CRAWFORD | Dominant defense leads Louisville women past Michigan into WNIT final
After a sluggish first half, the No. 5-ranked Louisville women's basketball team put on a dominant performance in the second, outscoring No. 24-ranked Michigan 42-12 on its way to a 74-49 win in the Women's NIT semifinals.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville women’s basketball team is the product of multiple highly-rated recruiting classes, a returning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, and the preseason ACC player of the year – and they’re not the same player – along with a coach who has twice been to the NCAA championship game.
A team with that makeup, with size, with depth, with one of the more gifted scorers in college basketball in Asia Durr, with one of the more versatile interior players in the game in Myisha Hines-Allen, has all of the components of a championship team.
The Cardinals are ranked No. 5 in the nation. Last week, they won at then-No. 5 Ohio State in overtime with Durr scoring a school-record 47 points. This is a serious basketball team.
In the second half against No. 24-ranked Michigan Thursday night in the KFC Yum Center, they showed how serious.
After trailing 37-32 at the half, Louisville outscored unbeaten Michigan 19-4 in the third quarter and 42-12 in the half to roll to a 74-49 win before a crowd of 5,651 in the semifinals of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
PHOTO GALLERY: Louisville beats Michigan in the WNIT
“We came out in the second half, and it was a pretty impressive performance,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We defended as well as any team that I’ve coached, for 20 minutes. With about three minutes to go in the game, they had scored six points in the second half. I don’t care who you are, that’s not easy to do. We guarded without fouling. It was remarkable. And I’ve got to give our bench credit. They came in and did a really nice job. We spread the floor, we made the extra pass, and we started to make some shots.”
It was, for 20 minutes, at the very least a glimpse of what could be for this team, and at best a glimpse of things to come.
Durr and Hines-Allen are pretty much given. They’re a 1-2 punch not unlike the Angel McCoughtry-Candyce Bingham attack that led Louisville to the 2009 NCAA title game.
After her big-scoring effort in Columbus, Durr was cold to open on Thursday night. After driving for a layup for her first points, she missed her next eight shots to finish the half 1-for-9. Hines-Allen kept the Cards close, making 7 of 10 shots in the half, while the rest of the team went just 5-for-21.
Michigan led by as many as eight early in the second quarter. Senior Katelynn Flaherty, who became Michigan’s all-time leading scorer on Thursday and who came in averaging 24.5 points in two games this season, made all five of her three-point tries in the first half and scored 17 points before the break.
Walz was incensed, and relayed that to his team in the locker room.
“It was awful,” Walz said. “What do you want? I’m giving you the truth, we were absolutely terrible. There’s no other way to say it. (Flaherty) is their best player, she’s an All-Big Ten player, and we sat there and told them you can’t put your hand down. And she had 17 in the first quarter? At what point do you say, ‘Hey, she’s actually pretty good.’ In one timeout I said, ‘Don’t guard her, people. Don’t guard her. Because then you might guard her.’ It was opposite day. So we had a very nice conversation at halftime. I just told them, if I was a fan, I’d leave, because your effort was awful. Your execution was awful. So why would anybody want to watch that?”
Suffice it to say, the Cardinals turned it around. Flaherty only attempted one three in the second half and scored only six points in the period, half of Michigan’s total.
And the Cardinals heated up. Louisville shot 51.7 percent in the half and made 5 of 6 from three-point range. They forced 15 turnovers and scored 13 points off them. Ten players scored in the half, led by Durr with eight points.
“They were really able to turn up their defense and cause havoc against us,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “It was a great defensive performance for them. It was great for us to have to face that pressure. . . . I thought we did a good job at half, but Hines-Allen did a great job against us. She really exposed us.”
Hines-Allen led Louisville with 19 points and Durr finished with 13. The Cardinals now advance to the WNIT title game on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. They’ll face No. 10-ranked Oregon, which was a winner at No. 19 Texas A&M on Thursday night. It’ll be Louisville’s third straight game against a nationally ranked opponent.
“I’m hoping we can get some more people to come out and watch this group. We run an alley-oop play to start the game, and it’s not like (Jazmine Jones) comes down and goes back up. She finishes in the air. It’s pretty darn impressive. So we’ve got a great group of young women who really athletic, who are talented, who play hard. So I’m hoping we can get some more people to come out and watch this group.”
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