LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After a break of 3 weeks, the No. 2-ranked Louisville women’s basketball team showed some rust, particularly when it came to shooting from the perimeter. But the Cardinals still had more than enough to ease back into competition with a 74-64 win over Northern Kentucky on Friday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center.
The hastily arranged game was agreed upon just before noon Thursday. No fans were admitted to the arena, only family members of players. But Louisville coach Jeff Walz and his players were just glad to get back into competition after not playing a game since a Dec. 9 victory at Duke.
The Cardinals (6-0) went 4-22 from three-point range and even misfired from point-blank range, missing 12 layups. But they were solid defensively and executed well enough without the three-pointer to beat an NKU team led by former Cardinal Lindsey Duvall, who finished with 20 points.
“Overall, I was actually pleased with the condition and shape that we were in,” Walz said. “But you could definitely see that our outside shooting was impacted a little bit by being off as long as we have been. Those 3 weeks, we practiced probably 5 times. And we had some kids that weren’t able to get in the gym ... You can practice all you want, but it’s not a game environment. Overall I was pleased. I thought we played well, and I thought NKU did a nice job. I was excited when they agreed to play us. They do a nice job and I’m very impressed by their style of play.”
Louisville led by only two at the half but finished the third quarter with a 14-0 run, keyed by Dana Evans, who led the Cardinals with 20 points. She made the team’s only four three-pointers. The rest of the team was 0-14 from beyond the arc.
The Cards got 11 points and 10 rebounds from Kianna Smith and 12 points off the bench from Liz Dixon. Hayley Van Lith, who struggled to 3-11 shooting from the field, still finished with 10 points and Olivia Cochran had 13.
With outside shots not falling, Louisville went inside effectively to Dixon and Cochran, and got effective drives to the basket from Evans and Smith.
“It’s not just three weeks not playing, but 2 ½ weeks not practicing,” Walz said. “That’s why it’s so great to get the opportunity to even get this game.”
The Cards will turn around quickly. They are scheduled to play host to Bellarmine at noon on Saturday, and expect to resume ACC play Tuesday when North Carolina visits.
“We definitely need to continue to grow as a team,” Walz said. “Defensively, we’ve got to get better. We have way too many times when they bring the ball down and we don’t know who’s guarding who, and there’s no excuse for that. Our communication has to be better.”
Still, the games help. And getting a win in a return to play, no matter how highly your team is ranked, is a positive.
“It’s a little bit of a reset,” Walz said. “You don’t take three weeks off and then jump right back into things ... But this game is great, because we have some film, and we’ll have some tomorrow, to be able to say, these are the areas where we have to get better. Film is a wonderful tool because film doesn’t lie, it’s not my opinion. Film is fact.”
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