LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz has experienced some harrowing finishes in his career, but he hasn’t had a start to a game more taxing than Sunday. The Cardinals' tipoff against Clemson was delayed two hours after a Louisville player showed symptoms of COVID-19 in the morning.
The player tested negative, and U of L did its required contact tracing. But the school determined that it needed to test every other player on the team who hadn't had the virus. As a result, even with the delayed tipoff, the Cardinals sent only seven players out for warm-ups, and for all Walz knew, that’s all he was going to have, until tests came back negative just before tipoff.
Through it all, Walz said, his players stayed on an even keel, which is impressive in itself. And, fortunately for them, they have a variety of weapons, which they needed in a 70-45 win over Clemson.
"I'm proud of them," Walz said. "It's a tough group that continues to fight, and we're going to get better and better. ... It's the next person up, and that's what we've got to continue to buy into in the league, because that's what champions do."
The adversity wasn't over when the game tipped off. All-American Dana Evans got into early foul trouble and sat for the entire second quarter. But Louisville, with Mykasa Robinson filling in, extended its lead to 8 at the half, and pulled away when Evans entered and made some shots to start the second half.
Louisville continues to display its depth in such situations. Elizabeth Balogun might not be the first Louisville player who comes to mind, because she hasn’t made offensive headlines this season. But the junior who transferred in from Georgia Tech before last season was Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in 2019, and in the fourth quarter against Clemson on Sunday, she took over the game on both ends for a good stretch.
"I was really happy for Liz," Walz said. "The lid came off of the rim for her, and she had some shots fall. And she's unbelievable on defense."
The Cardinals improved to 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the ACC with the win.
Balogun, who came into the game just 3 for 19 from 3-point range, finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocked shots. She made 3 of 7 from beyond the arc and, in a game where Evans was saddled with early foul trouble, provided a spark for the Cardinals on both ends.
Clemson did a solid job against the Cardinals defensively but in the end couldn’t match Louisville’s offensive output. Some of that was due to dogged Louisville defense, which held the Tigers to just 5 fourth-quarter points. Clemson didn’t help itself, missing all 19 of its 3-point attempts, a good number of which were decent looks.
Louisville was led in scoring by Kianna Smith, who finished with 17 points, and the Cardinals got 10 points each from Evans, and from Liz Dixon, who started in place of freshman Olivia Cochran at center.
The Cardinals will next face Boston College at home on Thursday night in a game scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. and be broadcast by the ACC Network.
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