PITTSBURGH (AP) — The reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year is gunning for a repeat, and maybe more.
Louisville guard Dana Evans continued to state her case for more hardware with a strong performance on Thursday night, as she extended her ACC scoring lead by putting up a career-high tying 29 points as the No. 3 Cardinals pulled away in the second half to beat Pittsburgh 82-58.
Evans, who entered with a conference-best 20.3 points per game average, made 11 of her 20 shots. With Louisville (20-1, 13-1 ACC) leading by six at the half, Evans came alive in the third quarter. She scored 13 points by herself as the Cardinals outscored the Panthers, 26-13 in the period.
It was the third time this season Evans posted a 29-point total, and she’s increased her scoring average, ever from her award-winning 2019-20 season, when she scored 18 points per game.
“I would say my finish has gotten better with my left hand,” Evans said. “That has definitely improved because I knew I was going to be facing a lot of taller defenders. Just settling for jump shots wasn’t going to get it done.”
Against Pitt, Evans did it all, shooting 3 of 5 from 3-point range, 4 of 4 from the free throw line and powering her way to the paint when needed. It was the kind of performance that has Louisville coach Jeff Walz thinking beyond the ACC when it comes to the recognition of her talent.
“She should easily be in the talks of national player of the year,” Walz said. “I think she is one of the best, without a doubt. She’s gotta be right there at the top with anybody else. What she’s been able to do in the ACC night in and night out is pretty remarkable.”
Forward Elizabeth Dixon added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting for the Cardinals. Elizabeth Balogun came off the bench for 10 points, with the duo contributing to 44-18 Cardinals advantage on points in the paint.
Louisville smothered Pitt with strong defense all night, holding the Panthers to 30.8% shooting as a team and forcing 20 turnovers, which the Cardinals turned into 21 points off turnovers.
Senior guard Gabbie Green almost singlehandedly kept the Panthers (5-10, 3-8) in the game. She scored a season-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and went 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
“I was so proud of Gabbie tonight and the things she was able to do at both ends of the floor,” Pitt head coach Lance White said. “She has to be that next weapon for us.”
Louisville reached the 20-win mark for the 11th straight season, extending the program’s record. They have won 20 or more games in 13 of head coach Jeff Walz’s 14 seasons.
“It’s always nice to get to 20, especially sin a shortened seasons, when the most we could play was 25 games,” Walz said.
Pitt starting point guard Dayshanette Harris played just two minutes after suffering an early injury. Harris averages over 28.6 minutes per game for the Panthers. White did not have an update on the nature or severity of the injury.
Leading scorer Jayla Everett was moved to a ball-handling role to replace Harris and finished with 14 points and five assists.
Louisville continues its season-closing, three-game road trip with a visit to Florida State on Sunday. The Seminoles are 5-0 at home this season.
Pitt will wrap the home portion of its 2020-21 schedule by hosting Notre Dame on Monday at 8 p.m. The Panthers ended the Irish’s season in 2020 with an upset with in the ACC Tournament.