By Jamie H. Vaught
University of Louisville is a step closer to the NCAA Final Four.
After dominating No. 4 seed Stanford in the second half en route to an 86-59 victory in a Sweet Sixteen showdown Friday night, March 23 at Rupp Arena, the No. 1 seed Cardinals (35-2) will face No. 6 seed Oregon State (26-7) in an Elite Eight contest on Sunday at 12 noon.
If U of L wins Sunday, it would mark the school’s (and coach Jeff Walz’s) third Final Four appearance. In 2009 and 2013, Walz led Louisville to national runner-up finishes.
Leading the U of L attack against Stanford were four Cardinals who scored in double figures. Junior guard Asia Durr (pictured), who was recently named ACC Player of the Year, hit a game-high 24 points, including a perfect 7-of-7 at the free throw line. Senior forward Myisha Hines-Allen followed with 17 points, becoming the second Cardinals player to reach 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
Junior forward Sam Fuehring of Louisville nearly posted a double-double in getting nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
On her team’s performance, Durr said, “We don’t stop. We keep playing hard. Sam (Fuehring) and Myisha (Hines-Allen) did a great job tonight on the glass just like they’ve been doing the whole year. It’s nothing new.”
Hines Allen added, “It was amazing. From the beginning, we knew we had to jump on them. That’s what we did. We were able to get that big lead and just continue to grow on it. We got better every time we were on that court.”
Louisville, which had 17 assists, hit 51.6 percent of its shots, marking the 13th time this season that the Cardinals have shot at least 50 percent.
Hall of Fame coach Tara Vanderveer, whose Stanford squad finished the season with a 24-11 mark, is impressed with third-ranked Louisville, which set a school record with its 35th victory of the year.
“Well, it's not the press conference that you want to have,” she said after the loss. ”I think we've had a great season. Our team has really demonstrated, I think, tremendous resilience and fight. We had to do a lot of that tonight. “I thought Louisville played very well. They knocked down shots. They were extremely aggressive. We turned it over too much. We didn't do a good enough job keeping them off the O-boards, and I thought we battled in spurts really well, and then the two people next to me I thought really made some major contributions to give us a chance. “But I think we're better than what we showed tonight, but I'm really proud of our whole team and how well -- the season that we had.”
Stanford, which has an all-time record of 86-30 in the NCAA tournament, was making its 11th consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.
U of L’s aggressive defense caused Stanford to commit 19 turnovers.
Walz said his team’s defense has “been effective all year. We just played hard. The kids were dialed in, they knew what they were supposed to do, and I thought they executed extremely well.”
In the other Sweet 16 matchup at the Lexington Regional, Oregon State upset No. 2 seed Baylor (33-2) 72-67 Friday night.
The U of L-Oregon State game on Sunday will be shown on ESPN, beginning at 12 noon.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught