LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Dana Evans scored 25 points in her home finale, Kianna Smith scored 13 of her 21 points in the third quarter and No. 3 Louisville beat Georgia Tech 85-70 on Thursday night.
The Cardinals (19-1, 12-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their third consecutive game and improved to 8-0 against the Yellow Jackets, with the senior All-American guard setting the initial tone. Evans had 13 points at halftime for her school-record 36th consecutive double-figure scoring effort that broke Angel McCoughtry’s previous mark set over the 2007-08 and ’08-09 seasons.
Evans shot 8 of 19 but she made all eight free throws, handed out seven assists without a turnover and grabbed four rebounds in 39 minutes. Her latest marathon performance followed an emotional pregame ceremony including her parents and featuring video tributes from family, coaches and other mentors.
“I was sad, but I was excited at the same time, just ready to play,” Evans said. “Once the first quarter settled in, I felt better. I was more ready to play.”
Evans outscored Tech 9-4 during a second-quarter stretch that put Louisville ahead for good at 30-24. Smith took charge in the third by scoring Louisville’s first 13 points, mixing three 3-pointers with a couple of baskets to give the Cardinals a 44-30 advantage.
The junior transfer from Cal finished 9 of 13 from the field, including 3 of 6 from long range, to match her career high of 21 points against DePaul on Dec. 4.
“After you hit a couple, you start to feel good,” Smith said, “so I was just focusing on being aggressive and just giving what the team needed at that moment.”
Liz Dixon and Olivia Cochran each added 13 points and combined for 16 rebounds for Louisville.
Kierra Fletcher had 19 points, Loyal McQueen 14 and Nerea Hermosa 13 for the Yellow Jackets (11-5, 9-4), who dropped their second in a row after a seven-game winning streak.
“It was a tough night for us,” Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner said. “Louisville was just really on point. Defensively, they just did some things that really stopped us in our tracks offensively.”
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets came up just short 37-34 in a matchup of the ACC’s 2-3 rebounding teams, but their biggest struggle was slowing Louisville’s offense. They played the second half without forward and ACC rebounding leader Lorela Cubaj, who left the game just before halftime with a leg injury and did not return. She had four points and four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Louisville: The Cardinals shot consistently throughout and finished 49% from the field. Controlling the paint 44-30 certainly helped, and they committed just nine turnovers while scoring 13 off 14 Tech giveaways. And unlike recent games with tense finishes, they didn’t wobble with a double-digit lead.
“I thought we played well,” coach Jeff Walz said. “I thought we really moved the ball well, I was really pleased with (Cochran), she had had a nice little four-, five-footer. Everything that we needed to do, our kids stepped up and did.”
ONE LAST TRIP
Evans choked up again after she left the game in the final minute to hugs from Louisville teammates. After the final horn, the national player of the year candidate took a victory lap around the floor before stopping to kiss the dunking Cardinal emblem at center court.
Or, so it appeared.
“Oh, no, I didn’t actually kiss it,” she said, laughing. “I just acted like I did. I didn’t actually touch the floor. Not at all.”
STAR IN THE MAKING
Lucy Walz, one of coach Jeff Walz’s two young daughters, didn’t miss a word or beat as she sang the national anthem in a taped segment by dad that drew lots of `awws’ and applause.
“I had tricked her, she had no idea,” Walz said. “That’s why I filmed it. I’m sure once I get home, I’ll get grief from that. But I was really proud of her.”