Tennessee

No. 7 Louisville women slip past Belmont 75-70

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Hailey Van Lith scored 25 points, Payton Verhulst had a steal and the deciding free throws by 2.2 seconds and No. 7 Louisville eluded Belmont in a 75-70 win Sunday night.

The Cardinals scored the last four points of the game from the foul line after Belmont lost the ball when Madison Bartley was called out for an illegal screen with 7.6 seconds left.

Van Lith had two fouls with 6.4 seconds to go and on the ensuing inbounds play at half-court, the Bruins put the ball to Bartley in the left corner. She drove the baseline hoping to find Sydni Harvey in the right corner, but she was cut off by Olivia Cochran, who got hold of the pass and allowed Verhulst to shoot in and intercept him.

“A game like this shows that we have to keep up, keep grinding, keep pushing,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz. “We will continue to play against good teams, our league is tough and you can’t take a night off. You have to come in with the mentality that it’s going to be a fight and that’s why I scheduled this game here. We have a damn good schedule that will challenge us and hopefully set us up for the ACC season.”

The final lead was the largest for the Cardinals (2-0) in a 17-tie, 20-lead game. Belmont (1-1) led by six points late in the second quarter.

“They are really talented and have experienced players,” said Belmont coach Bart Brooks. “They played on the track to win the game. We did enough good things to put ourselves in a position to win and we didn’t quite come together on track on some possessions.”

Destiny Wells hit a jumper to put Belmont 68-67 ahead by 2:17. Mykasa Robinson scored an inbounds play under the basket and Cochrane made two free throws at 1:02 for a 71-68 lead. Wells put up a layup with 44 seconds left and the Bruins got the ball back after Van Lith missed a jump from his left elbow with 26 seconds left.

Wells was on the left wing trying to drive to the top of the key when the illegal screen came up.

Cochran added 13 points and Chrislyn Carr had 11 for Louisville, which shot 41% but was 20 of 21 from the foul line, including all 14 in the fourth quarter.

Wells scored 20 points for the Bruins (1-1) and Harvey and Tuti Jones had 15 each. Belmont was 15 of 18 from the line and shooting 52%. While the Cards were making free throws in the fourth quarter, Belmont was 7-of-12 out with three 3-pointers.

Carr hit a 3-pointer on the buzzer to cap a 9-0 run that put the Cardinals 37-34 at halftime. Belmont had a 34-28 lead over Harvey’s 3-pointer at the 2:46 mark. Robinson responded with a 3-pointer and Merissah Russell hit a 3-pointer to put Louisville back on top.

Louisville: The Cardinals survived a test by a frequent NCAA tournament team, which is good with the Bad Boy Mowers Battle for Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas next weekend and a visit from the No. 14 state of Ohio later in the month.

Belmont: Though it was a disappointing loss, the Bruins played better than before as they fought back from a 14-point deficit to win their opener against Chattanooga 56-54. With 12 postseason teams on the roster starting in 2022 and 11 teams that have won 20 games, Belmont has proven it’s ready to go after its seventh NCAA berth since 2016.

Louisville meets Gonzaga in the first of three games in the Bahamas on Saturday.

Belmont remains in state and will play Middle Tennessee on Wednesday to start a five-game road trip, with the following game on Sunday in No. 4Iowa.

AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https:/ /twitter.com/AP_Top25

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