March Madness: Van Lith and Louisville pummel Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Louisville rarely opens the NCAA Tournament away from home. The Cardinals could learn to love these early road trips.
Faced off with No. 4 Texas on the Longhorns’ home court, Hailey Van Lith and the No. 5 Cardinals delivered a swaggering, smothering, romping 73-51 victory Monday night to earn Louisville’s sixth consecutive trip the Sweet 16.
Van Lith scored 21 points, delivering the early punches and then the late knockout blows for the Cardinals.
“Coach (Jeff Walz) told us, ‘How many times can you quiet down the crowd,’” Van Lith said.
Louisville didn’t host the first two rounds of the tournament for the first time since 2015, excluding the 2021 pandemic tournament played entirely in Texas. And from the opening tip against Texas, the Cardinals pushed around the Big 12 regular season co-champion and relished the silence as the Longhorns unraveled.
Louisville (25-11) led by as much as 27 early in the fourth. The win sends the Cardinals to the Seattle 4 Region to play No. 8-seed Mississippi, which upset No. 1 Stanford on Sunday. Louisville made the Final Four last season.
“We wanted to go out and prove we’re the same Louisville tough that this program has been for a long time now,” Van Lith said. She also scored 26 in Louisville’s first-round win over Drake.
In a matchup of two teams that began the season in the Top 10 only to fall out of the rankings before regrouping late, the Cardinals stifled Texas’ standout point guard Rori Harmon all night, stretching a 14-point halftime lead to 21 by end of the third quarter.
Harmon missed the November matchup between the teams when Louisville beat the Longhorns in November, and was never a factor in the rematch.
Harmon scored 10 points but was mostly shut down after the first quarter. Van Lith, Mykasa Robinson and Chrislyn Carr’s defensive rotations allowed Harmon three assists in the first quarter, but no more. Harmon also had five turnovers before limping off the court late in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury.
“We just really tried to wear her out,” Robinson said.
DeYona Gaston scored 12 points to lead Texas (26-10) after sitting for nearly the entire first quarter because of an early foul.
Louisville took control of the game with a 9-0 run to start the second quarter, punctuated by 6-foot-5 center Josie Williams’ 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and the Cardinals led by 14 at halftime.
Texas cut the deficit under 10 early in the third before Van Lith and Louisville answered with another 9-0 run. Robinson spied Carr in the corner on a fast break for a 3-pointer that put the Cardinals up 49-31.
“I thought we played great,” Walz said. “Toughness, it does matter. I will say we shot the ball pretty darn well, too.”
Texas coach Vic Schaefer could only shake his head at the rout.
“Toughness has been kind of an issue all year long,” Schaefer said. “It’s been an Achilles that showed up again today.”
Louisville: The Cardinals’ frontcourt of Liz Dixon, Olivia Cochran and Morgan Jones combined for 22 points but most importantly disrupted everything Texas could do near the basket. The Longhorns were just 7 of 22 on layups. Louisville outscored Texas in the paint 38-20.
After getting outrebounded 13-6 in the first quarter, Louisville ended the game with a 42-34 advantage on the boards.
Texas: With the loss, Schaefer had his string of NCAA Elite Eight appearances snapped at five. Schaefer took Mississippi State to three straight, advancing twice to the Final Four, before accepting the job at Texas. The Longhorns have not reached the Final Four since 2003, when Hall of Famer Jody Conradt was coach.
The Longhorns were just 12 of 20 from the free-throw line, stifling any early chances Texas had to stem Louisville’s momentum.
“It’s hard to win scoring 51 points,” Schaefer said. “I hate it that we went out like we did today. ... Texas deserves so much better than what I gave them today.” ___
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