Cards Defeat SEMO in Season Opener
One down, many to go. #5 Louisville defeated SEMO in both teams season opener, 74-53.
After a slow start, which is expected in the first game of the season, the Cards outscored the Redhawks by 19. It was a healthy mix of new faces and familiar ones contributing to the victory.
Freshman Olivia Cochran led Louisville in scoring with 17 points that was highlighted by a 9-for-10 mark from the free throw line. Dana Evans, who is now a senior (holy cow, already?!), scored 15 points to go along with a team-high six assists. However, Evans was held without a made three-point basket. Freshman sensation Hailey Van Lith did not disappoint with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds. She filled up the stat sheet well with a made three-pointer, an assist, a steal, and a block with only two turnovers.
It was the defense that impressed. The Cards surrendered just 53 points on the game that featured allowing just eight points in the second quarter. They recorded 10 blocks led by Elizabeth Balogun's three blocks. The Cards recorded 11 steals on the day highlighted by Ahlana Smith's three.
Louisville forced 19 turnovers and converted that into 26 points off turnovers. They won that mark 26-10.
Rebounding seemed to be next to no concern after getting through the first quarter. They won the rebounding battle 50-36. The26 offensive rebounds turned into 21 second chance points. All in all, 11 players saw playing time ranging from eight minutes to 32 minutes.
SEMO was a last minute add after Middle Tennessee had to back out. Jeff Walz was extremely complimentary of the Redhawks.
"I was really appreciative for (them) to make this happen" he said. "For us to go on the road, it was a good win. We're at a point right now in college basketball in general, you've got to get as many games in as quick as you can since there's so much uncertainty."
After scoring the first bucket of the game, Louisville went back-and-forth with SEMO up until a 16-16 tie. A pair of free throws by Evans gave Louisville a lead at the end of the quarter, a lead that would never be vanquished.
Louisville would go on an 11-3 run for much of the second quarter to push the lead to 10. A Merissah Russell fast break layup art the buzzer would send the Cards into the half with their largest lead of the time at 14.
A HVL three-pointer to start the second half put the Cards up 17 before SEMO went on a run. They cut the lead to six with four minutes left in the quarter. Louisville answered with a run of their own to push it up to 15.
The defense kicked it up a notch again in the fourth quarter and gave up two points over the first 4:03. A trio of layups wrapped up the Louisville scoring going into the final 35 seconds of the game.
Overall, the game went as expected with Louisville getting the win. There were moments of early season mayhem as players get used to real opposition as well as playing with each other. Many players adjusted to the collegiate style of play or finally got to rep their Louisville uniform for the first time.
It is a solid start to the year and gets jitters out in time for their home opener this Sunday.
The ever-popular F-R-E-D report is back. Since this is the first F-R-E-D report of the season I will give the honor to our fearless leader to fill out.
Free Throws -- The Cards got to the line 27 times and made 20 of the attempts. That was good for a 74.1%. Our free throw line of success is 70%, so they squeaked by there. Olivia Cochran had the most attempts for UofL, and went a stellar 8-10 from the charity stripe. We can award a capital "F" here for making the unguarded ones.
Rebounding -- Give the edge to Louisville 50-36. The Cards didn't really pull away in this stat, though, until the latter part of the third quarter and the final quarter. SEMO only shot 8% in the fourth quarter (no, not a mistype -- they went 1-12 from the floor) and when you grtab the misses, you're numbers go up. It was rebounding by committee, although I'll point out that 5'7" Hailey Van Lith tied for the Cards leader in grabs with eight. In fact, the three freshmen combined for 21 of the Cards grabs. We'll definitely qward a capital "R" here.
Effort/Execution -- Despite the slow start, Louisville did a good job overall running the offense, given the number of players they shuttled in-and-out and it being the first game. Thumbs uo on the 26-10 points-off-turnovers Cardinal edge (creating offense off defense) but a face-palm on the 2-17 three-point shooting. If any of the Cards future opponents watch the replay of this one, they'll come out in a zone and dare UofL to beat them from the deep. So, given the good and bad, I'' award a small case "e" for the effort and execution.
Defense -- Holding SEMO to just 53 points and 27.3% shooting gets a thumbs up here, creating 19 turnovers does as well. The surprising number was a 10-1 advantage in blocked shots, seven Cards getting them and Elizabeth Balogun with three. Ahlana Smith had three steals and thaat's was a bright spot. The Cards had no answer for Tesia Thompson (21 points) but they shut down the rest of the Red Hawks and got the win. We'll bestow a capital "D" for doing it defensively.
FINAL FRED TALLY: F-R-e-D
Normally we do not have a true article on Thanksgiving but the basketball game yesterday made this year an exception.
Thanksgiving may look different this year than in recent years. We are all doing our part to keep everyone healthy and safe -- even if it means we do not see certain family or get certain food. We should be extra thankful this year for things that may range from family and friends to food to being able to afford bills, and especially our lives.
Here at CARDINAL COUPLE, we are thankful for so many things. Our families, our health, the camaraderie on our staff. our wonderful readership and that there are sports to report on. If you're reading this, be thankful you can. 262,000 fellow Americans have left grieving families and friends behind with only memories and sadness.
Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!