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Sweet 16 Preview: Dana Evans, No. 2 Louisville Cardinals seek convincing win over No. 6 Oregon Ducks

The Louisville Cardinals have endured some slow starts in the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, but they’re still dancing. Their Sweet 16 opponent is a young Oregon Ducks team coming off a thrilling upset victory over Georgia.

Northwestern v Louisville
Dana Evans is averaging 19.6 points per game for Louisville this year.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Louisville Cardinals, seeded at No. 2 in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament’s Alamo Region, will face the region’s No. 6 seed, the Oregon Ducks, on Sunday. The Sweet Sixteen matchup will start at 7 p.m. ET and be televised on ESPN.

While Louisville entered the tournament as a high seed and a possible championship favorite, the Cardinals have already been tested on more than one occasion, particularly early in games. A sluggish start against No. 15 seed Marist quickly turned into a Cardinals blowout thanks to the team’s trademark aggressive defense, but they had a little more trouble against the No. 7 seed Northwestern Wildcats, falling behind 32-20 at halftime before turning things up a notch and escaping with a 62-53 victory.

The slow starts haven’t been the only things bothering Louisville. ACC Player of the Year and projected first-round WNBA draft pick Dana Evans, who led the Cardinals in scoring at 19.6 points per game during the regular season, has struggled, shooting a combined 11-for-33 from the field in Louisville’s first two games.

Oregon v Georgia
Nyara Sabally (left) and Sedona Prince are playing some of the best basketball of their young careers during the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Ducks, meanwhile, are flying high after defeating the No. 3 seed Georgia Bulldogs in the Round of 32. A back-and-forth contest in which neither team led by double digits at any points — the type of game which young teams like Oregon typically don’t win — swung the Ducks’ way thanks to big performances from redshirt sophomores Sedona Prince (22 points, four blocked shots) and Nyara Sabally (15 points, nine rebounds).

Can Oregon keep it going Sunday against Louisville? The Ducks racked up 15 defensive stats (10 steals and five blocks) against Georgia, but also turned the ball over 18 times, which they won’t be able to afford doing against the Cardinals, who are among the best teams in the country at scoring in transition.

It’s also fair to predict that Evans will bounce back sooner rather than later. Oregon has the size on the interior to disrupt Evans on her drives to the basket, but containing Evans on the perimeter is another task entirely; she’s made just three 3-pointers in her first two games of the tournament, so don’t be surprised if she comes out firing and tries to put the Ducks away early.

Game Information

No. 6 seed Oregon Ducks (15-8, 10-7 Pac-12) vs. No. 2 seed Louisville Cardinals (25-3, 14-2 ACC)

When: Sunday, Mar. 28 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX

How to watch: ESPN/Cards Radio 790 KRD

Keys to the matchup: Louisville has been able to get away with a pair of subpar performances from Evans, but they’ll need to get her going against Oregon. Prince’s performance against Georgia should also have the Cardinals on notice; Bulldogs center Jenna Staiti is no slouch on either end of the court, but she couldn’t do much with Prince, whose confidence should now be soaring. This may be a game in which Louisville tries to run its opponent out of the gym early with its transition game and outside shooting — Oregon, while talented, hasn’t gone very deep into its bench, which is an area where the Cardinals should have an advantage.