The No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals opened tournament play with a huge 69 – 34 victory against 16th-seeded Robert Morris.
Louisville was without head coach Jeff Walz, as the veteran coach was suspended for the first game after an incident in last year’s Final Four.
But, the head coach shoes fit perfectly for associate head coach Stephanie Norman, who filled in for Coach Walz.
Coach Norman spoke to her experience at the head of the Cardinals, “I just really tried to keep that in mind and really tried to be relaxed. I was very confident. I was not nervous. I just was excited for our players.”
The Cardinals show 48% from the field and limited the Colonials to only 12 made field goals.
Despite the outstanding defensive effort for Louisville, the Cardinals were far from a perfect performance. Louisville turned the ball over 15 times, well above its season average.
“Once Coach Walz gets here, he’s probably going to be not very happy with our turnovers tonight.” Coach Norman said. “We typically are a team that gets eight to ten turnovers. So we’ll have to clean that up.”
Louisville’s defense was locked in. The Cardinals scored 27 consecutive points, while holding Robert Morris scoreless for nearly 15 minutes.
The end of the second frame saw a determined Colonial team. Breaking the scoring drought for the Colonials was Irekpitan Ozzy-Momodu. Ozzy Momodu notched a quick 6 points as she was able to find the bucket and hit a couple free throws. Freshman Natalie Villaflor knocked hit Robert Morris’ first 3-pointer. The freshman also grabbed five points before the half.
Despite the 37 – 15 Louisville lead at the half, the Colonials fought hard in the second half. Robert Morris turned to its bench for help. Villaflor again delivered grabbing 8 points. However, the Colonials were outscored 32 – 21 and unable to make much of a dent in Louisville’s lead.
While the Colonials took an early exit, Robert Morris head coach Charlie Buscaglia praised his team’s effort.
“Very proud of my team. We didn’t get off to the best start when it came to finishing and knocking some shots down we make a lot of the time,” Coach Buscaglia said. “I think the arena today saw how a team could continue to fight and continue to work hard, stay together, even when things get tough and continue to defend and just keep going to that next play, is what we’ve always been teaching.”
Louisville finished the game with four players in double-figures: Sam Fuehring notched her 10th career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Fuehring was perfect from the field going 9-of-9. Asia Durr also tallied 19 points. Dana Evans added 13 points and 5 assists, while Bionca Dunham racked up 10 points and 7 boards.
The Cardinals will face Michigan on Sunday.