LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)Emily Engstler scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for No. 10 Louisville, which earned its first victory of the season in an 82-25 rout over Bellarmine on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals (1-1) never trailed in the contest and put the game away early thanks to a 13-0 run midway through the first quarter that let them build a 24-7 lead with 2:21 left in the period.
The lead would grow throughout the first half to a 48-14 halftime lead. By then, Engstler, a Syracuse transfer, already had her first double-double (12 points and 10 rebounds).
Louisville coach Jeff Waltz wasn’t sure if any of his players ever accomplished that in his 15 seasons with the Cardinals.
”That’s not easy, I don’t care who you’re playing,” he said. ”She pursued the ball. She rebounded the basketball, knocked down shots.”
After shooting just 28.6% against Arizona in 61-59 season-opening loss Friday, the Cardinals found their stroke on their homecourt. They shot 52.9% on Tuesday, with 12 of the 13 players scoring.
”After a loss like Arizona, you play a game like this just to reconnect the team and allow for yourself to practice your plays,” said Engstler, who hit on 5-of-8 shots in just 19 minutes. ”And just, be able to get better at defense and all the things that we didn’t do right during the loss. So, I think that’s exactly what we did.”
The 6-1 senior wing, who won the ACC Sixth Player of the Year last season for the Orange and is among 20 small forwards on this season’s Cheryl Miller Award watch list, added four steals, three blocks and three assists.
Hailey Van Lith added 11 points for Louisville. Junior Norika Konno matched her career-high with 11, and senior Ahlana Smith added 10, her best performance in her two seasons at Louisville.
The Knights (0-2) shot just 14.9 percent against their crosstown rivals. At one point, Bellarmine missed 17 of 18 shots over a nearly 14-minute stretch that included the entire third quarter.
Louisville guard Kianna Smith said the team has talked about building an identity around playing tough pressure defense.
”Just bringing that every single night, picking up the ball full court, hedging hard,” she said. ”I think we got our hands on a lot of deflections. So, that was our focus defensively.”
Kathleen Scott led Bellarmine with six points.
Coming off a 72-59 loss at Cincinnati last Friday, a game which the Knights led for most of the first half, coach Chancellor Dugan said her team had a bad practice Sunday and a bad walk-through on Monday.
”Louisville’s a very good team, obviously,” she said. ”We won’t see that height and that length in (the ASUN Conference), but we’ve just got to prepare better for that was going to be.”
Bellarmine: A second-year Division I school, the Knights could not compete against either Louisville’s quickness or size. Bellarmine committed 29 turnovers and was outrebounded 54-24.
Louisville: In putting on a defensive clinic against the Knights, the Cardinals kept the intensity up even as the game was well under control. It won’t produce those kinds of results every night, but it will definitely be a reason why Louisville can make a run come March.
Bellarmine travels to Western Illinois on Saturday night.
Louisville returns to action Wednesday night as it hosts Tennessee-Martin.