Cardiac Cardinals hold on: No. 15 Louisville edges No. 12 Notre Dame in thriller

The KFC Yum! Center erupted in a frenzy as the final buzzer sounded, sealing a thrilling 72-70 victory for No. 15 Louisville over No. 12 Notre Dame in a top-15 clash. The Cardinals, led by a dominant performance from Hailey Van Lith, held off a late Fighting Irish surge to secure a hard-fought win that strengthens their position in the ACC and national rankings.

Van Lith was a force throughout the game, showcasing her offensive versatility with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. The sophomore star attacked the basket relentlessly, drawing fouls and finishing acrobatic layups. Her energy and leadership were instrumental in keeping the Cardinals composed during Notre Dame’s late push.

“Hailey was phenomenal tonight,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz. “She was a warrior on both ends of the court. Her leadership and composure were crucial down the stretch.”

The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead, capitalizing on Notre Dame’s turnovers and Van Lith’s scoring prowess. The Fighting Irish, however, slowly chipped away at the deficit, thanks to the sharpshooting of Maddy Westbeld and the inside presence of Maya Dodson. By halftime, the score was tied at 35-35, setting the stage for a dramatic second half.

The second half saw both teams trade baskets and leads, with neither side able to establish a significant advantage. Notre Dame’s defense, anchored by the length and athleticism of Sonia Citron, made things difficult for the Cardinals’ offense. However, Louisville countered with their own defensive intensity, forcing turnovers and contesting shots.

With under two minutes remaining, Notre Dame took a 70-68 lead on a three-pointer from Westbeld. The tension in the arena was palpable, but the Cardinals refused to back down. Van Lith answered with a clutch layup, tying the score at 70-70. After a missed shot by Notre Dame, Louisville had the final possession.

The Cardinals worked the clock patiently, searching for a good shot. With seconds remaining, Van Lith drove to the basket and drew a foul. She calmly sank both free throws, putting Louisville ahead 72-70. Notre Dame had one last chance to tie the game, but their desperation three-pointer at the buzzer fell short, sending the Louisville crowd into a euphoric celebration.

“This was a huge win for us,” said Van Lith. “We knew it would be a tough game, but we never gave up. We fought hard for each other, and it paid off in the end.”

Key Takeaways:

Van Lith’s Dominating Performance: The sophomore star carried the Cardinals offensively and defensively, showcasing her immense talent and leadership potential.

Notre Dame’s Late Charge: The Fighting Irish displayed resilience and battled back from a deficit, highlighting their competitive spirit and ability to perform in close games.

Top-15 Showdown Lives Up to the Hype: The game was a thrilling back-and-forth battle, showcasing the talent and intensity present in the top ranks of women’s college basketball.

Looking Ahead:

Louisville’s victory solidifies their place as a contender in the ACC and the national championship picture. They will look to build on this momentum and continue their climb up the rankings.

Notre Dame, despite the loss, remains a dangerous team with a talented roster. They will need to learn from their late-game execution and bounce back to maintain their position in the ACC standings.