The no. 4 Louisville Cardinals clinched the ACC Regular Season Championship with an 81 – 49 victory over the Pitt Panthers.
Undoubtedly, the Cardinals will enter the ACC Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, as it owns the tie breaker over Notre Dame. Louisville has not won a conference championship since 2001, in its Conference USA days. The Cardinals’ 15 – 1 league record matches its best all-time ACC record in 2015-2016. However, that season the Cardinals finished second in the conference heading into the ACC Tournament.
“It’s something we talked about, building a program and not just a team.” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said. “I think we have done that over 11 years. We’ve turned this into a nationally known program that’s going to be there year in and year out.”
The Cardinals were nearly unstoppable in the first period. Unlike its last few games, Louisville came out hot. The Cardinals knocked down nine field goals on eight assists, while shooting 64%.
Jazmine Jones and Sam Fuehring kicked things off for Louisville grabbing its first eight points. After going 0-of-2 in the first few minutes, Asia Durr finally connected on a triple. Durr’s first points of the game lead Louisville on an 8 – 0 run, which included another Asia triple and a bucket by Myisha Hines-Allen. The Cardinals took an early 16 – 6 lead over the Panthers and forced Pitt to burn a timeout with 4:40 remaining in the frame.
Louisville set the tone in the first five minutes, dishing out seven assists on seven made field goals and shooting 70%. The Cardinals finished the quarter with a 20 – 12 advantage.
Louisville, again, came out strong behind Hines-Allen and Durr, outscoring Pitt, 12 – 2, to a 32 – 14 lead. Louisville’s dynamic duo combined for 14 of the Cardinals 18 second period points.
However, Pitt began to chip away at the Cardinals’ lead getting out on a 6 – 0 run, while forcing five Louisville turnovers. The Panthers held the Cardinals scoreless for nearly four minutes. Pitt was able to bring the score within 16 points at the half, 38 – 22.
“We’re shooting about 60% from the field and then we have five turnovers right there in the last four minutes, five minutes of the second quarter,” Coach Walz said. “So I gave them the old math quiz, ‘if we get shots instead of turnovers, how many shots are we going to make if we’re shooting 60%’.”
He continued, “I tried to explain instead of being up 16, you’re up 22 just by getting shots instead of throwing the ball out of bounds and getting sloppy with it.”
Pitt attempted to build on the momentum it began to build before the half. The Panthers were able to hang with the Cardinals for the first five minutes of the second half, both teams collecting eight points into the media timeout. Out of the break, Pitt held Louisville without a field goal for nearly two and a half minutes and cut the Cardinals lead to 12.
But, Louisville responded finishing the third behind an 11 – 1 run to take a 61 – 39 lead.
“When they play with emotion like they did today, they are even more dangerous.” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “We just didn’t have enough to battle with the intensity, the emotion they played with today.”
Louisville’s intensity was clear in the final period. The Cardinals outscored the Panthers 20 – 10 and closed the game behind a 10 – 0 run.
With the victory, on Hines-Allen’s senior day, the Cardinals finish the regular season 15 – 1 in conference play and 29 – 2 overall.
“This is the hardest that I’ve pushed a team in the regular season,” Coach Walz told the media. “Once we came out here and we beat Notre Dame here at home, everything was in front of us. I pushed them hard and they have responded.”
The Cardinals had three players notch double-figures: Asia Durr led all scorers with 20 points and six assists. Myisha Hines-Allen played with emotion on her senior day, earning her 43rd career double-double on 18 points – on 58% shooting – and 16 rebounds. The senior also dished out four assists. Junior Sam Fuehring grabbed her fourth career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
For the Panthers, two players collected double-digits: Yacine Diop paced Pitt with 18 points, while Jasmine Whitney added 16 points.
The No. 4 Louisville Cardinals head out to Greensboro, North Carolina for the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Cardinals will face the winner of Game 5 between # 8 Syracuse and # 9 Virginia Tech on Friday, March 2nd at 2 PM.