Tennessee took the lead right out of the gate but the Cards snatched the lead from them 6:26 into the game and they would never trail again. Which is not to say it was easy. Louisville saw a double-digit lead whittled down to 2 in the final quarter. However tonight the Cards took Tennessee’s best punch and didn’t crumble. Instead they turned up the defense and made stops when they were desperately needed. In the end the Cards prevailed and are on their way to the Elite 8 once again.
Hailey Van Lith led all scorers with 23 to which she added 6 assists. Emily Engstler had another double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chelsie Hall scored all 9 of her points in the 3rd quarter which helped Louisville keep their lead. She also had 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Olivia Cochran didn’t have a gaudy stat line but she helped hold 6’6” Tamari Key to only three points and also got a nasty elbow to the head for her trouble. After the game Coach Walz said, “Olivia looks like a boxer. She’s got a big bump over her eye.... We don’t win without Olivia and that’s a fact.” He added, “She’s such a team player... More importantly she’s just a wonderful person. She loves her teammates and gets excited for them.”
Coach Walz said he was “happy with the fight. At this time of year everybody is good I don’t care what seed you are. Throw seeds out the window.... They made a big run and we withstood that and then we made a little bit of a run to get some separation there the last three and half minutes.”
He also praised the play of the subs. “I thought our bench was outstanding. I thought our bench was the difference in the game. Payton Verhulst came in there and really hit some huge shots for us in the first half. She played really, really well. Liz Dixon came in and battled. She had 3 blocked shots... 4 boards.”
Coach Walz said, “A big part of the game is we only turned the ball over 7 times. We knew we were going to have a fit trying to keep them off the glass so if you’re going to be out-rebounded then you’re going to have to win another statistical battle and for us it was going to have to be points off of turnovers. Even though we gave up 23 offensive rebounds we only gave up 13 second chance points. To me that’s the stat of the game.”
Hailey said, “It’s what you work all year for. When you have the opportunity like our team why would you give it up? We’re going to run with it as long as we can and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got. We’re going to fight to the end and do it the Louisville way.” Chelsie Hall is in her first tournament and she added, “It’s been an amazing experience and I’m living it up right now.”
Coach Walz said, “You’ve got to get prepared for a heavyweight fight because the Elite 8 that’s what it is.”
The Cards play the winner of South Dakota/Michigan at 9PM on Monday.