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CRAWFORD | Louisville women shake off slow start to advance to ACC Tournament semifinals

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford WDRB photo by Eric Crawford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville women’s basketball team has two ACC players of the year on its roster, and both made key plays in the final minute to lift the Cardinals to a 73-70 win over Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Friday afternoon.

But those two might not have had a chance for those heroics had Sam Fuehring not put up a career-high 17 points and Jazmine Jones not scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

The Hokies were seeded No. 9 in the tournament and Louisville, now 28-2, is the No. 1 seed. But after beating Virginia Tech by nine in Louisville on Jan. 7, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz knew his team was in for a difficult opener.

“They’re playing really well right now,” Walz said. “I think they’re an NCAA Tournament team. I hope their name is called on Selection Monday.”

Louisville started slowly. Myisha Hines-Allen picked up a pair of quick fouls and Asia Durr had a bad shooting night. Hines battled foul trouble all night but still turned in 21 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes to lead the Cardinals.

Durr made only 3 of 19 shots in the game to finish with 11 points, but the last of those shots came with 43 seconds left and the Cards leading just 67-64. She worked off a Hines-Allen screen and flashed into the lane for an elbow jumper that put the Cards up five. Just 14 seconds later, Hines-Allen anticipated a pass at the top of the Virginia Tech offense, stole it and raced in for a layup to put the Cards up seven with 29 seconds to play.

“Our post play was really good tonight,” Walz said. “We scored 40 points in the paint. We’re working on trying to get more back-to-the-basket offense, but I thought those two (Hines-Allen and Fuehring) came up big at big times for us. We had set play to Sam for a layup to extend to a three-point lead after Virginia Tech had cut it down, and I thought Myisha, when she was in the game, was very effective. I talked to our guards after the game. Our guards are letting people drive by them, and then our post players are having to step in to cover up for them. Two or three of our fouls were our post players stepping in when our guards get beat.”

Virginia Tech shot 52.2 percent in the first half and made 7 of 9 three-pointers to take a 39-33 lead to the locker room. Walz played more defense in the second half, and the Cards held Virginia Tech to 3 of 9 three-point shooting after the break.

Hines-Allen scored 16 points in the second half, including her fifth three-pointer of the season.

“We just needed to move the ball,” she said. “And it wasn’t just me. A lot of people stepped up in the second half with Asia struggling. . . . We knew we were going to get their best shot. They’re a good team, and we knew they were going to go hard for 40 minutes. We don’t really worry about the score. We just go out and compete.”

The Cards played most of the fourth quarter without Durr, but showed again that they have depth beyond their leading scorer.

“You know, she was struggling today, and everybody has the right to have a ballgame that’s not at the top of their expectations,” Walz said. “I was trying to give her a minute or a minute-and-a-half break, just to get herself settled down, and then the group that was in there started to extend the lead, so there was no reason to throw her back in there. Then as it got down toward the end I put her back in.”

Louisville shot just 40 percent and made just 4 of 19 three-pointers, but the Cards went 13-of-15 from the free-throw line and outrebounded Virginia Tech 38-32. Louisville held a 16-4 edge in second-chance points and a 20-7 edge in points off turnovers. Combined with outscoring the Hokies 40-18 in the paint, and the Cards are moving into a semifinal matchup against N.C. State, which Louisville beat by eight points in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this season.

The Cards will need Durr to be back to her old self by then. Walz said it’s a luxury to have two ACC players of the year. But it’s not enough.

“We’re not good enough to just step on the court and beat people,” Walz said. “ We have to play a team game. We’ve got to get the ball to the shooters, we’ve got to make the next pass.”

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