LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville coach Jeff Walz said he was willing to deal with a minor bump in the road to avoid a possible wipeout, and now it appears the No. 9 Cardinals are back firing on all gears.
Dana Evans scored 18 points to lead No. 9 Louisville to an 82-49 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday.
The Cardinals (23-3, 12-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) made 7-of-9 shots during one stretch of the second quarter to build a 36-21 lead midway through the period. Louisville played unselfish, dishing out 13 assists on 17 baskets in the half.
They built on that lead in the third quarter as Evans scored nine of her points in the period.
Not only did the junior guard score, she also found her teammates as she finished with seven assists. The Cardinals tallied 24, one off tying a season high. Mykasa Robinson added a career-high nine in the win.
“I feel like we knock down open shots,” Evans said. “Coach was saying, ‘Why take a contested shot when we can get something easy?’”
Sunday’s win was the second in as many games for the Cardinals, who entered the week on a two-game skid. That streak coincided with starting guard Elizabeth Balogun departing to play for the Nigerian national team in an Olympic qualifier.
Walz said he didn’t want to change his team’s offensive approach in the short term. While Balogun is the fourth-leading scorer, she’s the team’s second-biggest perimeter threat. In losing to Florida State and Syracuse, the Cardinals posted two of their three worst shooting performances of the season.
Despite the skid, Walz said neither he nor the team lost confidence, even as some fans expressed concern on social media and to him personally.
“I wasn’t concerned because I know what our team is when we’re at full strength,” he said.
Evans has been the beneficiary of Balogun’s return. After going 11-for-37 in the two losses, she’s made 12-of-26 in the two wins.
Yacine Diop came off the bench to match a season-high with 15 points. Balogun and Kylee Shook added 11 apiece.
The Fighting Irish (10-16, 5-9) started the game making six of their first eight baskets and converted offensive rebounds off those misses. But as the Cardinals got hot, Notre Dame made just three of its next 14 shots as the Cardinals pulled away for good.
“I think we have to look at this and say it’s the best team on our schedule,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We can play better, but they certainly exposed our weaknesses today.”
Mik Vaughn led the Irish with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
A week after nearly falling out of the top 10, Louisville should make its way back up the rankings, especially since at least three teams ranked ahead of them lost this week. That includes No. 4 North Carolina State’s two losses, one of which came at home Thursday to Louisville.
Robinson had by far her best game of the season in playing a team-high 29:45 Sunday. In addition to setting a career high in assists, she matched her season-high of six points, one off her career mark. The 5-7 guard also had seven rebounds, again one off her career best.
The sophomore averages 2.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. However, in the last 11 games before Sunday, she had averaged 4.1 points, 3.8 boards and two assists per game.
Notre Dame: When the Irish struggle shooting, they have trouble winning. On Sunday, they shot 36.8% . It marked the eighth straight time they’ve lost when shooting under 40%. Committing 23 turnovers, which led to 24 Louisville points, just added to the woes.
Louisville: After the two-game losing streak saw the Cardinals fall out of first place in the ACC, they responded with a pair of wins and find themselves back where they were 10 days ago – alone atop the conference standings.
Notre Dame returns home to face Virginia Tech on Thursday night.
Louisville travels to Atlanta on Thursday to play Georgia Tech.
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