LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – One lost game, two lost starters and a bunch of ticked off players.
That was the recipe for the No. 1-ranked University of Louisville women's basketball team in its first game since being knocked off by No. 4, North Carolina State on Thursday. The finished product was a 97-68 victory over Boston College, in which the Cardinals' offense roared back to life.
The defense, on the other hand, took a bit to get back in gear. After Boston College made its sixth 3-pointer to tie the game at 33 midway through the second quarter, the Cards scored 14 straight points to take control, and cruised.
"It was a great win for us," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "I thought offensively we played really, really well ... Our defensive effort still has to get better. I've challenged them and will continue to challenge them. We've got to get tougher physically. When you get beat on straight-line drives there's not much I can do as a coach. You can only play so many different ways. But if you can't keep someone in front of you for at least 2 dribbles, I can't help fast enough. So we're going to have to continue to work on that. But overall I was really, really pleased."
Louisville (17-8, 10-1) played without a pair of starters. Forward Elizabeth Balogun was in Atlanta for workouts with the Nigerian National Team. Freshman center Olivia Cochran suffered a minor injury in practice this week.
It didn’t matter much.
Walz dipped into his bench often, with Norika Konno, Marissa Russell and Ahlana Smith double-digit minutes. He also started Mykasa Robinson at the point, asking her to bring her regular defensive intensity while feeding Dana Evans and Kianna Smith.
"I thought Mykasa brought us a lot of energy to start the game," he said. "I put her at the point to try to change our tempo, and thought she did an outstanding job of that."
After struggling to defend N.C. State in the half-court, Walz used more full-court pressure against Boston College.
Evans led the Cardinals with 23 points, one of 5 on the team to score in double figures. Hailey Van Lith added 14, Kianna Smith 13, Liz Dixon 11 and Konno had 10 – to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists, plus outstanding defense in perhaps her best effort in a Louisville uniform.
"We moved the ball and people did what they could do and what they do well," Walz said. "Instead of people wanting to hunt the basketball we had people setting screens, putting bodies on people, getting our shooters open, which is exactly what we have to have. So I was proud of them, and that's what we have to continue to do."
Louisville outscored Boston College 50-32 in the paint and 32-9 from the bench. The Cardinals out rebounded the Eagles 43-27.
"We did a much better job of rebounding. We started to put a body on somebody and pushed back so we could rebound in front of us," Walz said. "And that's what we're going to have to keep doing. We're not the biggest team. We're not the strongest team. We've got to be fundamental. And that's what we talked to our kids about."
Louisville returns home for an ACC matchup against Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon. Walz said Cochran sprained a knee in practice and has been moving well, but there was no reason not to continue to rest her. He said Balogun will return to Louisville on Saturday and will be available for Sunday's game.
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