When the next game after a record-setting three point shooting performance comes against a 2-13 in the ACC Pitt team, the very last thing you want to do is lay a stinker. Despite a few whiffs, Cardinals women’s basketball came out smelling like roses in a dominant 67-40 win against the struggling Panthers to close out regular season play. With this victory, and Notre Dame’s against Virginia, the top two seeds for the ACC tournament are set. UofL will start the post-season at 6:00 p.m. on Friday against the winner of 7-seed Clemson vs either 10-seed Duke or 15-seed Wake Forest.
For a time it looked as if the Cardinals had cashed in all of their three-point shooting credit. Indeed, they were having trouble buying any kind of bucket. The Cards were 1 for 9 from distance at the end of the first quarter, with the only make coming from Sam Fuehring. Despite a 9-2 Louisville run to start the game the Panthers were having a bit more luck on the offensive side and crawled back to within two as the first quarter ended 15-13.
But the Cardinals defensive effort was the star of the day. It’s easy to overlook how excellent the Louisville defense is considering how noteworthy they are on the offensive side. But the Cards are the #1 defense in ACC play, holding conference opponents to a devastating 55.0 PPG. It was that very type of performance that held Pitt repeatedly at bay despite the Louisville shooting woes. Jazmine Jones and Asia Durr both with three steals, accounting for half of the Cardinals’ twelve. The Panthers would give up, or be forced to give up, the basketball 25 times in the game granting Louisville an easy 21 points. And the Cards would easily win the battle on the glass 42 to 29.
Out of that rebounding battle came one of the more odd scenarios of the game. It’s typical for a team to have far more defensive rebounds than offensive rebounds. That’s just how the game plays out given the standard offensive schemes. But for a time the Cardinals were out-rebounding themselves offensively. If the shots weren’t falling, who cared? Just take another shot after Bionca or Sam corralled the rebound. Dunham would finish with nine rebounds after another strong game while Fuehring was just behind with six.
As for Pitt, it was Senior Day. Senior Cassidy Walsh was doing everything she could to keep the Panthers within reach despite having to rock the full protective face mask. Her 11 points and 3 for 5 from distance at times looked like the would be the offensive spark the Panthers needed. Fellow senior Danielle Garven joined in with nine points from the post and eight rebounds. But it was never enough. A hot start for Pitt dwindled and Louisville held the Panthers to 40 points on 32.7% shooting. The Cards have now held opponents to under 50 points in 9 of 29 games this season.
And just as the Pitt offense started to sputter, the Cardinals found theirs. Asia Durr would finish 7 for 16 overall and 2 for 8 from three-point range to lead all scorers with 17. This despite spending a decent amount of time on the bench after getting knocked into the scorers table by Pitt sophomore Kyla Nelson. Mykasa Robinson performed ably during this stretch, but fortunately Asia Durr was back on the floor in the fourth quarter looking no worse for the wear.
Louisville was only 5 for 27 from beyond the arc, but it was heartening to see that the Cards are not a one-trick pony. 36 of Louisville’s 67 points were in the paint thanks to impressive performances from Fuehring, Shook, and Jones. And once again Bionca Dunham’s offensive stat line might look unimpressive, but her contributions are worth far more than whatever points she might garner.
It’s March folks. The Cardinals open post-season play on Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. in Greensboro, NC. The Crunch Zone will be there providing you with live coverage. Stay tuned. The ceiling is the roof.