By Sam Draut–
An NCAA tournament wasn’t a guarantee for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team after starting the season 1-4, but the Cardinals assured themselves of advancing to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament by dominating Central Arkansas 87-60. Louisville (26-7) closed the final six minutes of the first half on a 19-2 run and Myisha Hines-Allen scored 25 points in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the KFC YUM! Center.
Central Arkansas (28-4) opened the game making 4 of 5 3-pointers and took a six-point lead in the first quarter. Louisville coach Jeff Walz was critical of his team’s defense after the 80-75 loss to Syracuse and the Cardinals struggled in the first quarter once again. Central Arkansas shot 58 percent in the first quarter and led 25-22 through the first 10 minutes.
“I thought they came out in the first period and punched us in the nose,” Walz said.
With the scored tied 32-32, Hines-Allen scored on consecutive possessions, igniting a 17-0 run that sent the Cardinals into halftime leading by 17. The sophomore scored eight points in a three-minute span during the game-sealing run. Hines-Allen finished 12 of 17 from the field and added seven rebounds. Playing only one player 6-foot or taller, Central Arkansas had trouble containing the 6-foot-2 forward around the basket.
“I felt good out there,” Hines-Allen said. “I had to starting making layups…everything else starts to flow from there.”
While Hines-Allen provided the scoring surge, seldom used reserve Dakota Weatherford brought added defensive focus in the second quarter. Walz said the junior guard “changed the game.”
Weatherford played 18 minutes and had three steals while scoring seven points. Moore said the team’s effort wasn’t completely there until Weatherford entered the game.
“Dakota gave us more help on defense,” Moore said.
After shooting 1 of 18 from the field in the ACC tournament, Moore bounced backed and scored 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting. She added four assists and four rebounds while making seven free-throws.
Along with Hines-Allen and Moore, Sam Fuehring added a spark off the bench during the first half. The freshman scored six of her 12 points in the first half. Fuehring was 6 of 9 from the field and pulled down four rebounds in 27 minutes. Louisville’s three leading scorers, Hines-Allen, Moore and Fuehring combined to go 22 of 33 from the field.
Fuehring gave the Cardinals a lift while Walz used starting forward Cortnee Walton for 17 minutes. Walton dislocated her left pinky finger on Feb. 28 against Pitt and has played with the appendage heavily taped for the past few weeks.
Walz said Fuehring gave Louisville “some great minutes at the offensive end.”
“I was really proud of her, she played really well, she stepped up when we needed her to,” Walton said. “She was a spark for us.”
Louisville will host DePaul in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday. Walz jokingly said DePaul would score 120 points if Louisville plays defense like it did against Central Arkansas.
Photos by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal