AUSTIN, Texas (AP)Drake’s offensive finesse controlled the first three quarters of their upset bid against Louisville.
Cardinals guard Hailey Van Lith’s grit and tenacious drives to the basket took over the fourth, and No 5 Louisville survived what would have been another dose of March Madness from the No. 12 Bulldogs.
Van Lith scored 26 points, 13 of them coming over the final five minutes, to pull Louisville to an 83-81 win Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. She played only 27 minutes because of early foul trouble.
“I had a nice break there,” Van Lith said. “My team did a great job. of keeping us in the game while I wasn’t on the court. So that’s the only reason it was possible for us to win that game in the end. I was fully rested and ready to go.”
Her three-point play off a layup out of timeout with 16 seconds left put Louisville up by four before Drake answered with a 3-pointer by Sarah Beth Gueldner. Van Lith then made two more free throws to all but seal the win for the Cardinals.
Mykasa Robison scored 14 for Louisville (24-11), which advances to Monday’s second round matchup of the winner between No. 4 Texas (25-9) and No. 13 East Carolina (23-9).
A Final Four team last season, Louisville will be playing for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Katie Dinnebier scored 20 points for Drake (22-10), which confused Louisville’s defense early with a series of backdoor cuts that had the Bulldogs shooting layup after layup. Anna Miller scored 17 for Drake.
The Bulldogs had five players score in double figures and scored 42 points in the paint. They made 21 layups as Louisville struggled to close passing lanes and close down on shooters.
“They abused us. It was a layup clinic. They pretty much scored at will,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “The second half, they just missed some (layups). I thought we wore them out some by being as aggressive as we were trying to press full court.”
Louisville did its best job on Maggie Bair, Drake’s leading scorer and rebounder this season. She scored just five points on 2-of-10 shooting, and five six rebounds before she fouled out with just under four minutes to play.
That was about the same time Van Lith took the game on her shoulders. Her mid-range jumper with 53 seconds left put Louisville ahead for good at 77-75. Miller had a chance to tie it again but missed a layup.
“I think they’re just a very physical, aggressive team,” Drake senior forward Grace Berg said.
Drake: The Bulldogs have a solid history of reaching the NCAA Tournament with four appearances in the last seven seasons. But there have been no wins in that span. To change that, second-year coach Allison Pohlman will be leaning heavily on Berg, who has said she plans to return next season, and Miller, who took over a starting role the final third of the season. Berg scored 17.
Bair said she will not be coming back for another season. Drake hasn’t won a tournament game since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2002.
“It has nothing to do with anybody or anything at Drake,” Barid siad. “I just think I’m ready for a new chapter.”
Louisville: The Cardinals are rarely on the road so early in the tournament but look quite comfortable in Texas. They aren’t hosting the first two rounds for the first time since 2015, not including the 2021 pandemic tournament that was played entirely in the Lone Star State. Louisville twice advanced to the Final Four (2009 and 2013) opening the tournament away from home.
QUICK BUT SLOPPY START
The game started at a frenetic pace as Louisville launched 21 shots in the opening quarter and Drake made 8 of 12. But Drake’s efforts to push the pace of the game also led to 14 first half turnovers that set up 14 Louisville points as the teams went to halftime tied 39-39. Drake had just five turnovers in the second half.
CAN’T CLOSE IT OUT
Drake went 0-5 in games decided by 10 points or less this season.
Louisville will play Texas or East Carolina. They won a December matchup with the Longhorns 71-63 at a tournament in the Bahamas. The Cardinals did not play East Carolina this season.
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