EVANS ERUPTS FOR 26 IN CARDS WIN
The thing about Dana Evans is that she'll sneak up on you and put you away out of nowhere.
To quote post-game Dana:
"If shots aren't falling for us, I gotta find a way to get to the bucket....doing something to get this team going. Like I always say, we're young, we're talented but I still have to be that leader."
She led admirably on Sunday.
After a first quarter where neither team seemed very adept at scoring -- ostensibly because of the defense each squad was playing -- Louisville clung to a 15-14 lead and the UT Martin SkyHawks had succeeded in slowing down the Cardinal Cannonball and was making a game of it. Dana and the Cards were not exactly looking like a top five team in the nation and had produced a less-than-satisfying 4-19 shooting effort (21%) in the first 10 minutes. Against a squad who was playing their first game of the year and been practicing sparingly with just 10 players.
Cards fans were waiting for the explosion. waiting for Dana leadership to emerge, and it finally came with about seven minutes until half time. Dana nails a three to give the Cards a 25-24 lead, A minute later she puts in two free throws to increase that lead to three. Ready for the run, it's Elizabeth Balogun playing heady "D" with the steal and layup. After a UTM miss, Louisville is off and running and it's Dana with the layup. Good bye SkyHawks lead and hello Louisville seven point edge at 31-24.
The Cards were not done with the second quarter surge. Norika Konno, Liz Dixon, Dana again and Hailey Van Lith all added points in the impressive UofL half ending, 18-3 run that vaulted the Cards into a 40-27 halftime lead, And Dana? 16 points on two threes, 4-5 on free throws in 20 minutes -- playing the entire first half with a combination of 10 other Cardinals.
The Cards would go on to win the third and fourth quarter but give a lot of credit to the SkyHawks for making Louisville earn the buckets. An Evans 10-0 run on the foe, starting with a steal for a layup, followed by two threes in a two minute stretch early in the third quarter and then another successful Evans jumper may have been the killing blow for UTM. It put them behind 49-33 and they would get within 12 a couple of times, but Kianna Smith's three with 6:14 to go (off a nice pass from Mykasa Robinson, put Louisville up 74-54 and UTM could not recover.
This is a UTM team that will be a solid one, maybe the front-runner in the OVC. Former Cardinal Seygan Robins drew the start for them and seemed quite comfortable helping direct the offense. Last year's OVC Player of the Year Chelsey Perry looks like she'll be a thorn-in-the-side of future opponents again -- she poured in 26 points against the Cards and helped lead UTM to a not-so-bad 21-51 (41.2%) shooting percentage.
Louisville is going to play a lot of people in games this year it appears and you never know just who is going to step up and take the lead with Dana. Van Lith overcame a rough shooting afternoon by getting to the line and sinking six of her seven free throws. Konno is playing some very great ball for the Cards right now -- and the combination of Dixon and Olivia Cochran inside produced 14 points, 12 rebounds and helped give Louisville a 43-35 rebounding edge.
I like this "pick a Card, any Card" attack this year. Louisville is solid from starter to sub and can go 12 deep on opponents. That is a huge advantage when your reserve play/quality isn't a drop off. It doesn't give the opponent any breaks. Double team Dana and Kianna, and Norika or Olivia will make you pay. Zone the Cards? Good luck...the outside shooting will make you regret that and Liz and "E" will be there to gather any misses and put points on the board. Consider that Walz played 10 players ten minutes or more. And this wasn't a blowout. Confidence in depth, ability and performance is a beautiful thing.
UTM had a mere two second chance points and no fast break points or points-off-turnovers. That's a huge stat, and it adds credence to the phrase -- "strength in numbers". when you look at the Cards.
THE FRED REPORT
|"Lamont...can we order about 2 or 3 more Dana's?"|
FREE THROWS -- The Cards were 20-29 from the charity stripe in a game where there were too many whistles, in my opinion. That's 68.9% and falls just short of our standard of 70% for a letter. Evans, Van Lith and Konno, though, were 12-14 and that's impressive. No letter here, though...
REBOUNDING -- The Cards won this stat 43-35 and kudos to Cochran and Dixon who had 17 of them. What's really impressive is that Louisville had 12 offensive rebounds and UTM just three. Hailey grabbed seven. We proudly assign a CAPITAL "R" here, for grabbing missed shots.
EFFORT/EXECUTION -- Despite the slow start, Louisville was pretty careful in ball control with just nine turnovers. 12 assists on 29 baskets could be a little better, but they had a dominating 40 to 24 points-in-the-paint edge and shot over 50% in the middle two quarters. I'll offer the CAPITAL "E" for this category.
DEFENSE -- The defense looked good with nine steals and forcing 19 turnovers but UTM shot 41.2% from the floor and Perry was pretty unstoppable for the SkyHawks. 26 Cardinal fouls is way higher than I like, but I attribute most of that to a crew that was calling even breathing hard on a player. I'll award a small case "d" for the defense.
FINALL FRED TALLY: _-R-E-d
A silent Cameron Indoor Stadium will be weird, but the Blue Devils will try and make a little noise with six players averaging double-figure scoring. Wins over ECU, WCU and Longwood, by an average of 27 points is an impressive start for a team under a freshman head coach.
This one takes place on Wednesday night and the 7 p.m. tip is scheduled to be shown on the RSN Network.
(THANKS TO JARED ANDERSON FOR THE EXCELLENT PHOTOS IN TODAY'S ARTICLE! I got to chat with him briefly after the game...we were the only two in the normally packed Media Room after the game....and that was so eerie. Always good to see my bud, though, and he'll bring you Tuesday's article with (I'm guessing) a ton more of excellent photos from his floor spot at games.)