LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville Jeff Walz wasn’t surprised to see his team’s big lead whacked down to a couple of possessions. Nor was he shocked by Hailey Van Lith’s response that helped the No. 5 Cardinals maintain their edge.

Van Lith scored eight of her 17 points in the fourth quarter, Kianna Smith added five in the period and Louisville held off No. 21 Duke 77-65 on Sunday for its third consecutive victory.

The Cardinals (18-2, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) appeared in control with a 20-point lead just after halftime. Shayeann Day-Wilson scored five consecutive points to get Duke within 62-57 early in the fourth before Smith and Van Lith answered with a layup and 3-pointer respectively and Emily Engstler added a jumper for a 69-57 cushion.

Van Lith’s next 3 spurred a 6-0 spurt to make it 75-62 including three free throws from Smith and Mykasa Robinson. Van Lith’s layup with 27 seconds remaining closed the scoring as Louisville improved to 12-0 at home and closed the month 7-1.

Van Lith’s 5-of-8 shooting from long range and 6 of 12 overall made the difference after going scoreless in the middle two quarters. Louisville was 11 of 32 from behind the arc.

“They guarded, they came out and forced her to put the ball on the ground on some close-outs,” Walz said of Duke’s defense on Van Lith. “And then we ran a couple of things to try to get her some open looks, and she knocked them down.”

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Day-Wilson scored 25 points before fouling out late, and Lexi Gordon had 11 for the shorthanded Blue Devils (13-6, 4-5). Duke was without head coach Kara Lawson after she entered health and safety protocols last week. Celeste Taylor missed a sixth consecutive game with injury, while ex-Cardinal Nyah Green was also out for a violation of team rules.

The Blue Devils dropped their fourth game in six but shot 55% in the second half and 48% overall, including 8 of 15 from deep.

“I thought we had an outstanding second half,” assistant coach Beth Cunningham said. “We were able to get them to miss some shots and obviously put the ball in the basket a little bit more on our end of the floor. Certainly an experience that we’re going to grow a lot from.”

Payton Verhulst came off the bench to score a career-high 13 points, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc that Louisville needed. The Cardinals made just 41% after halftime but came through at the right time.

“When you have coaches and teammates that know how to get you the ball, when you’re on, when you’re hitting shots, that it’s a lot easier to be able to do that,” Verhulst said.

LOTS OF WHISTLES

After shooting just five free throws in the first half, the teams combined for 25 after that. Duke benefited the most, making 12 of 17 in the second half to cut into Louisville’s lead. The Cardinals were 7 for 8 after halftime and 8 of 9 overall. Being very careful not to criticize officiating and risk discipline, Louisville coach Jeff Walz instead joked about being an agent for change to maintain flow and keep the game watchable for fans.

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“There’s something called that has no impact on anything, both sides,” he said. “But that’s what they’re being told (to call). We have to change some rules. I really don’t think I’m going to try to get on that rules committee to get some things changed. I really doubt that they want me on that, all right?”

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils initially looked out of sync as they began a demanding stretch of five games in 11 days. They settled down to make 5 of 10 in the third quarter, including three 3s, to close the gap and kept fighting in the fourth before committing several late turnovers that Louisville took advantage of.

Louisville: The Cardinals were efficient for the first 20-plus minutes, creating open looks and knocking down shots from deep in particular. A slow third-quarter start allowed Duke to get within single digits and the Cardinals struggled to score in the fourth before Van Lith delivered key 3s to create space.

UP NEXT

Louisville visits Miami on Tuesday night.

Duke hosts Georgia Tech on Tuesday night in a makeup game.

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