(AP) – Louisville coach Jeff Walz just hopes his health can improve as much as the Cardinals’ recent play.
Walz has battled sickness all week including a 101-degree fever, but he’s hustled to attract fans for games that tip early on a work day. Walz said Thursday that he had called, emailed or used social media to reach out to more than 200 bosses in town after fans took him up on his offer to ask for permission to miss work and turn out at the KFC Yum! Center for Friday’s matchup against Central Arkansas.
Walz missed a practice himself while dealing with the fever and other flu-like symptoms.
”I tried to drive in on Tuesday and didn’t quite make it all the way in,” said Walz, who guessed it was only his third absence in nine years at Louisville. ”I decided to turn back around after I pulled off the road.”
Walz guided other workouts from the arena’s balcony to avoid making his players sick and aims to feel better with a win.
The third-seeded and eighth-ranked Cardinals have won a lot lately, with victories in 24 of 27 games since a 1-4 start. They aren’t the only team in the game with an impressive late-season run – No. 14 seed Central Arkansas has won 18 of 19.
Those attending will see one of the best players in the ACC in Louisville sophomore Myisha Hines-Allen, who averages 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds.
While the Sugar Bears (28-3) don’t have that star power, they play stellar defense. Central Arkansas, making its NCAA Tournament debut after moving from Division II in 2011, is ninth in the country in points allowed at 51.8 per game. Louisville (25-7) averages 71.7.
Central Arkansas coach Sandra Rushing said she’ll act quickly if she feels her team is overwhelmed by the moment.
”My concern is our players being on the big stage for the first time,” Rushing said. ”If you see me use all my timeouts in the first five minutes to settle them down, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Sugar Bears are led by first-team Southland Conference selection Maggie Proffitt, who scores 14.3 points per game.
The Cardinals hosted the regional final two years ago before losing to Maryland, while Central Arkansas has won 15 straight away from home – including the Southland tournament – since losing its road opener 102-47 to then-No. 4 Tennessee on Nov. 15.