All the University of Louisville women’s basketball team lacks right now is a reinvigorated and confident Dana Evans. Could be clicking on all cylinders if and when that happens again. Whatever was going with Dana didn’t seem to bother her teammates in the opening game of the NCAA tournament.

They were taking it to a higher level with Evans spending most of her time on the bench in the third quarter, Louisville was putting the game out of reach en route to a 74-43 and a second round matchup again Northwestern on Wednesday.

Dana Evans watched from the bench during the third quarter (Pool photo by Jared Anderson).

The only downer was that Evans, even though she had 15 points, was still having problems. Her facial expressions and body language indicative of a player knowing she was off her game. She would connect on six of 16 field goal attempts, manage only one assist and turn the ball over four times. 

Fortunately, one player’s misfortunes were not having a negative impact on the rest of the team. Some of them showing some eye-opening abilities that could serve UofL well in upcoming tournament action.

Hailey Van Lith finding her shot, making seven of 11 field goals, including two 3-pointers to lead all scorers with 17 points. “‘We just turned it up on defense and got easy layups,” Van Lith said. ”We saw it go in. We started playing as a team, we turned it up, had energy and made the game fun for us.”

The Cardinals appeared shaky until Coach Jeff Walz inserted an all-guard lineup in the second quarter. Louisville took its first lead of the game on Mykasa Robinson’s 3-point basket that made it 26-23. Van Lith followed with her own basket and foul shot – letting out a scream in celebration as the ball went through the basket. Playing a key role in that second quarter surge was Norika Konno who wound up with six steals and five points in the game. UofL led 29-24 at the half.

With an emotional Evans on the bench in the third quarter, Louisville would outscore Marist 26-9 to put the game out of reach. Marist would cut it to 31-28 before Louisville went on a 22-1 run. Ahlana Smith had seven straight points during that spurt all coming off Red Foxes turnovers. Kianna Smith was scoring six of her nine points during that span.

UofL’s second round game against Northwestern is scheduled Wednesday at 5 p.m. Hopefully, the old Dana is back. She will be needed.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.