Next stop, Albany for the top-seeded Cardinals
LOUISVILLE, KY — Louisville’s seniors got the sendoff they wanted on Sunday.
Now, they hope to come back with an NCAA title.
The Cardinals got four scorers in double-figures Sunday in their 71-50 victory over visiting Michigan in a second-round NCAA Tournament game. Asia Durr, playing in her last game at the Yum Center as a Cardinal, scored a game-high 24.
Much like the win over Robert Morris on Friday, Louisville used an early run to jump out to a big lead and never look back. On Sunday, Louisville led 19-4 in the first 5:29, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Durr. The latter ended up being part of a four-point play that put the Cards up by 15.
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“We’re trying to throw the first punch every game,” said Sam Fuerhing, who added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. “We don’t want to start out flat because that pretty much determines the rest of the game.”
Michigan would cut the Louisville lead to 21-15 with 8:02 left in the first half, but another Louisville run – this one an 11-2 spurt – allowed the Cardinals to keep their lead in double digits the rest of the way.
The Wolverines had problems with Louisville’s defense all day. They committed 17 of their 22 turnovers in the first half and then shot just 23.1 percent in the second half.
Durr, who has exhibited a calmness for most of the season, allowed herself to embrace the moment on Sunday. She showed a rare display of emotion after blocking a layup attempt by Akienreh Johnson out of bounds.
And after the game, Durr, Fuehring and Arica Carter, who played Sunday for the first time in more than two weeks, took a victory lap around the Yum Center court to thank the fans who have supported them over their careers. They also kissed the Cardinal logo at midcourt.
“I can’t really put it into words because it’s a feeling that you’ll never forget, and years down the line, you talk to your kids, your grandkids, your friends about these four years, and I mean, it was just so much fun playing here, playing in front of the best fans in the country,” Durr said.
Not only did the Cardinals put pressure on the Wolverines to force turnovers, but they also held their own in the paint against a team that won the rebounding battle 50-19 in their first-round win Friday over Kansas State.
On Sunday, Louisville won the rebounding battle 35-34, with 15 of those coming on the offensive end. That and the turnovers allowed UofL to shoot 21 more times than the Wolverines. Kylee Shook, who started for the second straight game, led Louisville with 10 boards.
Louisville now heads to Albany, N.Y., where it will face the winner of Monday’s Gonzaga at Oregon State second-round match in a Sweet 16 game Friday night. If the host Beavers win, it sets up a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight contest in Lexington.
A Sweet 16 victory puts the Cards a game away from going to back-to-back Final Fours for the first time in school history. But while that’s the goal, it’s not quite the immediate focus for Louisville.
“It’s one game at a time,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “That’s the one thing about this right now is whoever we’re going to face next weekend is our only concern.”
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