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Analysis: No. 4 Louisville stuns Virginia with balanced performance

The Cardinals handed the Cavaliers their worst loss on the season. Despite the team’s offensive woes, first-year coach and WNBA legend Tina Thompson was proud to see her team keep fighting.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four-Louisville vs Mississippi State
Louisville senior guard Asia Durr was unstoppable in the Cardinals victory over the Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals completely dominated the Virginia Cavaliers in a 91-43 decision. All 11 active players on Louisville’s roster recorded at least two points.

“It was a tough game for us,” Virginia Coach Tina Thompson said. “I will say my kids continued to fight from start to finish, but there’s just some things you’re going to see against the No. 4 team in the country that you’re not going to see against other teams and we saw a little bit of all of it tonight.”

Thompson, a legendary former WNBA player, is in her first year at the helm of the Virginia Cavaliers. The Hall of Fame forward had a stellar WNBA career that spanned 16 seasons. After hanging up her jersey, Thompson was named an assistant coach for the Texas Longhorns, where she stayed for three years. On April 16, 2018, the University of Virginia announced Thompson as the head coach.

In her first season, the Cavaliers have put together a 7-10 record so far. It’s worth noting that Virginia was without 6-foot-9 junior center Felicia Aiyeotan for 11 games after she sustained a knee injury early in the season. Aiyeotan is back, but playing limited minutes. Just a season ago, the junior was named to the ACC All-Defensive team and led the ACC in blocked shots. She played 14 minutes against the Cardinals, collecting 5 points and 4 rebounds.

Despite the large margin of victory, the Cardinals did not come out hot. In the first frame, Louisville went 7-of-18 from the field and just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. The match was fairly close heading into the second quarter, however, with Louisville leading 15-11.

“I thought we played pretty well,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We just missed some shots we normally make. We had some transition layups that didn’t go in, we had some open threes and pull up jump shots that weren’t going in.”

But, a 31-9 scoring run in the second frame buried any hope Virginia had for an upset victory against Louisville. The Cardinals shot 68 percent from the field and from beyond the arc, while limiting the Cavaliers to 19 percent shooting.

Louisville followed up the second quarter with two more quarters of 20-point-plus scoring, to seal the deal.

How Louisville got the win

Cardinals shut down Virginia’s leading scorers

One thing the Cardinals did well was limit the Cavaliers’ leading scorers. Jocelyn Willoughby — who averages 12.8 points per game — was limited to 1-of-5 from the field, for 2 points, and she collected four rebounds.

The Cavaliers looked to Dominique Toussaint for points, but the junior guard was limited to 9 points, which is below her 11.3 points per game season average. Toussaint also struggled with turnovers, collecting nine on the evening.

Mone Jones and Lisa Jablonowski each added seven points for the Cavaliers.

Cavaliers couldn’t stop Louisville’s Asia Durr

Virginia had no answer for senior guard Asia Durr, who racked up 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, seemingly at will. Sophomore Dana Evans was also unstoppable, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, including 2-of-2 from three-point range, for 14 points. Kylee Shook was a huge presence in the post, collecting 8 boards while scoring 14 points. She also had a monster block against 6-foot-9 Aiyeotan. Bionca Dunham rounded out Louisville’s double-figure scorers with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding

Coach Walz stressed the importance of his players needing to rebound as they did in the practice leading up to the match. The Cardinals certainly improved, out-rebounding the Cavaliers, 42-27.

On the defensive end, Louisville converted 19 turnovers into 21 points and recorded 12 steals.

“We were able to get out and push the ball and get the tempo at the speed that we wanted,” Walz said. “I was really really pleased with how we shot it and the areas of the floor we got shots in.”

Next up

The fourth-ranked Cardinals hit the road to take on Wake Forest on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 4 p.m. ET, while the Cavaliers remain on the road to face Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. ET.