It’s rare to get two Top 25 teams playing each other this early into the season. It’s even rarer for the game to be a close and entertaining matchup. That’s exactly what happened on Friday when No. 22 Arizona and No. 6 Lousiville faced off in the Mammoth Sports Construction Invitational. Arizona was able to pull off the upset 61-59 thanks to Cate Resse’s 21-point performance and Bendu Yeaney’s game-winner in overtime.
The game started like one would expect an early-season game to start. It was slow and sloppy with large offensive droughts. Both teams have lots of new faces. Gone is last year’s Arizona leader and star guard Aari McDonald and the Cardinals are missing their ACC Player of the Year turned WNBA champion, Dana Evans. Add that with new transfers, freshmen players, and a new season, and you can expect a rough adjustment period to start the season.
So when the first quarter ended as a 9-8 Lousiville lead, it looked like a classic early season snoozefest. It was anything but. Both teams started heating up and exchanging blows. Arizona (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) was able to take a slight lead of three at halftime, 25-22. Louisville (0-1, 0-0 ACC) responded with an 18-point third quarter to enter the fourth down by only one.
Louisville stayed in the game with great performances from Hailey Van Lith, Emily Engstler, and Chelsie Hall. Van Lith was getting to the foul line and went nearly perfect from the charity stripe, converting on 11-of-12 attempts. Meanwhile, Hall scored 12 points in her 35 minutes of play and Engstler was dominant on the boards, leading the team with eight rebounds.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as Arizona got an incredible performance from Reese. She was perfect from the free-throw line and shot 50 percent from the field. Yeaney was the team’s second-leading scorer with 12 points, including the game-sealing layup in overtime to give Arizona the 61-59 victory. Despite being the lower-ranked team, Arizona proved to be just a bit better and sharper than its opponent.
Ultimately there is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill from this game. Maybe Arizona is better than we thought. Maybe Louisville isn’t as good as it was predicted to be. Either way, this game doesn’t give us the answer. We will watch more games to have more data on each team and have a clearer picture of who they are and who they can be. Lucky for us, we have plenty of games coming up. Louisville plays Bellarmine next on Tuesday, and Arizona plays Texas Southern on Monday. It was good to see college basketball back, and it was a great game to kick off a long weekend of matchups.