LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)Louisville’s strong beginning provided a safe buffer to withstand Boise State’s furious finish.
Jazmine Jones scored 22 points, Dana Evans added 20 and the No. 8 Cardinals built a cushion with a hot shooting start and outlasted Boise State 98-82 on Sunday.
The Cardinals (5-0) shot 71% in the first half, including 12 of 16 in the second quarter, for a 58-34 lead. A quick pace on both ends helped them own most statistical areas. Louisville won the rebounding battle 34-25 and scored 25 points off 20 turnovers.
Louisville cooled off significantly in the second half to finish 54% from the field. Meanwhile, Boise State (3-3) awoke from the field to shoot 85% after the break and a season-best 61% overall. The Broncos got within 91-77 with 2:39 remaining before the Cardinals answered with several late baskets.
“We just needed to come out stronger than we did,” said Cardinals forward Kylee Shook, who added 15 points and five rebounds.
“I don’t think it was necessarily lack of focus, but more effort-wise. We really focus on offense, but there needs to be more defensive work. When we started missing a few shots, we just kind of got lackadaisical on defense and we need to fix that.”
Jones provided the initial spark with 10 first-quarter points and finished three points below her career best. Elizabeth Dixon added 15 points apiece for the Cardinals.
“I was just trying to be aggressive like my coaches tell me and my teammates tell me every day,” said Jones, who made 8 of 12 from the field and grabbed six rebounds.
Braydey Hodgins and Rachel Bowers each scored 16 points and A’Shanti Coleman had 15 for the Broncos, who lost consecutive games for the first time since January 2018 and fell to 0-3 all-time against the Cardinals.
“We gave up so many zero-footers,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “A rebound or a breakout or just a drive right to the basket and we didn’t do a very good job. The zero-floater thing just killed us, especially in the first quarter.”
Boise State did win the assists battle 22-21, with senior guard Jayde Christopher dishing a career-high 14 to go along with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and two 3-pointers.
Evans had eight assists for Louisville, two off her career high. Freshman Norika Konno had six to go with seven points and four rebounds.
Boise State: The Broncos shot above 50% for the first time since their opener against Lewis-Clark State (57%). But their early struggles against Louisville’s smothering defense dug a quick hole they spent the rest of the game trying to climb from. And they might have with a little more time.
Louisville: Good thing the Cardinals started fast, because the Broncos posted the most points and best shooting performance against them this season. The upside was they frequently created chances behind offensive rebounding (16-6) and defense.
“I thought offensively this is the best performance we’ve had,” coach Jeff Walz said. “We took care of the basketball, we only turned it over 10 times and we turned them over 20 times. If we can continue to turn it over 10 (just) times a game, we’re in business. We did a great job.”
Louisville’s top-10 position shouldn’t change after its second decisive victory this week.
Boise State hosts Utah Valley on Tuesday before visiting TCU on Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic.
Louisville’s schedule toughens up with Thursday’s meeting against UT Arlington at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Cardinals will also face Oklahoma State and top-ranked Oregon during their Caribbean trip.
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