SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Neither coach Jeff Walz nor starting guard Hailey Van Lith expected an easy time Sunday when No. 4 Louisville visited No. 14 Notre Dame for their second Atlantic Coast Conference meeting in two weeks.
They certainly didn’t expect to rout the Irish 86-64 on their home court in a game that had some testy moments late in the first half.
“It’s by far our best first half since I’ve been here against a Top 25 team,” Walz said.
“They’re a really good basketball team. I’m going to be shocked if they don’t host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament,” he said.
The Cardinals led 31-3 after the first quarter, then scored the first 10 points of the second period.
Louisville was up 48-6 when Notre Dame made consecutive baskets, the second by Olivia Miles at 2:49 before halftime after her steal. Miles and Mykasa Robinson then got in a shoving match after exchanging words.
Notre Dame’s Dara Mabrey and Van Lith also were whistled for intentional fouls after a lengthy video review and some heated consultation with Walz and Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey.
“It was just competitive basketball – we both had to protect our players,” Van Lith said. “It was just a heat-of-the-moment thing.”
Said Ivey: “There was a foul and some pushing back and forth.”
“Apparently, Dara must have touched her and pushed her. I obviously don’t condone that. It was probably more of a frustration situation,” she said.
Van Lith and Kianna Smith each scored 20 points. Emily Engstler added 17 and Chelsie Hall had 13 for Louisville.
The Cardinals (25-3, 16-2 ACC) led 41-3 early in the second quarter. They beat the Irish (21-7, 13-5) for the sixth straight time in the conference regular-season closer for both teams.
In their meeting Feb. 13 in Louisville, the Cardinals won 73-47.
Louisville was hoping to tie for the regular-season title if No. 3 North Carolina lost later in the day to No. 23 Virginia Tech. Regardless of that outcome, Louisville will be the No. 2 seed in the ACC postseason tourney and has a double bye to Friday’s quarterfinals.
“It was not the outcome we wanted,” said Ivey, whose team had clinched a double bye to Friday’s quarterfinals.
“Louisville shot lights out. We thought we were ready. They came out amazing. We really didn’t come out until the end of the third quarter,” she said.
Miles finished with 13 points to lead Notre Dame, Maya Dodson and Mabrey scored 12 each and Sonia Citron 10.
As the Cardinals jumped to their quick lead, Ivey tried to stop the Louisville momentum with timeouts and substitutions, but nothing worked.
Louisville made its first seven shots in the opening 4:38 in taking an 18-1 lead. Notre Dame hit just one of 13 shots as former four-time Irish All-American Skylar Diggins-Smith watched from the sidelines.
Louisville: The Cardinals were on their game from the start, particularly from beyond the 3-point line. They hit their first seven 3-pointers during the first quarter and didn’t miss from long distance until early in the second quarter. They finished shooting 58.5% (38 of 65) from the field, including 57.1% on 8-of-14 3-pointers. Louisville also won the battle of the boards 40-22 with Engstler, a grad transfer from Syracuse, adding 10 rebounds to complete her 10th double-double of the season.
Notre Dame: The Irish were hoping to put behind them the bad vibes remaining from the Cardinals’ 73-47 victory two Sundays ago in Louisville. But their bad start from the field — at one point the Irish had one basket in 18 attempts (5.6%). Louisville’s fast start made it a long afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion where Notre Dame was 13-0 prior to the rout. The Irish outscored Louisville 49-32 in the second half and finished shooting 41.5% (22 of 53).
Louisville: Cardinals have earned double bye as No. 2 seed for ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, and play quarterfinal game Friday at 6 p.m.
Notre Dame: Fighting Irish have earned double bye in ACC Tournament and play quarterfinal game Friday at either 11 a.m. or 8 p.m.