Louisville, KY — In a battle of two powerhouse programs, it was the Louisville Cardinals who knocked out the storied Tennessee Lady Vols, 75-64, earning the Cardinals a trip to OKC and the Sweet Sixteen.
On coming up with a big win, Louisville head coach said he team won by just scoring more points.
He went on to add, “I thought we executed. Our execution was off the charts at times.”
As to be expected, Louisville and Tennessee were evenly matched in the first period. Both teams connected on 9-of-16 from the field for 56%. However, the Cardinals held an advantage from beyond the arc, knocking down 3-of-6.
The Lady Vols took an early lead, jumping ahead to a 5-2 lead. Mercedes Russell struck first for Tennessee followed by a triple from Jamie Nared.
But Louisville stormed back scoring eight unanswered points while holding the Lady Vols scoreless for nearly 3:00. Tennessee was forced to burn an early timeout.
Out of the timeout, Tennessee’s defense tightened up forcing Louisville to turn the ball over on a shot-clock violation.
Louisville would lead by as much as six before the Lady Vols would tie the game at 19. Despite a late scoring run, Louisville led by one at the end of the first period, 22-21.
The second period was no different than the first. Tennessee’s uncanny ability to get to the line boosted the score for the Lady Vols. Tennessee went to the line 12 times in the second period but struggled to capitalize hitting only 6-of-12.
The Lady Vols’ leading scorer, Diamond DeShields, picked up her second foul early in the quarter, heading to the bench for the rest of the half.
The Cardinals capitalized on DeShields’ extended absence knocking down seven unanswered points and, again, holding the Lady Vols’ scoreless for nearly 4:00.
Tennessee broke its silence as Nared drew a foul to head to the charity stripe for two.
However, the Cardinals capped off the period with a jump shot from Sam Fuehring. Louisville took a 35-31 lead at the half.
Both the Cardinals and the Lady Vols shot above 44% in the first half. Louisville was led by Durr, who knocked down 9 points and Mariya Moore, who grabbed 8 points.
The Lady Vols dominated the boards outrebounding Louisville 19-18, but the Cardinals controlled the paint grabbing 18 points inside.
Out of the half, the Lady Vols’ defense tightened up, limiting the Cardinals to 26.3% from the field and only 11 points.
Louisville started out strong, sprinting out to a 7-0 run and taking a 42-36 advantage. But, Tennessee shifted the momentum.
The Cardinals struggled to score in the final 4:00 of the period, while the Lady Vols picked up seven unanswered points behind Nared, Russell and Jordan Reynolds. Tennessee held its first lead since the beginning of the contest, 47-44.
Hines-Allen was able to get to the bucket for Louisville in the closing seconds breaking the drought for Louisville and bringing the Cardinals within one point going into the final period.
The final period was all Louisville. The Cardinals outscored the Lady Vols 29-17. The Cardinals shot 64.3%, connecting on 9-of-14 from the field.
Mariya Moore kicked off the period knocking down two triples and a layup, pushing the Cardinals out to a 54-47 advantage.
DeShields picked up 7 of Tennessee’s 17 fourth period points. But her extreme effort was not enough to shift the momentum back into the Lady Vols’ favor.
Meme Jackson, clearly frustrated, picked up an intentional foul, grabbing Hines-Allen’s jersey and sending Hines-Allen to the line to knock down two crucial free throws to put Louisville up 67-59 with 1:43 remaining in the game.
The Lady Vols struggled offensively in the final period connecting on only 3 field goals.
On Tennessee’s fourth period woes, Mercedes Russell explained her team was not falling back on defense when the shots were not falling.
“You know, you never know coming into a game if you're going to hit shots or not,” Russell said. “But when you're not hitting shots, you're usually supposed to fall back on your defense, and we weren't getting stops on the defensive end and then not making shots on the offensive end.”
It was truly a tremendous matchup, but ultimately it was the Louisville Cardinals who emerged victorious. The Cardinals knocked down the Lady Vols, 75-64.
Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick says the Lady Vols’ loss was attributed to a number of things.
“I thought we got good looks, we just didn't make plays,” Coach Warlick said.
She added, “I thought we got them to turn it over. We got lay-ups, we cut it, and then, again, we didn't get stops. Then we'd come down and we missed a five-foot jumper. So just a little bit of a combination of a lot of things for us down in the fourth quarter.”
On the evening, the Cardinals shot 43.9%, connecting on 29 field goals, 7 from beyond the arc. While the Lady Vols shot 33% connecting on 20 field goals.
Louisville’s paint points and bench points were crucial. The Cardinals outscored the Lady Vols 36-20 in the paint, while Louisville’s bench racked up 12 points to Tennessee’s three bench points.
Louisville had three players notch double-figures: Asia Durr paced the Cardinals with 23 points and 6 rebounds. Durr reached a huge milestone in her career hitting 1,000 points. Mariya Moore racked up 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Myisha Hines-Allen earned her 16th double-double this season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
For Tennessee, Jaime Nared earned a double-double tallying a game-high 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Diamond DeShields added 15 points, while Mercedes Russell earned a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The 4-seed Louisville Cardinals head to Oklahoma City to face the winner of Baylor versus California.