in at the buzzer. So we had done a very good job of frustrating her, and that’s what you have to do. They score the ball so well. You’ve got to make it as difficult as you can on them.
And then for us, you know, they really took to us on the offensive glass in the first half. I thought we did a much better job of controlling the backboard in the second. And then we got some points off their turnovers which we needed to do. Just proud of every single one of them. It was just a great team win tonight.
Q. About eight minutes into the first period, you had three starters with two fouls. I guess this is where you started earning your money. How were you able to finesse that foul situation in the second period while still maintaining contact with Notre Dame?
JEFF WALZ: That was a big concern of mine, but I knew I couldn’t keep all three of them on the bench at the same time for an extended period of time.
So I tried to get them out for three or four minutes here and then go back with one, and then to end the first half, I had all three of them out there I think, and then, you know, we end up converting on a free throw, and then we did a great job.
I put the bench in, and I thought it was a huge play in the game where they are going for a last second shot trying to run the shot clock down and we come up with a steal. I mean, it was a big, big play because momentum could have really been in their favor if they knock that down, go in the half on a made basket. Instead we come up with a stop.
Now we didn’t score, but that’s what we had to do and once we got to halftime, you know, and we only had Jaz with three fouls and everybody else with two. I felt good about it.
Q. Were could you describe what Myisha means to this team and her getting the MVP, what she did out there today for you, and that may be the best assist of her career there to Sam at the end?
JEFF WALZ: Well, she had two huge assists there in the fourth quarter. The offensive boards she gets and she kicks out to Asia for a three and then up over the top to Sam. You know, Sam finished that thing.
She went up, she finishes it with her left and her right as well as any player I’ve coached and then on top of that she steps up to the free throw line and knocks down a big-time free throw. We go five of five at the line in the last minute, ten or so of the game, which what you have to do if you want to win. So I was just really proud. Myisha has grown just so much, not just as a basketball player. You know what, at the end of the day, everybody’s — the game is going to be over and we’re all going to move past it.
We’ll have some great memories about it, but the one thing I know, she has grown as a young woman. I have no doubt that she is going to be successful when she leaves here, and that’s our No. 1 job. You know, sure, we’ll get fired if we don’t win basketball games as coaches. But if we don’t have these young women prepared for life after, shame on us. And we take a lot of pride in that at Louisville, not only getting them better as basketball players but getting them better as people.
She’ll tell you, four years with me is not easy. You know, because I expect a lot from them. Because I want them when they leave here to sit there when they go get that first job and be like, man, my boss is simple. I played for that crazy guy. And you know, that’s what I know and I’m really proud of her. The basketball part, it doesn’t surprise me but what she’s done academically in our community is just amazing.
Q. Can the two of you sort of talk about what Sam has meant to this team? Especially this whole tournament, she’s really played really, really well. What she’s meant to this team because she was such a huge part and ended up being First-Team All Tournament.
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yeah, Sam came up huge. She’s been playing like that this whole season. So when like the teams came out, I thought that Sam, and I’m pretty sure my teammates did, too; thought that she should have been Second Team or First Team. She does so much for this team and she’s a big part of it. Like if we go on runs, she’s right there with us. If it’s a big stop, she’s right there in it with a stop.
Sam, she’s playing like that this whole season, and I’m just glad that she took advantage of this opportunity and showed the country what she’s able to do.
JEFF WALZ: She said it all right there. Sam Fuehring has matured as a person, it’s really been amazing to watch the maturity growth that she’s had from her sophomore year to her junior year. Sam is an emotional player.
Her freshman, sophomore year, her emotions used to get the best of her. So something bad would go on, a turnover or a foul, I couldn’t get her out fast enough because I knew the next foul was coming or the next turnover or a bad shot. It was just she got so frustrated, and she worked hard this summer on just being able to control those emotions.
We knew it — I knew it at the Ohio State game because the kid took seven charges in the Ohio State game and then turned it over once, shook it off, came back down the floor and steps in and takes a charge. Like I saw the maturity. She’s just a workhorse. I mean, I’ve never seen somebody on the ground as much as she is.
Myisha benefits a lot because Sam boxes out her man and Myisha’s man and then Myisha gets the rebound. It’s fun to watch. I’ve never seen a kid that can finish as well as she does with her left and right hand. I’m almost completely underneath the basket and brings it back behind her and finishes.
So I’m just really proud of her. I’m really proud of all of them. It’s a great basketball team but it’s a group of women who have high character and they are fun to be around.
Q. You talked a little about the offensive rebounds, they had nine in the first half, three in the second. What was the adjustment you made there?
JEFF WALZ: Well, it helped as soon as we were able to get our post players back in the game. You know, like as soon as Myisha and Sam were able to get back in there, play more minutes consistency, it allowed us to do a much better job of keeping them off the glass.
