LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kianna Smith scored 17 points and No. 2 Louisville, after waiting out a late delay caused by COVID-19 protocols, beat Clemson 70-45 on Sunday.
The game was supposed to begin at noon. But less than 90 minutes before the scheduled tip-off, Louisville announced the start had been pushed back two hours.
A subsequent Atlantic Coast Conference statement attributed the delay “as a result of a player undergoing further testing.”
Louisville coach Jeff Walz said one of his players reported virus symptoms. She was tested and came back negative in the morning.
Later, Walz was told that players who hadn’t previously had the virus needed to be tested, and that led to the delay. He worked with Clemson coach Amanda Butler and Tigers officials to move the start of the game back two hours.
As a result, Louisville began the game with just seven players available, and regular starters Olivia Cochran and Elizabeth Balogun were not among them. They came out during the first quarter, and the Cardinals eventually had 11 of its 12 players ready.
Walz said he had those four players warming up and stretching in the Yum Center’s auxiliary gym as the players awaited their results, but he did not know if they would be able to play until they reached the bench.
Louisville, which went 23 days between games last month because of COVID-19 issues within the team, had originally been scheduled to visit Florida State on Sunday, but that game was scrubbed a week ago because the Seminoles are under virus protocols.
Louisville endured a bit of a rough start, committing six turnovers in the first seven minutes. They had just 10 more the rest of the way.
“We settled down some, which is what we needed to do,” Walz said. “We were just getting way too careless with the basketball, and it was just nice to finally see us get up shots and make that extra pass.”
Smith bounced back after scoring a season-low five points Thursday in a win at Virginia Tech. Balogun added a season-high 14 for Louisville (10-0, 3-0 ACC).
Balogun said she and her teammates arrived at the arena around 8 a.m. She missed not being out on the main court and warming up as she usually does with the rest of her teammates.
“It was a long day,” she said.
The Cardinals used a 15-2 run to build a 49-30 lead with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers (8-4, 3-4) were led by Hannah Hank’s 11 points. Clemson made only one of his 20 shots in the fourth quarter.
Butler told Clemson’s radio network the Cardinals dictated how the game was played.
“We’re not a young team, and we’re not going to look to explain away what could’ve been different,” she said.
LOUISVILLE 3-D LEADS ACC
Louisville entered Sunday as the conference leader in defending the 3-point shot as opponents had only made 24.6 percent (41 of 167). The Cardinals will improve on that as Clemson missed all 19 of its 3-point shots in the game.
Louisville is 10-0 for the third time in four years and coming off an impressive defensive performance under challenging circumstances. Even with 15 points separating them between co-No. 3 North Carolina State and Connecticut, Louisville should be able to maintain their spot in Monday’s poll.
Clemson: The Tigers have yet to win in 2021. Sunday marked their third straight loss and fourth in six games. Those defeats have come by an average margin of 13.8 points.
Louisville: The Cardinals got an unexpected test after Dana Evans, the ACC’s leading scorer, drew two quick fouls in a 1:01 span late in the first quarter. She sat out the entire second quarter, and there were times where she was missed, including the final 3:24 of the first half. She finished with 10 points.
Still, without her presence, Walz said he was pleased with what he saw.
“It was nice to see us extend the lead, even though she wasn’t out there on the floor,” he said. “But when she came back in there (in the second half) she made a few big shots that really helped extend our lead.”
Clemson travels to Florida State on Sunday.
Louisville hosts Boston College on Thursday night.