Tennessee and Louisville are talking about continuing their women’s basketball series. Here’s hoping the discussions are fruitful and there are more night’s like Friday, when 22,124 packed the KFC Yum! Center to watch the Lady Vols’ 63-50 victory.
What the game lacked in precison — both teams combined to shoot 35.6 percent from the floor and committ 51 turnovers — it covered for with passion. The Lady Vols were talking about their battle scars afterward while the Cardinals were talking solace from landing some blows on the nation’s No.4 ranked team.
Future installments already tempt the imagination. While UT freshman Meighan Simmons was debuting with 22 points and 8 rebounds Louisville was unveiling an entire rookie class, everything from Shoni Schimmel’s behind-the-back dribbles to Sheronne Vails and Antonita Slaughter seemingly everywhere defensively.
Granted, this isn’t the Big East opponent with which fans have been preoccupied. But the shared animosity between UT’s Pat Summitt and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma likely has killed that celebrated series for good. A UT-Louisville annual affair could never fill the void, but it has serious potential.
The relatively proximity between the two schools is appealing. Louisville’s fan base seems ready to buy in. Friday night’s turnout was more event-inspired, since it was the first official game in the new arena and the Cardinals were honoring former All-American Angel McCoughtry. Still the crowd was into the game, enough that Louisville coach Jeff Walz thanked them afterward.
“Tennessee brought some fans up; they travel well, but it’s not like they brought up 6,000,” he said. “The majority were Louisville fans.”
Of course, it certainly helps that the two coaches get along. Walz was appreciative of Tennessee’s presence for his program’s big night, but his team certainly wasn’t deferential. The Cardinals’ blew up UT’s choice of a starting lineup and took the Lady Vols out of their game.
Summitt, meanwhile, admires the program and tradition Walz is building in his fourth year at Louisville.
“He’s excellent,” she said. “He’s really, really good and he’s going to keep winning and he’s going to keep getting players. I think he does things the right way and that’s why I would consider us trying to keep the series going.”
In the next breath, she added, “But again, I don’t even know who we play next. So I’ll figure it out down the road.”
Here’s hoping something gets figured out.