The Cardinals (16-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) rebounded from Thursday’s loss to N.C. State with one of their best shooting performances of the season. Louisville shot 66.7% in the first half and 51% for the game despite missing their last 10 shots over the final 8:22 of the game.
That scoring drought allowed the Demon Deacons (12-8, 2-7) to chip away at what was a 34-point Louisville advantage with less than four minutes left in the third period.
Louisville’s defense was equally impressive, as the Cardinals ended the second quarter on a 23-1 to put the game away. Van Lith scored eight points during the decisive run, as did Liz Dixon.
“For a lot of this ballgame today, I thought we looked really, really well,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
Emily Engstler added 15 points for Louisville, while Dixon came off the bench to score 12 and was perfect from the field on five shots.
Louisville got 19 assists on 26 field goals. Mykasa Robinson came off the bench to post a season-high seven, and Van Lith added a career-high six.
The Demon Deacons led 25-21 just 20 seconds into the second quarter after a 3-pointer by Olivia Summiel. They had made 9-of-17 shots at that point, but Wake Forest would not hit another basket until Elise Williams hit a trey with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter to cut Louisville’s lead to 63-34.
Van Lith credited Louisville’s adjustments on defense for leading to the decisive run.
“The way we were guarding ball screens was not working,” the sophomore guard said. “Their players were hitting shots. We were leaving the wrong people open. The coaches adjusted the ball screen defense, and we adapted to it well.”
Wake Forest coach Jen Hoover said Louisville’s depth — six McDonalds All-Americans — was too much.
“They’re phenomenal basketball team,” Hoover said. “When you’ve got that many McDonald’s All-Americans and you’re bringing them off the bench, unfortunately today, when we had to sub, they were able to turn it up. And we didn’t respond well to that.”
Wake Forest missed 21 shots in that drought. After shooting a season-low 27.1% in a 66-44 home loss to Clemson on Thursday, the Demon Deacons shot just 29.6% on Sunday.
Jewel Spear scored 12 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead Wake Forest.
One issue Walz has raised with his team all season has been its penchant for fouling. The Cardinals committed 23 on Sunday, including two technicals.
But there were some calls that made him scratch his head, including a foul on Dixon that replays showed appeared to be a clean block.
“It’s okay if a woman blocks a shot, God forbid,” Walz said. “I just watched these men’s games, and I’m going, ‘I just wish we could get a little bit better at letting these kids play.’ … It’s unfortunate, but it’s just going to be ugly games. They drag on. We stop the flow of games, and it’s just not good, unfortunately.”
Louisville was whistled for 10 of its 23 fouls in the fourth quarter, and 17 of the 38 total fouls were called in the final 10 minutes. When asked how much the flow was disrupted in the fourth, Walz was frank.
“Did you see a flow?” he asked. “We needed some Drano … it was clogged up, alright. The entire fourth quarter was constipated. We needed some Maalox.”
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons outplayed the Cardinals for a quarter but then ran into a buzzsaw as they lost their fifth straight game.
Louisville: The Cards’ early defense was reminiscent of the final quarter in Thursday’s loss at N.C. State. However, they eventually established control and put up one of their more impressive performances of the season. The final score was not indicative of the way Louisville played for most of the game.
Wake Forest: Hosts Miami (Fla.) on Thursday night.
Louisville: Hosts Florida State on Thursday night.