Louisville WBB advances to another Sweet 16 with 22-point NCAA Tournament win over Texas
AUSTIN, Texas — When everyone else from Louisville’s women’s basketball team went back into the locker room ahead of Monday’s NCAA Tournament game against No. 4-seeded Texas, Hailey Van Lith remained on the court.
She practiced free throws on one foot — first on the right, then the left — before making eight straight jumpers at the charity stripe. Eventually, Van Lith finished up and gave high-fives to the managers working around her before heading into the tunnel as a pocket of Louisville fans cheered her on.
Van Lith’s extra time on the court translated into 21 points (8 of 15 shooting) as the junior led the fifth-seeded Cardinals to a lopsided 73-51 win over the Longhorns at the Moody Center.
The Cardinals will now head to Seattle for the Sweet 16 where a legion of family and supporters await Van Lith. The junior didn’t want to get ahead of herself but knew what was at stake coming into Monday’s contest.
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“I have a lot of supporters out there who I know can't wait to come support Louisville,” Van Lith said Saturday after Louisville’s 83-81 win over Drake. “I think it feels like a home game if we went out there because I know that my people come in deep. I'm really excited and I know my teammates, they love that area. Everyone had a great time when we went out last year.”
Louisville played Washington on Nov. 20, 2021 and beat the Huskies 61-53.
The Cardinals will face No. 8-seed Ole Miss on Friday at 10 p.m. The Rebels advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007 after upsetting No. 1 Stanford 54-49 on Sunday.
Louisville, on the other hand, will be making its sixth straight Sweet 16 appearance since 2017 (the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
"I've been pleased with how we've been playing in the past month and a half," U of L head coach Jeff Walz said. "Tonight, I thought we did an outstanding job. My staff did a remarkable job of putting (the scouting report) together, making sure we sat down (and) discussed what we want to do on each player, who we're going to double off of, who we're backing off of, what we're going to do when they come off ball screens. We followed it to a tee."
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Van Lith was relentless against UT and began the outing with a steal on UT's first possession to set up a Nyla Harris layup a minute in. She drained a 3-pointer to give the Cardinals an early 7-0 lead, added another steal a bit later and scored eight straight Louisville points in the first quarter.
Even when the Longhorns tied the game at 16 to end the first quarter, Van Lith and the Cardinals never lost control, opening the second quarter with a 9-0 run. The native of Wenatchee, Washington — two-and-a-half hours east of Seattle — was generous during the run and threw the ball to Josie Williams at the top of the perimeter for a 3-pointer that put the Cardinals up 25-16 at the 6:43 mark of the second frame.
Van Lith has now scored 20 or more points five times in U of L's last seven games after going a month without reaching that mark.
"What I'm most proud of her for is this past month and a half, she let the game come to her," Walz said of Van Lith. "When (Texas guard) Rori Harmon is on you, you're trying to go with the others because she's so darn good at the defensive end. And then all of a sudden, CC (Chrislyn Carr) starts to make a couple of shots. They switch her on to CC now we're going back to Hailey. She was patient, and when we play like that, it's pretty impressive."
But Monday night's win was about more than Van Lith’s scoring performance.
Louisville made necessary defensive adjustments after allowing Drake to shoot better than 50% from the field two nights before. Texas averaged 73.5 points per game coming into the contest, but the Cardinals held the Longhorns 22.5 points below that and limited them to just 1 of 10 from 3-point territory.
UT turned the ball over 13 times, and U of L converted that into 14 points.
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"I think we just held each other accountable," Van Lith said. "We went and watched film and we all admitted that what all of us gave against Drake defensively wasn't good enough."
U of L won on the glass 42-34, limiting UT to just 13 boards in the second half. The Cardinals held Harmon to 4 of 11 shooting and 10 points, although she grabbed nine rebounds.
Morgan Jones scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds for Louisville while Carr and Mykasa Robinson each added nine points.
Reach Louisville football, women's basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: March Madness continues for Louisville WBB