By Ashli McLean
What started out as a 1-4 season has become 11-5 (3-0 ACC) by early January for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. The Cards defeated Virginia Tech 56-45 on Dec. 7 at the KFC Yum! Center. Tip-off was 7 p.m.
The second period helped set the stage for a Louisville win.
“In that second period, I thought we moved better,” said Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. Although thankful for the win, he was a bit dissatisfied with his team getting caught up with one-on-one play throughout the game, as well as not passing the ball well and standing around too much. But that second period got the Cards where they needed to be.
“When we did get a kick-out, we got some open looks and kind of made them scramble at times.”
In the final 1:13 of the first period, Louisville led 13-10 until Virginia Tech’s Hannah Young fired a three to tie the game. It was the third, 3-pointer of the period for the Hokies – the second by Young.
The second period was Louisville’s show. The Cards outscored Virginia Tech 18-5. With 50 seconds remaining, Asia Durr side-stepped for a one-handed layup to take Louisville up 28-16. The Cards’ greatest margin was 15 when a three-point play by Briahanna Jackson extended the score 31-16.
Two free throws by Chanette Hicks finished the period 31-18.
“We just played our game,” said Jackson on Louisville’s run. “At halftime, (Walz) said ‘Don’t let up on defense,’ so we tried to focus more on getting stops and that helped us to go and run our offense.”
The Hokies bounced back in the third period, holding Louisville to only five points. Tensions arose on both teams when Louisville’s Cortnee Walton dove for a loose ball at the 5:02 mark. A jump ball was initially called, but both Louisville’s Myisha Hines-Allen and Virginia Tech’s Chanette Hicks were called for technical fouls immediately following. When the game resumed, Vanessa Panousis hit two free throws (foul by Durr) to bring Virginia Tech within six (33-27).
Louisville’s Mariya Moore hit a three and Virginia Tech’s Regan Magarity hit both of her free throws (foul by Hines-Allen) to end the period 36-31 Louisville.
With 5:25 remaining in the game, Jackson made a pump fake and hopped inside the arc for a jumper to take Louisville up by 11 points, 46-38. Virginia Tech came within nine when an assist by Hicks allowed Taijah Campbell to hit a jumper and cut the score 49-40 in the final 1:36.
Jackson scored the final points of the game, which was a layup that gave the Cards’ the 56-45 win. Jackson also broke her 1,000th NCAA point mark. Walz presented her with an encased basketball and she celebrated on the court with her team.
“I didn’t even know I was even close,” said Jackson on her achievement. “It was a great surprise. I’m really happy to share it with this team and this program. It’s a memory.”
Hines-Allen finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks. Jackson added 13 points.
“They played smart basketball,” said Hines-Allen on the physicality of Virginia Tech. “They got into our heads and we can’t have that happen again. The two techs (technical fouls) we got weren’t good ones and some of our fouls weren’t smart fouls. We just have to play smart and not let teams get in our heads.”
For Virginia Tech, Young finished with 16 points and four rebounds. Panousis added nine points. Magarity and Hicks both added six points and eight rebounds.
Another key to Louisville’s win was its defense. The Cards forced 21 turnovers on the Hokies.
“We really pressed once or twice just to try to speed them up at times,” said Walz, “but I thought we did a really nice job at half court of turning them over. When you’re playing a team like this, possessions are at a premium, and I thought we did a great job of trying to, at times, speed them up, and, at times, making them as uncomfortable as possible.”
The Cards return in action on Jan. 10 for a 1 p.m. game against Duke at the KFC Yum! Center.