LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Emily Engstler and No. 10 Louisville absorbed Michigan’s initial charge before quickly answering with a furious pace that earned them their most impressive win this season.
Engstler had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Kianna Smith added 17 points and the Cardinals used a 25-2 burst over the first and second quarters to run past No. 12 Michigan 70-48 on Thursday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“We knew they were a very physical team and we wanted to match that intensity from the jump,” Smith said. “And especially coming off that Arizona loss, we knew this was the next best team we were going to see and we wanted to make a statement.”
The Cardinals (6-1) initially struggled to find their footing with three traveling calls in the early minutes and were a step behind the Wolverines defensively in trailing 7-2. They took off from there with 13 unanswered points, including consecutive 3s by Smith, for a 15-9 lead entering the second quarter before pulling away to their sixth consecutive victory.
A 12-0 run made it 27-9 just three minutes in as Michigan missed 12 of 13 shots during one stretch. Louisville scored the final nine points of the half for a 24-point cushion.
Engstler made 8 of 15 from the field and 2 of 4 from long range to post her second double-double this season. Smith was 4 of 8 on 3s and 6 of 13 overall to score in double figures for the fifth consecutive game. Hailey Van Lith added 10 points for the Cardinals.
Louisville not only controlled the boards 39-26, it scored 32 points off turnovers and 16 second-chance points against a Michigan squad holding opponents to 35% shooting and 52 points per game. All it took was shaking off those early miscues in the Cardinals’ return home after a three-game West coast swing.
“Coach specifically said before this game not to let little things bother us and to make sure that if something goes wrong, we keep our heads up,” Engstler said. “I think that we just took it to heart and it’s something that I’ve been personally work on working on.”
Naz Hillmon had 12 points and Emily Kiser 10 for the Wolverines (7-1), who committed 24 turnovers and shot 37% while finishing 21 points below their average of 69.3 coming in. Hillmon was 5 of 9 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds, but wasn’t a big factor.
“Their defense was really good, their length really bothered us,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “They were sending multiple players at Naz and causing some traffic inside. We couldn’t really hit any outside shots to relieve that pressure inside.”
Michigan: The Wolverines’ good start quickly dissolved into a deep hole as Louisville overwhelmed them on both ends. They rebounded from 2-of-11 shooting in the second quarter to make 48% after halftime, but things were out of hand by then. The Wolverines were beaten 15-6 on the offensive glass alone.
Louisville: A Cardinals defense that entered holding opponents to just under 43 points per game turned it up a notch against the Wolverines, who finally broke 40 points with 6:08 remaining. Their big run covered 11:25, with Engstler showing a wicked first step on several drives to the basket. Olivia Cochran, Mykasa Robinson and Liz Dixon each grabbed five rebounds.
The Cardinals’ physicality, particularly on the glass, pleased coach Jeff Walz the most.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game from watching them on film,” he said. “When they shoot it, they’re going after it for us to hold them to six offensive boards. I think it’s really impressive.”
Michigan hosts Akron on Sunday.
Louisville hosts Belmont on Sunday.