There are many reasons the University of Louisville women’s basketball team is ranked No. 1. Talent, toughness, coaching. On Sunday, a refusal to lose hope or quit when not playing their best.

The Cardinals trailing by nine points, 55-46, with 7:14 to go, somehow finding a way to fend off an adrenaline-driven, upset-minded Wake Forest at Winston-Salem. Final score: Louisville 65, Wake Forest 63.

Some huge plays in the final three minutes, starting with Norika Konno’s steal that would lead to a  go-ahead 3-pointer by Dana Evans (60-57). But Wake Forest refusing to wilt, countering with a field goal and a pair of free throws (60-61).

Hailey Van Lith, emerging from obscurity, with a left-handed driving layup in the middle, Cards up 62-61. Wake Forest moving back in front on a jumper by Ivana Raca with 16 seconds to go. Dana time, wanting the ball, despite struggling 8 of the 23 shots from the field, 8 of 23, driving into the lane, making a twisting layup. Making the layup and a free throw for the final margin.

Wake Forest’s height bothering Louisville, hindering its inside game. Olivia Cochran, Liz Dixon , Elizabeth Balogun out-toughed much of the way. The Deacons out-rebounding the Cardinals 44-35 while claiming 25 offensive boards.

“We probably shouldn’t have won this game the way we played,”said UofL Coach Jeff Walz. “Ï told them it was going to be a tough game even though Wake Forest was beat by 29 points the other night.”

No problem for Evans who doesn’t seem to be affected by any of the outside noise. Somehow the game’s leading scorer with 25 points. She goes about playing her game. Never too high or low. Chest-bumping her teammates after that last basket, pulling herself together for the free throw attempt.

A young Louisville team with Evans the only senior. There will be other games where Louisville (14-0, 5-0) doesn’t play well. Don’t turn the television or radio off too soon.

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By Ed Peak

Ed Peak has covered UofL sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

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