LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Aside from COVID-19 cancellations and a long layoff of its own, Thursday night's hastily scheduled game at Virginia Tech featured the most adversity of this season yet for the No. 2-ranked Louisville women's basketball team.
The Cards were out of sorts. They had lost a 16-point lead. Virginia Tech had gathered itself at halftime and pulled back to take a 3-point lead. Louisville had 10 turnovers in the third quarter, with just 12 points. And it had been outshot 26-5 at the free-throw line.
But Louisville scored 5 quick points to open the fourth quarter, and after falling behind again late, got back-to-back baskets and a game-sealing steal from Dana Evans in the final two minutes to win 71-67, improving to 9-0.
"It was a great win for us," Walz said. "Anytime you can get road wins, you've got to be excited about it. We've got a lot of work to do, but I said it before we came out here and played. With the amount of time we had off, and trying to play 3 quick games just to get some games under our belt, we've still got a lot of work to do. Our players know that. I know that. And we're going to have to do that. We'll take the win, be excited about it, and now it's time to continue to get better."
It helps to have the best player on the court, and Evans proved to be that on Thursday. She took the game over for Louisville when it had to have baskets, and made the key defensive play after giving the Cardinals a 4-point lead with less than a minute left. She then stole the ball at midcourt with 12 seconds left, looked up at the clock as she dribbled, and drained 7 more seconds off the clock before Virginia Tech could catch her to foul.
When the Hokies fouled freshman Hailey Van Lith on the subsequent inbounds pass, the freshman calmly swished 2 free-throws with 4.1 seconds left to seal the win.
Evans finished with 22 points, 3 steals and 3 assists. Van Lith added 15 points and a team-best 7 rebounds.
Louisville looked as if it was on its way to an easy win when it opened a 16-point second-quarter lead behind sharp 3-point shooting by Norika Konno, but Virginia Tech cut the lead to 9 at the half and kept whittling away in the third quarter.
That period was a nightmare, but Louisville steadied itself significantly in the fourth, turning the ball over only once in the period while scoring the game's final 6 points and holding Virginia Tech scoreless the final 2:25.
"The 10 turnovers in the third quarter, as my grandfather would say, the bakery was open and we were handing out turnovers. Do you want an apple or a cherry?" Walz said. "Our bakery was definitely open. But I was really pleased with the way we closed out the game, because when they went up 3, we easily could have folded. But we didn't and we continued to fight. Dana played outstanding. She went 6-of-6 from 3 our last game and struggled tonight, we all did. We've got to shoot better from 3. If we don't, it's going to be like this."
Evans final steal was designed to be a foul, but she got the ball when stabbing at it, and quickly ran it down.
"We knew Virginia Tech was a well-coached team and would get after it," Evans said. "I knew my 3 wasn't falling tonight, which was fine. I just needed to get to the basket, go to score and go up strong. And I knew we needed some points at the end, so I was looking to get to the basket and get something easy. The third quarter was tough. They came out ready to play and got the best of us, but I feel like we bounced back and responded well. With this young team, we know it's going to be some ups and downs. But I feel like they stepped up big.
"I think we showed tonight that we can pull through in a close game. Everybody's good, everybody's going to give us their best shot, so we've got to be able to grind it out and keep playing together."
Next up for Louisville is a scheduled ACC home game on Sunday at noon against Clemson.
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