No. 2 Louisville women pull away from Northern Kentucky

GARY B. GRAVES
1 / 6

Louisville Northern Kentucky Basketball

Northern Kentucky guard Ally Niece (25) battles Louisville forward Elizabeth Dixon (22) for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Highland Heights, Ky., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — The strangeness of watching the first six minutes from the bench motivated Louisville forward Jazmine Jones to make her presence felt upon getting on the floor.

Her 12-point contribution by halftime was just a hint of the impact she made soon after.

Jones scored 21 points, including nine during a 20-2 third-quarter run that helped No. 2 Louisville rout Northern Kentucky 85-57 rout on Sunday.

The Cardinals (9-1) had to to rally several times just to lead the determined Norse 37-35 at halftime. Jones' quick layup started the surge before she added a 3-pointer, two free throws and another layup for a 20-point advantage that included a pair of Elizabeth Balogun layups and a 3 by Dana Evans. Louisville also turned its defense up a notch and eventually outscored NKU (4-5) 31-9 while holding the Norse to 27% shooting in the quarter to bounce back from last week's 67-60 loss at Ohio State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Cardinals coach Jeff Walz reshuffle his starting lineup in the aftermath of that defeat and lackluster practices, changes that got the attention of Jones and other starters. But only after a near-wake-up call from NKU.

“We didn't play hard against Ohio State, and the first half we didn't play very hard," Jones said after shooting 9 of 10 with four rebounds. “He (Walz) just lit a fire under everybody and we knew he had to pick up the intensity. If we get stops on defense, we can run and transition, which we did.”

Here's how well: Louisville blanked the Norse 23-0 in fast break points and scored 31 points off 21 turnovers. Eleven Cardinals had at least one basket and one rebound as the bench outscored NKU 48-22.

“We didn't play very hard for the first half,” Walz said. “We didn't play defense hard enough. And then the second half, we kind of turn things up and really, really got after it.”

Evans added 16 points with three 3s. The Cardinals also dominated the boards 42-20.

Molly Glick made three 3-pointers for 13 points, Carrisa Garcia had 13 and Ally Niece 12 for the Norse, who had won their previous four games following an 0-4 start.

“The first half was a really good half,” NKU coach Camryn Whitaker said. “We played extremely hard and extremely well and then Louisville comes out and did what Louisville does, pressured us and forced us into a bunch of turnovers. That's what they do, that's how they play and there's a reason they're the No. 2 team in the country.”

LONG JOURNEY TO HOMECOMING

Walz, a Fort Thomas, Kentucky, native who played for NKU's men's basketball team, was presented with a ceremonial ball before the game that marked the Norse's first at home against a top-10 school.

“It was pretty neat to see a lot of my friends here tonight,” said the coach, who caught a red-eye flight from Washington state to watch Cardinals signee Hailey Van Lith play a game as he promised.

Walz looked none the worse for wear from the travel, and didn't regret the turnaround.

“Got on my 11:30 flight that just happened to seem to have to go to Washington Dulles and then come back to Cincinnati,” he said. “But it's what we do when we tell our players we're going do something as a staff, we do it.”

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals shuffled their starting lineup with Yacine Diop starting for the first time this season and senior Jessica Laemmle making her first career start. The shakeup produced five early points that allowed them to hang in what was a back-and-forth contest for 20 minutes before their increased intensity on both ends seized control in the third quarter.

NKU: The Norse stayed close for a while behind a 2-3 zone defense and Glick's 3-point shooting that offset Louisville's height advantage. That size difference took its toll on rebounding and paint scoring, where they were dominated 44-20. After a 6-of-12 start from long range, they made just 3 of their final 11 attempts.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Louisville's rebound after losing at Ohio State should keep the Cardinals in the Top 10.

UP NEXT

Louisville visits No. 15 Kentucky on Sunday.

Northern Kentucky visits Indiana State on Dec. 16.

___

More AP women's basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25