LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)Kianna Smith made five 3-pointers for a career-high 22 points, Hailey Van Lith added 13 points and No. 6 Louisville shot 51% to cruise past Eastern Kentucky 82-38 on Thursday night for its ninth consecutive victory.
The Cardinals (9-1) showed no letdown from Sunday’s tense 64-58 win over No. 19 Kentucky, running off 11 unanswered points for a 13-3 lead midway through the first quarter that steadily grew behind hot shooting. Their bench helped spark 11-of-16 shooting in the second for a 51-28 halftime cushion and the lead reached 73-33 early in the fourth.
Emma Hacker scored 10 points for the Colonels (4-6), who were coming off a 66-43 rout of Morehead State on Wednesday night. EKU made just 3 of 19 shots after halftime (16%) for only five points each in the third and fourth quarters and shot just 26% overall while scoring a season low.
Smith, a senior guard, made 8 of 11 shots including 5 of 7 from long range to top her previous high of 21 points, set twice last season.
”I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Smith said, ”making the extra pass when it was there and shooting when I was open.”
Van Lith made 6 of 12 shots while Emily Engstler shot 5 of 10 for 11 points. Freshman Payton Verhulst added 12 points off the bench.
Louisville dominated the paint 38-8, bench scoring 36-18 and rebounding 42-27 in its final tune-up before facing No. 7 UConn on Sunday. The Cardinals also hit 11 of 27 from behind the arc and recorded 23 assists among 33 baskets.
”I thought we cleaned things up a little bit on offense,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. ”Now, they (the Colonels) played a lot of zone, which is good for us to see because I’m sure we’ll see that throughout the season. But you know, we still got work to do these next two days before we take on a really, really good basketball team on Sunday.”
The later-than-usual tipoff allowed Louisville fans to watch the early sets of an NCAA volleyball semifinal in Columbus, Ohio, in which the previously unbeaten and top-ranked Cardinals fell in five sets to No. 4 Wisconsin. Intermittent feeds on the large overhead video screens had many people cheering during action on the floor, with Louisville players sneaking a peek during timeouts.
EKU: The Colonels led in the early minutes but were no match for Louisville’s depth and shooting. They committed 25 turnovers, 17 after halftime, leading to 26 Cardinals points and couldn’t muster any offensive flow after a 28-point first half. The Colonels were without Jayla Johnson and Bridgid Fox because of injuries.
”Having two players out, I was pleased with the first half,” first-year coach Greg Todd said. ”Second half, I think the positive was we defended better but offensively, we weren’t as efficient.”
Louisville: The Cardinals’ starters needed just a few minutes to build a double-digit lead, clearing the way for Walz to substitute his entire lineup late in the first quarter. The bench steadily stretched it out from there and provided the depth needed to face the injury-depleted but still dangerous Huskies. Forward Olivia Cochran did not play while going through concussion protocols following a head injury on Sunday.
Eastern Kentucky hosts Pikeville of the NAIA on Saturday.
Louisville faces No. 7 UConn on Sunday in Uncasville, Connecticut.
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