No. 7 Louisville women rally, then survives Duke 60-55

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Dana Evans didn’t let a woeful shooting start against Duke keep her from trying to make something fall through.

Her diligence paid off with clutch baskets for No. 7 Louisville.

Evans hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining and Bionca Dunham hit two free throws with 16 seconds left to help the Cardinals beat Duke 60-55 on Sunday.

The Cardinals (14-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed much of three quarters before finally going ahead 49-47 on Evans’ 3 with 7:15 remaining. The Blue Devils twice rallied from four-point deficits to tie it at 55 on Kyra Lambert’s jumper with 1:06 left before Evans answered with another 3 to finish with 10 points despite 2-of-11 shooting from long range and 4 of 16 overall.

“My teammates kept talking to me the whole time saying they’re going to fall, they’re going to fall, don’t worry about it,” said Evans, who made a career-best seven 3s for 27 points the previous game at Clemson.

“(Bionca) set the screen, and I give her credit for that shot because if she hadn’t set that screen I wouldn’t have had an open 3 at the end. My teammates were the key.”

Especially Jazmine Jones, whose milestone performance kept Louisville competitive against a Duke determined to pull off a huge upset.

The senior forward scored a career-high 26 points to reach 1,000 for her career and grabbed 10 rebounds. More importantly, Jones scored Louisville’s first 10 points to keep her team within reach as the Blue Devils (7-7, 1-2) built several double-digit leads in the first half.

She continued to come up big in the second half and added two free throws in the fourth to keep the Cardinals ahead.

“I definitely thank all my point guards and it only took four years, right coach?,” Jones said while glancing at Louisville coach Jeff Walz.

The coach quickly added, “And you should thank me for playing you. If I don’t play her, she doesn’t score.”

Louisville won its sixth consecutive game despite shooting just 40% and being outrebounded 34-33. The Cardinals needed every minute to eventually pull away from Duke, which played with more urgency throughout.

Even after falling behind, the Blue Devils didn’t flinch and seemed poised to rally at the end. But two misses from behind the arc ended their comeback attempt.

“I’m very proud of our team,” Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. “We can be a very good team. We’ve got to play like that all the way around and do a better job in the second half of executing.”

Haley Gorecki scored 20 points and Azana Baines 15 for the Blue Devils, who lost their fourth in a row and remained winless in Louisville in three visits.

KEY SEQUENCE

Sophomore guard Mykasa Robinson had nine points for Louisville and made perhaps the two biggest plays in the fourth quarter. After catching Yacine Diop’s missed baseline jumper on the fly and making a layup to tie the game at 45, she made a midcourt steal and fed Diop, who drew a foul and made a free throw.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils shot 43% after entering the game averaging just 33% shooting in their previous three. They outscored 34-26 in the paint and their zone defense was effective in pushing Louisville out and forcing long passes for much of the day. But couldn’t slow Jones or eventually Evans down the stretch.

Louisville: Tentative throughout, the Cardinals didn’t find urgency until late in the third quarter. Evans missed her first nine shots before her first jumper that provided the lift they needed, though Jones did most of the heavy lifting on both ends to keep it competitive.

“It was a game where we had to grind,” Walz said, “and Jaz stepped up and knocked down pullup jump shots. She played really, really well, and that’s what we’re going to need now. We’re going to need that consistency.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Louisville figures to stay in the top 10 despite a harder-than-expected victory.

UP NEXT

Duke visits Virginia to cap a two-game road stretch on Thursday night.

Louisville visits Miami (Florida) on Thursday night in the first of three road games in the next four contests.