San Antonio, TX – The No. 3 seeded Louisville Cardinals punched their ticket to the elite eight after a 60-42 victory over the Oregon Ducks, a No. 6-seed. The Cardinals’ defense held the Ducks to 30 points under their season average and Dana Evans was an unstoppable force on the offensive end, tying her career-high 29 points on 11-for-21 shooting for the game.
The first half was dominated by Louisville’s tough-nosed defense, as they had a commanding 29-14 lead going into the half. Oregon shot 26 percent on 7-for-27 from the field, while turning the ball over eight times. In the first two contests of the NCAA Tourney, the Cardinals only allowed an average of 48.0 points per game and that defensive effort continued this evening. Struggling early on to score, Louisville shot 25 percent from the field in the opening quarter, but they bounced back in a strong way in the second.
Evans, who earned the ACC player of the year for the second consecutive season, took over in the second quarter by connecting on several jump shots. She finished the opening half with 13 points and found her rhythm catapulting Louisville to finish the first half on a 19-4 run. The run was capped off with a buzzer beater lay-in by Elizabeth Balogun. During the run, Oregon was held scoreless for nearly six minutes, unable to find any consistency offensively. Prior to Louisville’s scoring run, the Ducks only trailed 10-8 until true freshman point guard Maddie Scheer, Oregon’s primary ball handler, left the game with an ankle injury after which she did not return.
In the third quarter, Sedona Prince got the Ducks back in the game by posting up against her smaller Louisville defender to connect on a fade-away jumper. Shortly after, Erin Boley made Oregon’s first 3-pointer, ending a team series of ten failed attempts, quickly following up with a putback basket. The Ducks strung together a 9-0 run and trailed 34-25. The Ducks were also able to adjust defensively, slowing down the Cardinals’ transition offense, to outscore Louisville 19-14 in the quarter. Nyara Sabally made her presence known in the post by overpowering and scoring at will in the paint. She scored 10 points in the quarter alone and shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, while collecting five rebounds. Unfortunately, she rolled her ankle in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter, finishing the contest with 14 points (6-for-8 FG) and seven rebounds.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Ducks trimmed the lead to six points and had opportunities to cut it further, but they failed to convert on several shots around the basket. Prince, who finished with 10 points, tried to rally the Ducks in the final quarter, but it was short lived. Evans, the 5’6” All-American, responded with a 7-0 run of her own with two deadly 3-pointers off the bounce to push the lead back out to 50-37. Kianna Smith, the second leading scorer for the Cardinals, chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. This dynamic duo ultimately prevented the Ducks from a second-half rally.
For the contest, Oregon’s shooting woes continued beyond the arc, finishing with a dreary 2-of-18 for the game. Boley made the only two 3s for the Ducks. In her final game as a Duck, she scored 14 points (6-for-17 FG) and collected 11 rebounds. Offensively for Oregon, the production came mainly from three players, with Boley, Sabally, and Prince combining to score 38 out of the team’s 42 points. Louisville was able to capitalize on the Ducks miscues by scoring 21 points off of 14 Oregon turnovers.
Oregon finished the season with a 15-9 record and advanced to the sweet sixteen for the fourth consecutive year. The Ducks bring back the bulk of their team next season. Louisville will face No. 1- seeded Stanford in an elite eight matchup.