Louisville beats No. 10 Notre Dame to reach ACC finals 64-38
GREENSBOROW, North Carolina (AP) — Louisville Coach Jeff Walz has asked his team to dig deeper into the defense.
The Cardinals did just that.
Hayley Van Lit scored 15 points and unranked Louisville used a defensive choke to knock out No. 10 Notre Dame 64-38 on Saturday to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game.
Louisville capped the Fighting Irish at 31.4% and forced 22 passes, using all-court pressure to create chaos and shutting down inset passes in half-court sets.
This is the first time Notre Dame, the tournament’s top seed, has scored under 50 points in an entire season.
“What an incredible defensive effort,” Walz said. “Our defensive efforts have been fantastic and if we want to continue to be successful on Sunday and in the NCAA tournament, this is what we have to do.”
The Cardinals (23-10) will be in contention for their first title since 2018 on Sunday when they face No. 8 Virginia Tech, who beat No. 13 Duke 58-37 in another semi-final game at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Olivia Cochran scored 12 points and eight rebounds, while Mikasa Robinson and Chrislyn Carr each scored 10 points for Louisville.
Maddie Westbeld had nine points to lead Notre Dame (25-5), who were playing without point guard Olivia Miles, who was injured in the win last week over Louisville and haven’t played since. Earlier this year, the Irish had already lost starter Daru Mabry to a season-ending injury.
Louisville got revenge on Notre Dame for two previous losses, including one when Miles defeated the winner in the last second of the game.
But it was all of Louisville from the start, when the Cardinals were leading 14 at halftime and never looked back.
“I knew how we were going to play,” Van Lit said. “The team is just locked up. I knew how we were going to play, and the question was whether Notre Dame would play the same way.”
Notre Dame clearly lacked possession and Miles’ vision.
The Irish were busy pressuring the entire Louisville court and struggled to make quality shots from their offensive sets, missing 16 of their first 19 shots and flipping the ball 13 times in the first half.
Sonia Citron, who scored 28 points in Notre Dame’s quarterfinal win over three-time defending state champions North Carolina, did not score until the middle of the third quarter, when the Irish were 20 points behind. She finished with eight points.
Prior to this layup, Notre Dame had more casualties than points.
Carr’s three-pointer two minutes before the end of the third quarter increased the Cardinals’ lead by 27, and it became clear that Notre Dame’s seven-game winning streak was coming to an end.
“They were definitely ready to play 40 minutes, especially defensively,” Westbeld said. “They put all their best defenders on Sonya. They were very strategic in how they came out and played us.”
Louisville: The Cardinals will automatically receive an NCAA Tournament bid with a win on Sunday, but will do so as a team at large even if they lose. But they can certainly improve their seeding with another big win.
Notre Dame: The big question for the Irish going forward will be whether Miles can return to the NCAA Tournament and whether that will affect the team’s seeding. Niele Ivey, ACC Coach of the Year, said Miles is moving forward day by day. “It requires everyone to step up,” Ivey said. “We need everyone to step up and do a little more. We have shown that we can do it. We just need to do it a little more.” She said she hopes Miles’ injury won’t affect her team’s seeding and that the committee should review their work throughout the season.
Louisville: On Sunday, the ACC will face Virginia Tech in the tournament finals.
Notre Dame: Awaiting NCAA tournament seeding.
Follow Steve Reed on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SteveReedAP
AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter .com/AP_Top25