NEW ORLEANS — Ron Lasley and his daughter, Carrie, are one of several hundred Louisville fans, by their estimate, who traveled the past two days between the Women’s Final Four here and the men’s Final Four in Atlanta.
Both Louisville programs reached the NCAA semifinals, and the school’s fan base has responded.
“When we see somebody here, we ask them, ‘Are you doing a double?’ ” Carrie Lasley said. “We’ve had an exciting year. I’ll take the traveling; it means we’ve got a lot of wins.
On Friday, Carrie Lasley, a Louisville native and UL graduate now living in New Orleans, took a train to Atlanta to meet her father in time to watch the men’s team rally Saturday night to beat Wichita State 72-68 and earn a berth to Monday night’s championship game.
After the game, they started the trek to New Orleans, entertaining themselves on the road by counting Kentucky license plates.
After Sunday’s game, the duo was scheduled to leave for Atlanta. Since Louisville beat California, they planned to return to New Orleans for the women’s title game.
Ron Lasley, a men’s basketball season-ticket holder since the 1970s, offered a tip for Louisville travelers: “Make sure you stay awake.”
The Louisville pep band and cheerleaders were split between the cities.
“It didn’t matter to me,” said sophomore Lauren Bajek, whose instrument is the mellophone. “I just think it’s great that we’ve got teams in both Final Fours.”
Although the Final Four is officially a sellout, there appeared to be as many unoccupied seats as those filled when the Cal/Louisville game tipped off.
A possible reason: Baylor fans, in anticipation of the top-ranked Lady Bears being here, were a major source of early ticket sales. A report out of Waco, Texas, after Baylor’s loss to Louisville in the Oklahoma City regional semifinals indicated fans were having a hard time unloading their tickets and no longer had the desire to trek to New Orleans.
Another day, another award for Baylor star Brittney Griner.
The 6-foot-8 Griner received the United States Basketball Writers Association’s Ann Meyers Drysdale Player of the Year award during a news conference Sunday.
Drysdale was on hand to present the award to Griner, who won it for the second straight year. On Saturday, she received the Associated Press’ Player of the Year award.
“Two years in a row — I never would have thought I’d be here,” Griner said. “I’m honored to get this award and couldn’t have done it without all the people who have supported me, both back at school and here.”
Drysdale is general manager of the Phoenix Mercury, which has the first pick in the upcoming WNBA draft, and thus presumably is Griner’s future boss.
Tyler Summitt, son of Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summitt, presented the Pat Summitt Courage Award to coach Beckie Francis of Oakland (Mich.) University. Francis said the fallout surrounding the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal helped prompt her to go public with her story. Francis was abused by her father, now deceeased.
“The reason I decided to come out with my story was because I was tired of hearing the comments people were making about the victims,” she said. “I wanted to show (victims) not to be ashamed and to get help.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was named USBWA Coach of the Year but didn’t attend because of preparations for Sunday’s semifinal against Connecticut. She also was the AP choice for Coach of the Year.
The string of postseason awards continues Monday with the presentation of the top MVP award, the Wade Trophy.
Griner is expected to win the award from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association; the ceremony begins at 5 p.m. in the theater of the New Orleans Convention Center.
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