Louisville Cardinals survive battle with Drake and advance to NCAA Tournament round of 32

AUSTIN, Texas — Jeff Walz gave a simple command: calm down.

Louisville guard Chrislyn Carr had just committed a turnover on a bad pass to Hailey Van Lith in the third quarter of the Cardinals’ first-round game against No. 12 Drake in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night at the Moody Center. Defensive lapses and mistakes had allowed the Bulldogs easy looks at the basket.

When fifth-seeded Louisville needed it most, however, the Cardinals came up with timely stops and Hailey Van Lith scored 13 fourth-quarter points to beat Drake 83-81 and avoid a first-round exit for the first time since 2006. U of L moves on to face either fourth-seeded Texas or No. 13-seed East Carolina in the second round of the tournament.

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Louisville played and beat the Longhorns, who were without freshman guard Rory Harmon at that time, in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November but hasn’t seen the Pirates this season.

Drake’s high-powered offense shot 51.8% (29 of 56) from the field and 47% (8 of 17) from 3-point range. Louisville has only allowed three other teams to shoot at or better than 50% from the field all season. One of those teams was Belmont, a Missouri Valley Conference team like Drake. Like its game against Belmont, U of L was able to weather the storm down the stretch to come away with the win.

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Tied at 54 near the end of the third quarter, the Cardinals put together one final play that ended with Liz Dixon banking in a buzzer beater to put the team in front. The Cardinals carried the lead throughout the fourth quarter and never allowed Drake to get ahead despite the Bulldogs making it a one-point game at 81-80 after a 3-pointer from Sarah Beth Gueldner with 14 seconds remaining.

Eleven seconds later, Louisville, ahead 83-80, opted to foul and put Drake’s Anna Miller at the line to prevent a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

This story will be updated.

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Reach Louisville football, women’s basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at acubit@gannett.com and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: NCAA Tournament scores: Louisville WBB wins close March Madness game

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