LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville coach Jeff Walz and Virginia’s Tina Thompson came out of Thursday night’s game with identical takeaways.
Dana Evans scored 21 points and the fifth-ranked Cardinals beat the Cavaliers 71-56 in a game where both teams suffered through prolonged slumps.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. this entire season,” Walz said. “We get it (the lead) up to 20, and we just can’t finish it off.”
The Cardinals (19-1, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) used a 16-2 run over a nearly seven-minute stretch in the first half to take control en route to its 11th straight win. Louisville shot 71.4% in the first quarter and led by 20 in the second.
Evans, the league’s reigning player of the week, kept her hot hand early as she scored 15 points in the first half. In a matchup of the ACC’s top scorers, she outdueled league leader Jocelyn Willoughby to give Walz his 350th career victory.
Louisville started the second quarter making its first two shots to end the run, but the offense became stagnant after taking its biggest lead of the game. Over the final six minutes of the half, Louisville made just two of its 12 shots.
As the Cardinals’ doldrums lingered into the second half, the Cavaliers (7-12, 2-6) were able to cut into that deficit in the third quarter but couldn’t get within single digits.
After Virginia made it 46-36 on Shemera Williams’ free throw with 1:12 left in the third quarter, Jazmine Jones ended a seven-minute field goal drought for Louisville and scored the next five points to end the Cavaliers’ run.
Thompson said her team dug too deep of a hole for itself after that first period.
“We have to put together a full game, especially when we’re playing team like this season,” she said.
Jones scored 13 points, 11 after halftime.
Virginia, which shot just 36.2%, was led by Williams, a freshman who scored a season-high 20 points off the bench. Willoughby finished with 17 on 6-of-14 shooting.
Provided the Cardinals take care of business over the weekend, they should remain in the top five for next week’s poll.
After going 1-for-9 for just two points in Virginia’s last game against Virginia Tech, Williams rebounded nicely. Williams was able to draw fouls on Thursday, making 6-of-8 free throws to augment her 6-of-14 shooting.
Williams was the Associated Press Wisconsin Player of the Year last season, and she ranks second all-time in the state with 3,120 points.
However, the start of her college career was delayed as a stress fracture in her leg required surgery and kept her out the first month of the season. Thompson said missing out on those early nonconference games hurt her development.
Still, she’s scored in double figures in seven of her first 11 games and entered Thursday third on the team in scoring average.
“She’s now kind of going through that part in her game where she making the adjustments,” Thompson said. “She has flashes of greatness, and tonight was one of those nights.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers came into Louisville having played the nation’s toughest schedule. They looked outmatched early, and the large first-half deficit was too much to overcome as they shot below 40% for the 12th time this season.
Louisville: Just like they did Sunday at North Carolina, the Cardinals got off to a hot start, only to fade in the second half. They scored 25 points in that torrid first quarter but shot just 34.9% the rest of the way.
“We just got to learn how to put four quarters together,” Evans said.
Virginia returns home to host Notre Dame on Sunday.
Louisville plays host to Pittsburgh on Sunday.