CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Louisville was on the ropes, up just two early in the second half and with Virginia’s fans begging for more.
Then, with the speed of Asia Durr slicing to the basket, or the efficiency of Bionca Dunham laying in a basket, the Cardinals were home free in what coach Jeff Walz said was simply a matter of his team getting back to doing what it does best.
“We just tried to pressure the ball a little bit more,” he said. “But offensively is kind of where we got things going. We moved a lot better without the ball. We did some standing there in the second quarter.”
Durr scored 21 points and the Cardinals scored 16 consecutive points in the third quarter and beat Virginia 77-41 on Thursday night.
Dunham added 13 points, Arica Carter 12 and Myisha Hines-Allen and Jazmine Jones 10 each for the Cardinals (23-1, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Louisville led just 31-29 after Virginia scored first after halftime, but had a 51-31 lead after the scoring burst.
The Cardinals outscored Virginia 46-14 after halftime.
“It’s good,” Durr said of Cardinals’ the ability to quickly take control of a game. “We’ve done it to quite a few teams this year.”
The Cavaliers (15-8, 8-2) were led by Aliyah Huland El with nine points, including the 1,000th of her career in the final minute, but the outcome left her in no mood to celebrate the milestone.
“It’s another point. We lost by 35 today, so it’s not important to me,” she said.
Virginia hurt its cause with 22 turnovers, which the Cardinals turned into 20 points.
“Turning the ball over. Lazy passes. We were not sharp at all,” Cavaliers coach Joanne Boyle said. “When the other team gets 71 attempts and you get 49, it’s not going to be a good night.”
The teams came into the game tied with No. 5 Notre Dame for the lead in the ACC. The Fighting Irish won at home, 94-62, against North Carolina.
The Cavaliers trailed 8-0 and had four turnovers before they scored a point. Louisville was ahead 31-25 after a 14-5 run late in the second quarter, but two free throws by Brianna Tinsley pulled Virginia to 31-27 at the half.
Louisville had 12 steals and outrebounded Virginia 45-28, but Durr said defense was their key after halftime.
“As coach says and the whole staff, defense travels and that is true. It certainly traveled tonight,” she said.
Louisville: What Louisville lacks in size it makes up for in speed and active hands defensively. Many of Virginia’s turnovers came when they tried to feed the ball inside, particularly to 6-foot-9 Felicia Aiyeotan.
Virginia: The Cavaliers’ 8-1 start in the ACC was their best since they started 9-1 in 1999-2000. They also have moved up to No. 28 in the RPI rankings, suggesting they are in line to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, since Debbie Ryan’s second-to-last season as coach. But their last six regular season games will be crucial because they are now 0-4 against ranked teams and with three top 10 teams on the schedule the rest of the way, including the Cardinals and road games at unranked Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
“This is not going to rock us,” Boyle said. “We have a resilient team. We’ve been in these positions before.”
Louisville plays at Syracuse on Sunday.
Virginia plays at No. 10 Florida State next Thursday night.