LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It was time for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team to win a big game after a couple of tough losses to ranked opponents in January, but No. 11-ranked North Carolina came into the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday afternoon as the ACC’s hottest team, with an 8-game winning streak, including 3 wins over nationally ranked opponents.
It was not always a pretty game, but the Cardinals used an outstanding defensive effort, along with 17 points each from Chrislyn Carr and Hailey Van Lith, to put away the Tar Heels 62-55 and keep themselves in contention for an ACC Tournament bye in front of a crowd of 10,069.
And the game turned, according to players, on a second-half technical foul that Louisville coach Jeff Walz got after he thought a UNC player kicked her foot out on a 3-point shot to draw a foul call. Walz called a timeout just to lay into the referees. He drew a technical, but made his point.
It could’ve been a devastating moment for Louisville, after North Carolina hit four free throws and pushed a 3-point lead to 9. Instead, it lit a fire under the team.
“For me it was when Coach Walz got that T, and I was like, ‘OK. If coach is going to put this much into it, coach Walz got that tech, and I was like, ‘OK, if this is how we’re doing it, if coach is going to put this much into it, then it’s the least we can do as players," Mykasa Robinson said. I think we really invested in each other and playing for each other at that point.”
“Yeah,” Carr agreed. “We all got fired up.”
Trailing by 8 shortly after, Louisville went on a 13-1 run built on a trio of 3-pointers by Carr and a couple of layups by Morgan Jones. The Cards emerged with a 41-37 lead, and never trailed again.
"I was not trying to get a technical to try and get my team to play hard. I thought we were playing hard," Walz said. "But you can only watch so much of it before you have to make a statement."
The difference in this game and others in which the Cards have had some scoring droughts and fell just short, was defense. Especially late in the first half during a 5-minute span in which they scored only 2 points, but gave up only 4. North Carolina came in with 5 players averaging in double figures, led by junior Deja Kelly at 16 per game. But Kelly finished with a team-best 13 points on just 3 of 16 shooting.
Louisville held the Tar Heels to 33.3 percent shooting for the game, and just 1-for-12 from 3-point range. Even with a small lineup, the Cards outrebounded the taller team led by 12 rebounds from Nyla Harris and 8 each from Robinson and Jones. The Cards went just 16 of 24 from the free-throw line, but made 9 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
The Cards were outscored 24-14 in the paint and 24-17 off turnovers. But Louisville held an 18-8 edge in second-chance points and outscored UNC 24-3 from beyond the arc.
“We wanted this game,” said Robinson, who finished with 5 points, 4 assists, 7 fouls drawn and a bruise under her eye. “We talked about it for days. In practice, it was never just about a game. It was about beating them. We just wanted to show what we could do if we played a full 40 minutes. It was physical. . . . But I like physical games. I’m a physical player. I’m fine with it.”
Copyright 2023 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.