But it’s effort. I mean, it’s hard work. I thought Jazmine Jones was phenomenal. She only comes up with four rebounds, but she was tipping bad basketballs, keeping things alive. The things that you don’t see in the stats sheet, but when you go back and look at the game film, you know, it’s really impressive, her hustle plays.
Q. I wanted to ask the players, what it feels like to snag this title away from Notre Dame, but just a quick question for Coach, first. Anything you want to share about your post game handshake with Muffet?
JEFF WALZ: No, I just wanted to make sure she knew who Asia Durr was. The comment that she felt Arike should have been Player of the Year because she had more rebounds, more assists, which is fine, but at least, instead of saying “the other player that won,” just have the common courtesy to say her name. So I just wanted to make sure she knew who Asia was. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You know, I’m going to stand up for my player.
Everybody has an opinion of who they thought should have won this or should have won that, and that’s okay. But I just would much rather have someone say, hey, instead of the other player, just at least have the respect to say their name, that’s all.
Q. I think the players were asked — yeah.
ASIA DURR: The question was, how does it feel to win. I’ve been saying it over and over again for like the past 30 minutes, I’m speechless. I’m just in awe. Just to see our team, we fight hard. We fight hard. The game of basketball is a game of runs, so we stayed within each other, my teammates played unbelievable tonight. Stepped up big.
I mean, I can go down the whole list of this whole team. They all played a part in this game. You know, I’m just so thankful for them. I’m thankful for our coaching staff, as well. I mean, this was for our fans, for our coaches, and our team.
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: Yeah, I mean, whenever you’re able to play a team like this for a second time and get this win, you’re speechless. You can’t really explain how you feel because it’s just such a big win and we knew we needed this win, not only for ourselves but for our fans, for our family, for everyone around us.
We just knew it was going to be a game of runs, they were going to go on their runs. They are a ranked team and they have a Hall of Fame coach on their side. So they are going to go on runs. They are going to play their hardest.
So I mean, I’m speechless, too. It’s just hard to put in words how I’m feeling right now because it’s such a big win. It feels so good.
ASIA DURR: It does.
Q. Yesterday when they cut the eight-point lead to four, you missed a shot and you got the offensive rebound in traffic, kicked it out to Asia for the three. Also at the end of the game they have the ball down by two, a chance to tie and you forced a shot clock violation and you’re in the middle of the floor. Can you talk about those two plays, kind of epitomize your career?
MYISHA HINES-ALLEN: I mean, I’m just here for the team to do whatever is needed. If they need me to be the defensive stopper, I’m going to be the defensive stopper. If they need me to make a play, I’m going to make the play.
So I’m just here playing for my teammates. That play when I passed it to Sam, that’s something we do all the time. You look at our previous games, that’s me catching it and Sam diving. The girl guarding Sam comes up to me, I’m dumping it right to Sam and I know she’s able to finish. Like Coach Walz said, on the left or right side through contact.
That was something that that just came natural. It wasn’t even — I wasn’t even thinking about it. It was natural to dump off to Sam once I seen her girl come up.
On the defensive end we knew we needed that one stop. We’ve got to keep that one stop, that one stop. Because I mean, offensively, a lot of our shots were falling; if we crash that board; if Asia got that three — or AC was hitting, too. So everyone I feel like on the offensive end was going well, but we just had to get the stops on defense.
Q. You didn’t hesitate a second it wasn’t easy to pull the ball out and run some clock, but it was a dagger.
ASIA DURR: My teammates and my coaches, they have given me so much confidence. They all tell me to knowledge that shot do you know. When I hear that, I know to shoot it.
They just bring so much to me. They keep me going. They keep me — I couldn’t ask for a better team or coaches. That’s one of the reasons why I came here. When I first went to Louisville in high school, I knew that was the place, because it felt like home and nothing else nothing has changed since then.
Q. Everybody knows what has gone on in Louisville in the athletic program for the last year or so. What does this do or mean to the fans who have kind of needed a breath of fresh air?
JEFF WALZ: I hope it puts a smile on everybody’s face. I’ve been saying it all year in the midst of what’s been going on and what’s transpired; that you’ve got a special group of young women who are pretty fun to watch. And I’ve been trying to convince everyone, come on out and give them a chance.
You know, 32-2, 15-1, now you can say 18-1 in the league; it’s been a remarkable run. But we haven’t finished. That’s the one thing, I’ll let the players enjoy this for two days and then we’ve got bigger fish to fry. But I’m hoping. I mean, the one thing I will say, I thought the crowd today was great. I’m hoping that we can fill the Yum!, at least our lower bowl, which I think will be about 11,500, 12,000 for our first- and second-round games.
Our city needs to come out and support these young women for what has gone on and how they have handled it from their side of it, is pretty remarkable. I tell our fans all the time, you know, nobody comes and screams for me. Now, they will scream at me, when I’ve done something stupid but they don’t scream for me. They are cheering for the players.
