LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — History may very well be made in Louisville in less than 24 hours, but don’t expect the No. 2 Cardinals to celebrate the occasion for long.
Kianna Smith scored 16 points to lead Louisville to an 84-56 victory over Florida State on Sunday.
The win by the Cardinals (12-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) coupled with an overtime loss by top-ranked Stanford at Colorado earlier in the day may give Louisville its first No. 1 ranking in program history when the new poll comes out Monday.
Senior guard Dana Evans said the team may celebrate – in the gym.
“We still got work to do, but I’m excited,” she said.
Louisville played unselfishly, recording 22 assists on 32 baskets. Evans had a season-high eight to go with her 12 points. Smith, a redshirt junior, came off the bench to dish out six, reaching her season-high for the third time this season.
Five Louisville players reached double figures. Freshman guard Hailey Van Lith added 15. Freshman forward Olivia Cochran added 14 points, while fellow post player Liz Dixon notched her first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“When everyone’s hitting shots, it’s just a really beautiful thing,” Smith said. “We’re just so deep. Everyone on the court can contribute and score… So, it’s easy to rack up those assists when we’re sharing the ball like we are.”
Louisville was originally slated to play No. 3 N.C. State on Sunday, but the Wolfpack are on pause right now because of the coronavirus. The ACC reworked the schedule to setup the game against the Seminoles (4-2, 3-2), who played for the first time since New Year’s Eve due to COVID-19 issues. They dressed and played just eight of their 13 players Sunday.
Interim head coach Brooke Wyckoff said the Seminoles did not get to practice as a full squad until Friday.
“That’s the world we live in at this point,” she said. “It’s just, you do what you can do with the people that are available. And unfortunately, that didn’t come for us as an entire group until later in the week.”
Bionca Jackson scored a career-high 21 to lead Florida State.
FSU hung with Louisville for most of the first half and led 20-19 after a Sayawni Lassiter 3-pointer with 8:00 left in the second quarter. However, an 11-2 run by the Cardinals over the next 2:54 put the hosts in control for good.
Louisville shot 65.4 percent in the first half, including 10-of-14 (71.4%) in the second quarter.
As Louisville pulled away in the second half, news of Stanford’s loss made the rounds at the KFC Yum Center. Even the players, learning after the game of the loss, celebrated a little on their way back to the locker room.
Coach Jeff Walz, who has transformed the Cardinals into a national power with three Final Fours and two finals appearances in his 14-year career, said a lot of hard work allowed the team to get to the spot.
Now, more hard work will be needed, he said, as the bullseye on the team’s back likely got bigger.
“You can enjoy it tonight, celebrate it, but then you’ve got to get back to work because we’re not just head and shoulders above better than everybody else,” he said. “We can’t just show up in with ballgames.”
Florida State had been a major nemesis for Louisville in recent seasons. The Seminoles came in winning four of the past five games against Louisville, including twice last year. Sunday’s win was the first for the Cardinals over FSU at home in five years.
Florida State: Playing in their first game in nearly three weeks, the shorthanded Seminoles kept pace early, but with a short bench, they weren’t able to keep up with a deeper Cardinals squad.
Louisville: The Cardinals continued their sharp shooting from beyond the 3-point arc as they went 11-for-23 Sunday. After starting the month making just 7-of-38 in their first two games of the season, the Cardinals have made 47-of-109 (43.1%) in the five games since.
Florida State hosts No. 3 North Carolina State Thursday night.
Louisville hosts No. 24 Syracuse Thursday night.