As the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals defeated the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines 62-50 on Monday, there were cheers, tears of joy, and even bigger celebrations in the Kansas city of Wichita.
Late in the game, Hailey Van Lith took charge and led the way, scoring 22 points to make it her fourth consecutive game with at least 20 points. However, it was a team effort from start to finish for the Cards, as several players made significant contributions in the close game versus Michigan.
Louisville Womens Basketball Beats Michigan
The Michigan defence applied heavy pressure to Van Lith, stifling the Louisville offence, and Chelsie Hall stepped up to the plate. Hall stepped up and sank several baskets to give the Cards the early momentum and finished with a crucial 15 points on the night despite the fact that Louisville’s best shooters were blanketed.
According to Van Lith, “We wouldn’t have won without her.” She pressured their guards on defence and had a huge game offensively.
There was never more than a seven-point gap between the teams in the first half, even though the Cardinals led the entire time. The Wolverines made a late push and were able to cut the deficit to one point, giving them a chance to take the lead into halftime. In the last seconds of the half, though, Hall induced a turnover that Kianna Smith converted into a point, increasing the Cardinals’ advantage to 30–27.
Louisville’s lead grew to nine points in the third quarter thanks to clutch free throw shooting from Van Lith and tenacious defence from players like Mykasa Robinson and Emily Engstler. Nonetheless, Michigan’s starting forwards’ foul trouble allowed the Wolverines to capitalise on opportunities as they stayed close by.
The final ten minutes of the game showed that this club is ready to take the next step forward in a season marred by two fourth-quarter disasters.
When Louisville’s offensive slowed down around the quarter’s halfway point, Michigan took advantage. Coach Walz took a timeout as the Wolverines appeared to be on the verge of a game-winning run. We knew if we didn’t get stops in those last minutes, we weren’t going to win the game,” Kianna Smith stated after the game. Immediately following the timeout, the Cardinals did that. Plus, the final 5 minutes and 42 seconds of the game were scoreless as Louisville shut out Michigan.
Van Lith said, “no matter what happens on the offensive end, we have to play tough defence and get stops down the floor,” elaborating on a mantra stressed by Walz all year long about the importance of a tenacious defence.
A foul away from exiting and sporting an eye mask after getting elbowed against Tennessee, forward Olivia Cochran came up in a huge way, scoring the final points of the game to seal Louisville’s victory and advance them to the Elite Eight.
The program’s fourth Final Four berth and Jeff Walz’s first since 2018. With this victory, all players who have played under Jeff Walz have now reached the championship round.
When asked what it meant to play for Walz, senior Emily Engstler said, “I’m going to do whatever I can to win him a national championship.” And Hailey Van Lith chimed in, “He always has our back and cares for us. And he doesn’t just focus on your professional and athletic skills; he also helps you develop into a well-rounded human being. Each and every one of the ladies on this squad would give their life for him.
The team celebrated their victory, but they are aware that their work is far from over. Engstler was sure that his team would be able to win the national championship despite the team’s remarkable accomplishments. For the sake of our city, Van Lith concurred, “We’ll do anything for each other, which makes us so dangerous.”
On Friday, April 1, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, the Louisville Cardinals will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks, the defending national champions.
For more on the Final Four and other U of L athletics news, check back here.