GREENSBORO, N.C. — Dana Evans scored 13 points, Olivia Cochran added 10 points and 10 rebounds and fifth-ranked Louisville advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game with a 72-59 win over Syracuse on Saturday.
Louisville (23-2), the tournament’s top seed, got 11 points from Kianna Smith on 5-of-7 shooting and 10 points off the bench from Norika Konno in the win. The Cardinals were 16 of 17 from the free throw line.
Evans, the two-time ACC Player of the Year, had just eight points against Wake Forest in the quarterfinals and didn’t score until the 4 1/2-minute mark of the first half. After shooting 3 of 15 in the first game, she was just 1 of 6 from the field in the first half before scoring nine points in the second half.
Emily Engstler had 21 points and 10 rebounds to keep Syracuse (14-8) in the game in the second half.
The Orange were focused early on getting the ball to 6-foot-7 freshman center Kamilla Cardoso, knowing she had a height advantage inside. The Cardinals countered with a full court press, looking to speed up Syracuse and disrupt their half court sets and double-teamed Cardoso on entry passes. Cardoso finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Louisville led 37-30 in the first half and stretched the lead to 12 at the end of the third quarter as Evans began to come alive.
Syracuse: The Orange struggled a bit with Louisville’s full-court press in the first half, committing some silly turnovers in the backcourt – although the Cardinals had trouble converting those into points. Engstler was solid throughout and Syracuse could prove to be a difficult out in the NCAA Tournament with Cardoso’s size.
Louisville: Through the first six quarters of the tournament Evans was just 19% (4 of 21) from the field, but the Cardinals leader on the court started to show signs of being a dominant player with a strong second half. Syracuse threw everything it had at Louisville, including a 1-3-1 zone, but Louisville handled it well with good ball movement.
The two teams combined to make their first 24 foul shots before Cardoso finally missed late in the third quarter. The teams combined to make 26 of 32 free throws.
Syracuse: The Orange should be in good shape to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, with its resume bolstered by a last-second win over Florida State in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Louisville: The Cardinals will play for their second ACC title in the last four seasons on Sunday. They also won in 2018.