Louisville used a strong second half to surge past short-handed Oregon Sunday and advance to the Elite 8, 60-42.
Dana Evans led the Cardinals with 29 points, while Kianna Smith had 11 points. The Ducks came into the game without starting point guard Te-Hina Paopao, who was out for the rest of the Tournament with an injury. In the first quarter starting guard Maddie Scherr injured her ankle and didn’t return, and later in the game starting forward Nyara Sabally also rolled an ankle and had to sit.
With both guards out, Louisville took advantage and forced 14 turnovers. Oregon had the size advantage inside, but could not take advantage because of the Cardinal’s ability to pressure the ball and their own inability to feed the post.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz said defense was the key to the win.
“Our guards did a great job of pressuring the basketball, which we had talked about for the last two days,” he said. “Our ball pressure had to be elite, and it was. To force Oregon to try to start their offense further out, not let them get simple high-lows or side entries inot the post – our guards did a great job of that.”
The Cardinals held their opponents to 32.1 percent shootiung from the field and 11.1 percent from the three-point land. Evans, who had been in a shooting slump in the first two rounds of the Tournament, broke out of it by taking a more relaxed approach.
“She took good shots. She didn’t force anything. She let the game come to her,” Walz said. “When you do that, you’re doing to be able to get the shots in rhythm. When she gets shots in rhythm, she’s able to knock those down.”
Louisville led by 15 points at halftime, thanks to 13 from Evans in the second quarter. The Ducks made a run and cut the lead to 10 points to start the fourth frame, but Evans sparked the 13-0 run to bury Oregon for good.
Ducks coach Kelly Graves said his team wasn’t able to get into a flow during the first half.
“It took two quarters to kind of settle down, but I just thought we relaxed a little bit more in that third quarter and got back into it,” he said. “It was just a play or two here or there that could have gotten us over the hump. We just could never get over the hump. We felt like we were playing uphill the entire time.”
Louisville will play No. 1 Stanford Tuesday for a trip to the Final Four.