Louisville, KY -- The Central Arkansas Sugar Bears played their hearts out in their first NCAA Tournament appearance, but the mighty Louisville Cardinals overpowered the Sugar Bears in an 87-60 decision.
It was a battle from the tip as the Cardinals and Sugar Bears faced off in first round action at the KFC Yum! Center.
"They came out, I thought, for the first period and punched us in the nose." Louisville head coach Jeff Walz told the media, "I was really impressed with them."
The Cardinals struck first as Cortnee Walton drove to the bucket for two plus one. Arica Carter chipped in another two point for Louisville as she connected on a jump shot.
However, a quick foul by Briahanna Jackson sent Jameka Watkins to the charity stripe to connect on one of two. Maggie Proffitt added two more as she fired off a jumper to bring the Sugar Bears within two, 5-3.
Mariya Moore drew a foul and headed to the line to hit one of two. The Sugar Bears grabbed the rebound and set up Proffitt for a shot beyond the arc. Central Arkansas tied the game at 6.
The Cardinals and the Sugar Bears traded shots as both teams battle for the lead. After the first ten minutes, the not so sweet Sugar Bears' scrappy play pushed them ahead, 25-22.
The 25 first period points were the most Louisville has allowed in an opening stanza by the Cardinals all season. Despite the impressive first half for the Sugar Bears, their lead was short-lived.
The Cardinals came out strong in the second period. Hines-Allen connected on 5-of-6 from the floor, racking up 11-second period points.
Coach Jeff Walz credited junior transfer Dakota Weatherford for the Cardinals' change in pace.
When asked about the turning point in the second period, Coach Walz told the media, "Dakota was the whole reason. It's the whole reason. We need to give credit where credit is due, and that's Dakota Weatherford came in the game and changed it.
Weatherford grabbed two huge steals for Louisville that led to five points and put the Cardinals up by two. A quick three by Proffitt put the Sugar Bears back up by one.
Hines-Allen drove to the basket for a layup and a foul to pull the Cardinals on a three-point play. Sandy Jackson connected on a jumper for Central Arkansas to tie the game at 32.
Louisville turned up the heat going on a 17-2 run to close the second period.
"I feel like we didn't rebound very well." Kendara Watts said in the post-game press conference, "We weren't going in and rebounding like we were in the first quarter."
Jameka Watkins added, "We just didn't execute on offense like we did when we first came out."
Louisville outscored Central Arkansas 29-9 in the second period and took a comfortable 51-34 lead into the half.
Moore opened the half connecting on a layup and Hines-Allen chipped in two more with a layup of her own. Proffitt fired off a jumper to cut the Louisville lead to 19. A Moore turnover resulted in a layup in transition for Taylor Strickland.
The Sugar Bears tried to claw their way back in the third period, collecting 15 points. But the Cardinals added 22 points to take a steady 73-49 lead into the final period.
"I thought things kind of - the nerves and the crowd got into it." Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing said, "We just really were not ready for the big stage."
Central Arkansas managed to put up 11 points in the final period to Louisville's 14. But the second half effort was not enough to bring the Sugar Bears within striking distance.
The Central Arkansas Sugar Bears fell to the Cardinals in an 87-60 decision.
"I feel like we came out in the beginning, and we fought." Brianna Mullins said in the post-game press conference, "Y'all are going to see us again."
The Cardinals had three players grab double-figures: Myisha Hines-Allen led all scorers racking up 25 points on 12-of-17 shooting while leading the Cardinals of the glass pulling down seven rebounds. Mariya Moore chipped in 16 points and dished out four assists while Sam Fuehring added 12 points in 27 minutes.
For the Sugar Bears, Taylor Baudoin tallied a team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds, earning a double-double on the evening. Kendara Watts added 12 points while dishing out three assists. Maggie Proffitt rounded out the top scorers for Central Arkansas collecting 11 points.
Louisville's ability to dominate the paint was the key to victory as the Cardinals picked up 50 points in the paint. Louisville also held the advantage on the boards outrebounding the Sugar Bears, 41-38.
"We tried to get transition points, get the ball out of our hands and up the court." Hines-Allen spoke of Louisville's win, "We started taking advantage of our advantage in the post. We started scoring better in the transition points."
Next up, the Cardinals will face the 6-seed DePaul on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center. Tipoff time has not yet been announced.