The No. 3 Louisville Cardinals (18-1, 11-1 ACC) enjoyed only a short stay in the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll. A 74-60 upset by the No. 4 NC State Wolfpack on the same day they ascended to the top of the women’s college basketball world knocked the back.
Yet, it was not due to Dana Evans that the Cardinals could not retain the No. 1 crown.
The reigning ACC Player of the Year, Evans poured in a season- and career-high-tying 29 points against the Wolfpack. She followed that up with two more fantastic efforts: 23 points and five assists in a 97-68 domination of Boston College and 27 points and five assists in a tight 71-65 win over Notre Dame.
The totality of her efforts earned her ACC and ESPNW Player of the Week honors.
On Thursday, she has the opportunity to further burnish her resume as she looks to lead Louisville to a third-straight win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-4, 9-3 ACC).
In addition to her most recent Player of the Week awards, Evans has begun to accumulate numerous nominations for end-of-season honors. The awards she is a candidate for include:
Evans’ consistent, spectacular play also is garnering her hard-fought WNBA Draft buzz.
Of course, Louisville’s excellence extends beyond Evans.
Highly-touted freshmen Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran have been instant contributors, and junior reserve Mykasa Robinson has helped Louisville build the ACC’s second-best defense. ESPN recently identified her as one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders, noting that she is “the quintessential ‘do the little things’ player whose calling card is defense.”
Two former Yellow Jackets also have boosted the Cardinals’ defense.
In their second season in Louisville, the pair of Elizabeths — Balogun and Dixon — have found ways to consistently make an impact. A big guard at 6’1”, the junior Balogun leads her team in blocks. Also a junior, the 6-foot-5 Dixon patrols the paint and ranks second on the team in blocks and boards.
The Yellow Jackets will have their hands full trying to slow their former teammates, the electric Evans and the rest of Cardinals’ cunning and crafty hoopers. If they succeed, it will be by making the game ugly. Or, better yet, a wreck.
The Ramblin’ Wreck tend to win with defense. While they have averaged only 68.5 points per game, they have held ACC opponents to a conference-best 60.8 points per game. Before their loss on Sunday to Wake Forest, 61-52, the Jackets’ stingy D had propelled them to seven-straight wins.
Not sure who needs this BUTTTT here's some ENERGY to get you through the rest of your day! pic.twitter.com/6Ps2hX4ANt— Georgia Tech Women's Basketball (@GTWBB) February 9, 2021
To avoid a second-straight loss, Tech must control the glass. For the season, the two squads have similar rebounding margins, with the Cardinals out-rebounding opponents by 12.5 boards per game and the Yellow Jackets winning the board battle by 12.2 per game.
Thursday night, Tech will need the ACC’s best boardwoman to be on her game: senior Lorela Cubaj, a relentless rebounder who is averaging 12 boards per game. Against Clemson in early January, Cubaj snagged 20 rebounds, the second-best rebounding performance in the ACC this season. She also has had six other 13-plus-rebound games. By ending defensive possessions and extending offensive ones, Cubaj can help the Jackets remain in contact with, and maybe even upset, the Cardinals.
No. 3 Louisville Cardinals (18-1, 11-1 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (11-4, 9-3 ACC)
When: Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY
How to watch: ACC Network Extra
What to watch for: The Yellow Jackets can best threaten the Cardinals by winning the ball-control battle. Lorela Cubaj’s nose for the basketball helps her secure 1.7 steals per game. Lotta-Maj Lahtinen has been even more rapacious, nabbing 2.1 steals per game. On the offensive end, Kierra Fletcher claims an ACC-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.3. Yet, despite Tech’s encouraging statistics, Louisville may still have the edge. As a team, the Cardinals have the best assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin in the conference, at 1.24 and 3.0, respectively.
Georgia Tech’s season-long “Say Her Name” initiative honors women of color who died by police violence.
As part of the @theACC's commitment to unity, we are using this season to bring awareness to violence against women of color and recognize individual women who have lost their lives. Each game, we will honor these women’s lives by telling their stories. #UNITY pic.twitter.com/hzPW1xVOQK— Georgia Tech Women's Basketball (@GTWBB) February 7, 2021