Louisville came out blazing tonight in front of the most hyped crowd the Yum has seen this season. At the first TV timeout they held a 14-0 lead. Then Gonzaga got their legs under them and made a run of their own to finish the quarter only down 18-14. With 4 minutes to go in the half Gonzaga took the lead from the Cards. There have been a couple of games this season where Louisville lost composure in this situation but tonight they stayed steady. In the third quarter they managed to push their lead to 10 with a few minutes remaining. From that point until the end of the game the Cards kept the Bulldogs just at arm’s length and closed the game with a 9 point victory.
After the game Kianna Smith talked about keeping their composure, “Even though we got up big it’s the NCAA Tournament so they weren’t going to go out without a fight and we knew they were going to go on a run and it was just about managing that and handling it and getting multiple stops in a row.” Coach Walz added, “Overall the start was outstanding. Our intensity was great. Our crowd was amazing. The crowd was absolutely amazing, and I appreciate all of them.”
Louisville had four players in double figures. Hailey Van Lith led all scorers with 21. Her points seemed to come anytime Gonzaga felt like they might get some momentum. Kianna and Emily Engstler both had 12 points and Emily had 11 rebounds and 5 steals. Olivia Cochran had 11 points.
Emily scored 12 but she was 3 of 13. She seemed to miss the easiest shots and then get the impossible ones to drop. This led to Hailey teasing her after the game, “Yeah, it surprises me when she shoots a regular lay-up because she always does extra stuff, and has to spin and make everyone look bad and score. She makes me a little nervous, but that’s what makes her so much fun to watch. She truly is a ticket seller.” When asked if she wanted to rib Hailey back Emily responded, “Today is not the day to retaliate. I didn’t make enough right-hand lay-ups to have an argument against Hailey, so I’ll leave her alone for this press conference.”
Coach Walz praised his team, “I was proud of all of them. We had 13 assists and only eight turnovers on the night, and if we can continue to do that, then we’re going to have a chance to continue to advance.... We held them to 4 of 20 from the three-point line. We did put them at the free-throw line too much. Then we gave them too many offensive boards there, and that’s kind of when they made their run is when they were getting second-chance opportunities.”
Hailey talked about her own fiery temperament, “I love the pressure, like it’s an adrenaline rush for me, and my teammates think it’s funny and they think I’m crazy, but I just love it.” To which Emily interjected, “Crazy people win championships.” Hailey finished with, “Crazy people win championships. Fact. Thank you. Even though she called me crazy, it’s okay, I’ll be crazy and win. That’s okay.”
The Cards will play the winner of Belmont/Tennessee in Wichita on March 26th, TBA.