You know, and I think sometimes with the midst of what’s going on in our athletic department, people forget that. You know, you’re coming to games to cheer for Lamar Jackson. You’re coming to games to cheer for Asia Durr, Myisha Hines-Allen, you’re not coming to games to cheer for the coach or administrator.
So I’m hoping that our fans will come out next weekend and just show these kids the love and support that I truly believe they deserve and they have earned. And it won’t surprise me because we have some of the best fans, not just in women’s basketball but in college athletics.
Q. Along those lines, what is it that you learned about your team this week that help you get them prepared for that next step in a couple weeks?
JEFF WALZ: Well, I really don’t think I learned anything new to be honest with you. I didn’t call any time-outs. You know, they sit there and take an eight-point lead and cut it to one, and I didn’t call a time-out. I didn’t have to call a time-out. We’ve been through these situations. They know how to execute.
And they grinded it out and figured it out. And that’s what players do. I feel really good about that as a coach and my staff, because a lot of times coaches feel, you have to control every second of the game, and I didn’t feel I had to do that. Our kids knew what to do.
And then going into that last minute, we got three time-outs, which if we had needed to advance the ball, or anything like that, we were going to be able to.
So it’s a great group to coach. I’ve got a ton of confidence in them, even in tough situations, and that’s what you have to have. You’ve got to show belief in your players in order for them to trust you.
Thank you, everybody.
MIKE FINN: Thanks, Coach.
Notre Dame Post Game Press Conference
MUFFET McGRAW: I thought that Louisville played a really good game. I thought they made big shots when they had to. They got some huge offensive rebounds. I thought the offensive rebound kick out was probably the dagger and the game-winning shot. We had some opportunities that we squandered but our execution wasn’t quite as good but I think that’s because of their defense. They really did a great job defensively. We were not able to really see the mismatches when we had them.
I thought we could have got the ball in to Jess a little bit more but I thought Jess played a great game. But I thought Carter was the difference in the game. She was the one that really showed up big for them.
Q. Coach, want to ask you about, there’s a huge possession at the end of the game, you’re down by two, have the ball. You didn’t look like you liked what you saw. You called a time-out with 12 seconds on the shot clock, and you still end up getting a shot clock violation. What happened on that possession?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, we turned it over, drove the ball and just lost the handle. It was just a great defensive play by them.
Q. You made some really uncharacteristic mistakes at the end of the game. Do you think that you were just tired?
MUFFET McGRAW: No, I don’t think so. I think our execution was poor for most of the game. I think our guards didn’t handle the pressure well and we weren’t able to execute.
Q. Do you feel like you have a 1-seed locked up, though?
MUFFET McGRAW: No, I think it depends on what happens in the tournament, in the other tournaments. I think we certainly are in the conversation.
Q. Obviously you’re disappointed in the outcome, but I assume this is one of the reasons you came to Notre Dame was to play against a top-five team in a championship game. How does this prepare you for the next couple weeks?
JESSICA SHEPARD: Yeah, obviously that’s why I came to Notre Dame is to compete for championships. For us there’s a lot to learn from that game. I think the emphasis Coach has been putting on the little things, it got exploited and there are things we have to fix if we want to reach our goals.
Q. Obviously it stinks right now, but you guys have had a really incredible year, and you’re sitting next to one of the best coaches in basketball, not just the women’s game, but in all college basketball. But how has she managed to keep you together and make sure you could still accomplish goals considering how much you lost?
JESSICA SHEPARD: She’s a Hall of Famer for a reason. We never have to doubt that she’s going to put us in positions to win the game. She just comes in every day with the same energy, the same effort, and just comes down to us, really.
Q. You were talking about the ball pressure. Was that the key to the game, you guys not being able to handle that?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, I really thought that we weren’t able to execute at all because of the pressure on the ball.
Q. I noticed you switched out your guards quite a bit. Were you just trying it find the right combination to try to overcome that?
MUFFET McGRAW: We put Jackie at the point because we wanted marijuana to get on the wing and try to get her free for some shots. Jackie was a little more steady with the ball I thought in the backcourt.
Q. Playing Marina off the ball, still there were a couple of late threes but for most of the game they took the three-point shot away from you.
MUFFET McGRAW: I’m sorry. I didn’t get the question.
Q. They took the three-point shot away. Was it something they were doing or something you weren’t doing?
MUFFET McGRAW: Yeah, I thought their pressure was really good. They were switching. They really weren’t going to let Marina get free for anything today.
Q. Asia was struggling most of this tournament. Were you a little bit surprised by the balance they had?
MUFFET McGRAW: We thought Hines-Allen and Durr were the two players we really had to try to contain, and that’s why I thought Carter was the difference in the game.
MIKE FINN: Thanks, Coach.