No. 8 Louisville women beat No. 23 Syracuse 78-58
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) In leading Louisville to two national title games in eight years, coach Jeff Walz has shown he's not wedded to any particular system and will use whatever scheme the situation calls for to crack an opponent.
He earned his 200th win behind a balanced offense built on finding the open teammate as the No. 8 Cardinals beat No. 23 Syracuse 78-58 on Thursday night. Louisville had 26 assists on 31 baskets.
''His passion for the game is like no other,'' said senior forward Sara Hammond, a member of the 2013 national runners-up. ''He doesn't think like all the other coaches. He doesn't have a set style of basketball. He just does whatever works and whatever is going to get the win.''
The Cardinals (19-2, 7-1 ACC) trailed 30-29 at halftime but started the second half on a 13-2 run and didn't let up, shooting 66 percent and playing what Walz called one of their best halves of the season.
''I think tonight, you saw some kids that had some good shots make passes to players that had great shots, and that's what you've got to get to,'' he said, calling this season's squad the best passing team he's had.
Myisha Hines-Allen came off the bench for the second straight game and matched the career-high 23 points she set four days ago against Miami. Mariya Moore added 21 points, 19 in the second half.
Jude Schimmel scored 13 and Hammond had 13 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight assists.
Diamond Henderson led Syracuse (15-6, 5-3) with 20 points.
Moore hit a 3-pointer to start the second half, her first of four, and the Cardinals led 42-32 less than four minutes in.
''He does a very good job of changing up his schemes,'' said Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman, who has faced Walz seven times. ''He changes his defense every possession. He changes his defense within possessions and it gets people confused at times.''
Syracuse pulled to 48-41 before Louisville unleashed a 22-4 run in just more than 5 1/2 minutes. That put the Cardinals up 70-45 with 7:17 remaining. All eight baskets in the sequence came with an assist, part of Louisville's last 11 field goals that started with a teammate's pass.
The 43-year-old Walz is 200-72 in eight seasons. He guided Louisville to the national title game in 2009 and 2013, losing to Connecticut both times. Those teams were led by volume scorer Angel McCoughtry and sharp-shooting Shoni Schimmel, respectively. This season's top-10 squad is more balanced.
Walz reached the 200-win mark nine games faster than Connecticut coaching great Geno Auriemma, but that's not a comparison the Louisville coach is willing to entertain anytime soon.
''He's got probably about 700 more (wins), and he's got, what, nine national championships? So once I get to that, then I'll start to brag some,'' Walz joked.
Walz became the 21st-fastest among active coaches to reach 200 wins. Since arriving in 2008, 31 of Walz's 200 victories have come against Top 25 opponents.
Syracuse: The Orange's biggest loss of the season snapped a five-game winning streak. All six defeats this season have been to teams ranked in the top 20 at the time of the loss, with four against top-10 competition.
Louisville: It was the ninth time Louisville has had at least 20 assists this season. The Cardinals entered ninth in the country with 17.9 assists per game. . Bria Smith entered with a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in ACC matchups, best in the conference, and improved on that mark with seven assists and two turnovers.
Syracuse visits No. 9 Florida State on Monday.
Louisville visits No. 17 Duke on Monday.