GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Fourth-ranked Louisville gave coach Jeff Walz the start he wanted as the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament’s top seed.
Dana Evans scored 23 points and the fourth-ranked Cardinals dominated the second quarter to beat Syracuse 71-46 in Friday’s quarterfinals, avenging their last loss from a month earlier.
“I thought we competed from the get-go,” Walz said.
Louisville (28-3) didn’t get off to a great shooting start. But its defense held the Orange to just one field goal in the second quarter, while the Cardinals dominated the glass all afternoon to help build that big lead until the shots started falling more.
Eighth-seeded Syracuse (16-15) had given Louisville trouble in both games, including the 59-51 win at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 9. The Orange didn’t do anything close this time, with Louisville turning a six-point lead after the first quarter into a 34-13 lead by halftime.
The Cardinals, who won the ACC regular-season title outright for the first time since joining the league before the 2014-15 season, are chasing their second ACC Tournament title.
“There’s still plenty of people that don’t think we’re all that good,” Walz said. “And it’s just a fact, and it’s OK. They might not like the way we play or what it might be. But at the end of the day, we compete.”
Louisville shot 43% and made 12 of 23 from 3-point range, while its 53-31 domination of the boards led to a 25-5 edge second-chance points.
Kiara Lewis scored 18 for the Orange, who couldn’t repeat the success they had managed previously against Louisville. Syracuse shot just 27% this time, including 5 for 23 from behind the arc.
And everything unraveled amid that awful second-quarter performance, with the Orange making 1 of 14 shots – and that was a banked-in straightaway 3-pointer from Lewis – while grabbing only four rebounds amid all those misses as Louisville steadily increased its lead.
“We couldn’t get the ball in the basket and you can’t score in the 40s and 50s, you got to score in the 70s and 80s, to beat Louisville,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “They are a special team.”
Syracuse: The Orange had advanced to the quarterfinals with Thursday’s win against Virginia, putting five players in double figures while holding the Cavaliers to a season-low 50 points. But they got into an early hole (down 7-0 and 12-2) that turned into a crater in the second quarter, which ended with them shooting 5 of 29 (17%) with eight turnovers by halftime.
“We just didn’t make shots,” Lewis said, “And like (Hillsman) said, you gotta make outside shots and we just didn’t do that.”
Louisville: The Cardinals entered Greensboro as the unquestioned headliner and played like it. They also allowed no repeats of past trouble from Syracuse, both from a 62-58 home win in late December and then when they trailed for nearly 36 minutes of the road loss. This one ran in stress-free fashion – well, other than Walz picking up a technical foul with Louisville up 24 midway through the fourth quarter after being irked by a foul call.
EVANS GETS FREE
Evans, the ACC player of the year, had managed 22 points on 7-for-33 shooting (21.2%) in the two regular-season meetings. The 5-foot-6 junior made 8 of 17 shots and 6 of 10 3s this time.
“I got more easy shots this game, but I credit my teammates for looking for me and getting me those open shots,” Evans said. “And I think defensively we got the ball out, rebounded and we were able to push the ball so they weren’t able to set up in their zone as quick.”
Louisville’s control of the boards included an 18-4 edge in that second quarter. And Jones matched her season-high total after hearing plenty from Walz about rebounding more.
“Now he can get off my back about rebounding,” she said with a laugh.
“Seven of them fell into her hands,” Walz responded.
Syracuse: The Orange must wait to see if they qualify for any postseason play.
Louisville: The Cardinals advanced to Saturday’s semifinals to face No. 22 Florida State, which beat Wake Forest earlier Friday.
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