The Michigan women’s basketball team had a number of chances to take the lead in their Elite Eight matchup against the Louisville Cardinals. But every time the Wolverines got close, they were met with tough resistance.
It came from Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith, who became a problem for Michigan early in Monday night’s game. Ultimately, the combination of Van Lith’s defense and a plethora of Wolverine turnovers smited any chance of a Michigan victory.
“We ended up turning them over 22 times and we came up with 24 points off of those 22 turnovers,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said. “It was a tough game to score.”
Despite the tough looks, the Cardinals still found open lanes.
After Michigan netted its first points of the game five minutes in off a layup and-one from senior forward Naz Hillmon, Van Lith grabbed the loose ball off of a teammate’s missed jumper to hit a second chance 3-pointer to negate Michigan’s 3-point play.
The Wolverines were plagued early with turnovers that allowed the Cardinals to take advantage.
With time winding down in the first quarter, Hillmon was called for a travel. Van Lith seized her chance quickly advancing the ball down the court for a pullup jumper.
With the game’s momentum swinging back and forth early in the second quarter, Van Lith continued to dominate. After Michigan made a layup to cut the lead to three, she scored four of the next six points, including a fast break layup off an opponent turnover to make it a seven point Cardinal lead.
“They did what they do best: they forced us into some turnovers which resulted in some easy points for them,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
The sophomore from Louisville has been a critical part of the Cardinals’ run to the Final Four. Heading into the tournament, she was only averaging 13.4 points per game. But over the past four games, Van Lith has been on a tear, scoring at least 20 points in each tournament game.
“Hailey Van Lith did a great job tonight,” Kim Barnes Arico said. “She was really key and super confident (for Louisville).”
Louisville shot a meager 2-of-9 as a team at the end of the first half, whittling its lead to just three. The Cardinals looked to their breakout scorer to reclaim their groove
When Wolverine freshman guard Laila Phelia drove to the basket and hit a layup making it a one point game, Van Lith’s off-ball movement allowed for Louisville guard Emily Englister to find her for a wide open layup.
Her layup sparked a scoring run for the Cardinals. Van Lith drew the attention of numerous double teams in the third, allowing for easy layups inside the paint for her teammates.
Despite Van Lith’s scoring, Michigan was able to make it a one-point game heading into the fourth. But as the intensity amplified for both teams, the Louisville guard was once again the difference maker.
With 9:07 left in the game and the Wolverines down by four, Van Lith grabbed the defensive board off a miss from Michigan freshman guard Laila Phelia and took it the full length of the court for a contested layup, drawing the foul and hitting the and-one.
“The kid competes,” Walz said. “She loves these moments.”
Van Lith’s confidence grew as she scored the next five points for the Cardinals, putting them up seven late in the second half and solidifying her central role in Louisville’s win.
“You look at her stat line, she is 9-for-15, 3-of-3 (from the free throw line),” Walz said. “That’s a pretty darn good ball game she had for us.”