These two opponents could play 10 games at the same blistering pace and the outcomes would be as unpredictable as was the opening NCAA tournament round game between the University of Louisville and the Drake Bulldogs basketball teams. Drake will be as good as they come, and UofL will refuse to relent in the face of incredible talent.
Older Louisville fans familiar with the Cardinals’ days in the Missouri Valley Conference, from 1963 to 1975, not expectimg a picnic. Many down-to-the-wire games between the two schools’ men’s basketball teams. Saturday’s battle between the women teams the first on the distaff side. Drake showing with five double-figure scorers for the showdown, all of them respected for their three-point shooting. The Cardinals digging in for a battle, not wanting to go home.
No room for timidity or hesitation during a game in which both teams hit more than 50 percent of their shots. A game in which the score was tied 12 times and the lead changed hands 14 times. A game in which Drake scored 42 points in the paint, mostly on open layups. Openings mysteriously appearing time after time despite Coach Jeff Walz’ best efforts. UofL, frankly, refusing to wilt.
When it is thankfully over, Louisville has emerged with an 83-81 win, the program’s 12th consecutive win in the tournament’s opening round.
Per Jeff Walz:
“We knew going into the game that Drake was a very, very good basketball team, had five players, six or seven, that could stand behind the three-point line and spread you out. But they cut so hard without the ball.
“And we just — they abused us. It was a situation where we were just fortunate to be able to score more. So we’re going to have to get that fixed. But I really thought Drake played a great basketball game.
“Then for our team, we made some plays at the end. I think about the last five of the last six or seven possessions, they scored, we scored. We’d get up five, they would hit a three. You have to give them credit for being able to counter every time we tried to get on a little bit of a run to score. Our largest lead of the night was six, and there was a seven-point lead in the first quarter. I think all around, a really, really good basketball game.”
UofL’s Hailey Van Lith led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting to go with three assists and two steals. Van Lith scored nine of the final 11 points for the Cardinals in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Her 26 points were a career-best in an NCAA Tournament game and tied for the eighth-most in an NCAA tournament game in program history.
Mykasa Robinson led the Cardinals with a team-high seven assists to go with a career-high 14 points, five rebounds and three steals. Nyla Harris had a career-best four steals with five rebounds and eight points. Merissah Russell scored nine points and Liz Dixon added six points from the bench.
The Bulldogs had five players in double figure scoring, led by Katie Dinnerbier with 20 points.