3 takeaways as Louisville women's basketball wins its seventh straight game

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  • Jeff Walz
    American basketball player-coach
Louisville’s Olivia Cochran goes up for two against Belmont’s Conley Chinn.Dec. 5, 2021
Louisville’s Olivia Cochran goes up for two against Belmont’s Conley Chinn.Dec. 5, 2021

The Louisville women's basketball team continued its winning ways on Sunday.

The Cardinals (7-1) defeated Belmont 80-66 and were led by Hailey Van Lith, who finished with 16 points. Kianna Smith had 14 points, scoring her 1,000th career point, as well. Chelshie Hall finished with 11 points and Olivia Cochran had 10 points.

Louisville played 11 players for more than five minutes, giving its entire bench a chance to gain experience, especially in the second half.

Avoiding a trap game after its blowout win over Michigan, the Cardinals will now take their seven game winning streak into next Sunday's game against Kentucky.

More: Defense carries Cards as they dominate Michigan in battle of top-10 teams at Yum Center

Kianna Smith reaches major milestone

Louisville’s Kianna Smith goes up for two against Belmont’s Tessa Miller.Dec. 5, 2021
Louisville’s Kianna Smith goes up for two against Belmont’s Tessa Miller.Dec. 5, 2021

Smith has been Louisville's best scorer this season, leading the team with 11.1 points.

The California native is an elite shooter, hitting the deep ball at a 43% clip, but she's also shown her ability to finish off the dribble this season. Her 1,000th point came in the first quarter, a good milestone for the guard who spent part of her career at California.

Smith has scored in double figures in six straight games and has combined to score 31 points in the last two games.

"She's being efficient right now," coach Jeff Walz said. "That's one of the things I've talked to her about. It's not about how many points you score, but it's how shots are you taking to get those points. I've been pleased with how well she's shooting the ball from behind the three-point line and she's playing with confidence."

Despite late Belmont run, Louisville basketball doesn't slip

Louisville’s Ahlana Smith passes the ball away from Belmont’s Jamilyn Kinney.Dec. 5, 2021
Louisville’s Ahlana Smith passes the ball away from Belmont’s Jamilyn Kinney.Dec. 5, 2021

Belmont gave Louisville a scare late in the game. Belmont got hot from deep, making four 3-pointers in a row to cut an 18-point lead to 12 points.

Coach Jeff Walz called a timeout, called an out of bounds play that got Olivia Cochran an easy basket and Louisville held on from there.

I'm sure Louisville would've liked to hold onto its 18-point lead, but the Cards holding on to win by double digits was a good sign. The early part of the season is meant to test your team and Louisville was tested against Belmont, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Walz, despite the Belmont run, didn't look worried throughout the game. He stayed by the scorer's table and watched how his team handled the late adversity, without yelling much at all, just directing traffic.

"I like to challenge our players at times to make them think the game," Walz said.

More: Locke, Cross boost Louisville basketball with late shots at NC State

Hailey Van Lith breaking out of slump

Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith celebrates getting fouled against Belmont.Dec. 5, 2021
Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith celebrates getting fouled against Belmont.Dec. 5, 2021

A good sign for Louisville and Van Lith fans, she broke out of a slight scoring slump.

The preseason All-ACC player began the season with a 19-point performance against Arizona, but Sunday was her best scoring performance since then. She had 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting and made 1-of-3 three-point attempts. She also had five rebounds and one assist.

Louisville is going to need Van Lith this season. It doesn't need her to be 20-point scorer each game, but it's a good sign that her shot was falling and she was able to get to the basket often on Sunday.

"I thought she took some good shots and it was nice to see the ball go in," Walz said. "I was never concerned. She works too hard. She's too good a player and she does other things on the floor. ... It was a matter of seeing a few go in and then getting the confidence. That's what happened today and I think it started on Thursday. It won't surprise me if this continues on this path."

Cameron Teague Robinson CTeagueRob@gannett.com; Twitter: @cj_teague;

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville women's basketball defeat Belmont for seventh straight win

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