LOUISVILLE WBB 78- NOTRE DAME 61
The Cardinal womens' basketball squad jumped on Notre Dame early in yesterday's contest and never looked back, rolling to a 17-point win in South Bend and taking their fourth straight ACC regular season title.
Dana Evans led all scorers with 26 points and was the key to Louisville's early 28-18 first quarter lead with 14 of those points in the first 10 minutes. Four pother Cards finished in double figures as well, Liz Dixon with 12, and Hailey Van Lith, Kianna Smith and Kasa Robinson totaled 10 each, as the Cards end the regular season 21-2 and 14-2 in ACC play.
The second quarter was all Louisville as well, the Cards outscoring the Irish 16-10 to take a commanding 44-28 lead into the locker room. Louisville had actually doubled the score on UND with two minutes left in the second quarter at 44-22, but the Irish scored the last six points of the half.
The Notre Dame squad would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way, that coming near the end of the third quarter at 55-45. Robinson and Evans responded with baskets, though, in the final 30 seconds and the Cards were safe at 59-45 after three.
Any worries of a UofL fourth quarter meltdown disappeared quickly when the Cards scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter. Louisville would lead by 20 with 4:01 left in the game, 71-51, after Olivia Cochran connected inside and the Cards won the fourth quarter 19-16 and the half 34-33 to clinch the game and the conference title. All of Van Lith's 10 points came in the final 20 minutes, and Robinson added six of her points in the second half as well.
Still work to be done was the message from Jeff Walz an Dana Evans in post-game comments. Walz was also asked about the eye-brow raising NCAA Tournament "reveal" released after the game -- where the Cards were ranked at #9 in the nation and dropped to a #3 seed in NCAA Tournament play.
Walz seemed unconcerned, noting that with the tournament being staged in one location this year, home court advantages because of high seedings were not a factor this year and that regardless of your seed, you still have to win games to advance.
And, win Louisville did.
A bit of query on his starting lineup against the Irish turned into an interesting reveal of it's own. The Cards started Evans, Van Lith, Ahlana Smith, Elizabeth Balogun and Olivia Cochran on Sunday. All five have started before...but Walz was asked how he came up with that combo. He matter-of-factly stated that he wrote each player's name on a slip of paper, dropped those in a shopping bag and drew out five to determine who would start. Dana Evans was not drawn, but, Merissah Russell, who was -- told Walz that she didn't feel she had earned the start and wanted Dana to have it in place of her.
You just never know what you're going to get out of Walz. Yesterday, though, it got the Cards a win -- and we'll see if the "shopping bag starters" ploy gets carried over to Friday in the ACC Quarterfinals. Maybe he'll develop a "starters dartboard" or flip a coin...
THE FRED REPORT
We bring out the Freddy Mercury...
We are the Champions. my friends !
FREE THROWS -- Louisville went 8-9 in a game that, thankfully, didn't feature constant Dee Kantner whistles. That 88% is good for a CAPITAL "F".
REBOUNDS -- Notre Dame won the battle of the boards 35-28 but there were no players who grabbed more than seven on either team. Maybe that was because neither team shot worse than 45% for the game. But, you lose the boards battle and that won't get you a letter in the FRED stats.
EFFORT/EXECUTION -- The 51.6% shooting was impressive and the 16 assists on 32 made baskets noteworthy as well. Turnovers were moderate, not bad, at 12 Louisville actually won the points-in the-paint battle 38-32 and dominated the fast break points 13-2. A very good effort from the Cards, but not totally spectacular, so I'll offer a lowercase "e" here...a win by 25 or more would have made it a capital letter.
DEFENSE -- This is where the Cards won the game. Notre Dame had 25 turnovers, Louisville had 10 steals, the Cards got 25 points off those turnovers and none of Notre Dame's starters reached double figures in scoring (reserves Brunelle and Miles led the way with 13 and 11 points). No problem handing out a CAPITAL "D" for defensive Cardinal efforts on Sunday
FINAL FRED TALLY: F-_-e-D
All in all, a nice bounce back from the FSU loss and it's always good to go into post-season play on a win streak. Good to see Hailey Van Lith shake things up a bit and Dana was spectacular as always...but my MVP of the game Sunday has to go to Kasa Robinson, who gave Louisville 27 minutes of 5-5 shooting, five charges drawn, four assists and three steals. Having Kasa as a facilitator is good...but when she becomes a scoring threat as well, that is great. Maybe it was because she came off the bench in the topsy, turvy world of Walz "bag-o-nomics" , whatever inspited her Sunday needs to be bottled and distributed before the rest of the games this year.
ACC TOURNAMENT BRACKET SET
After the action in the final day of ACC WBB regular season play, we had a bracket formulated. Not many changes from what was set before Sunday action, UNC and Wake Forest flopped sports, going from #9 and #8 to #8 and #9 and they still have to play each other on Thursday. FSU got the #4 after Syracuse lost Sunday and dropped to the #5 seed and Virginia Tech's loss made then a #7 seed.
It all starts Wednesday at 2 p.m. with Pitt and Boston College.
SOFTBALL FALLS 2-0 TO FLORIDA
Gabby Holloway and Jen Leonhardt combined to allow just three Florida hits in six innings, but the gators made the most of them...scoring two runs in the bottom of the third to win against the visiting Cards.
The Cards registered three hits as well, but those didn't translate out into any runs. Taylor Roby, serving as the designated hitter yesterday, had two of the Cards hit and she and Taryn Weddle were both on base with singles in the fourth inning but FSU got out of danger with a strike out and a ground out. Louisville would get runners on the corners in the sixth but fail to get them home as well.
The Cards return home for weekend action at Ulmer Stadium, starting out with a Friday twilight double header against Bradley. Which Bradley? No, not Bradley Paisley and/or Bradley Cooper -- it's the gals from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Cards and Braves start it out around 4:00 p.m. (for now).
THE CARDINAL COUPLE ACC TOURNAMENT PICK'EM
Go ahead and get those picks in, the bracket has been determined and the contest has begun. $25 Cracker Barrel card to the winner, $15 card to the second place finisher. Free eats!
Here are Paulie's Picks
FIRST ROUND: BOSTON COLLEGE
SECOND ROUND: UNC, SYRACUSE, MIAMI, NORTE DAME
QUARTERS: LOUISVILLE, SYRACUSE, NC STATE, GEORGIA TECH
SEMIS: LOUISVILLE, NC STATE
You can enter in the comments section or send your selections to Bracket Czar Jared at firstname.lastname@example.org or to me at email@example.com
Good luck and may the best bracket win!