Hammond leads No. 4 Louisville to 67-55 win over Virginia
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) The newcomers sit atop the Atlantic Coast Conference. Now the question is how long the Louisville women can stay there.
The No. 4 Cardinals held off Virginia 67-55 on Sunday to win their ninth straight and remain the last team without an ACC loss.
Louisville (17-1, 5-0 ACC) now faces three ranked opponents in its next four games as the Cardinals continue their inaugural season in the conference after replacing Maryland.
''We're going down to Florida State here on Thursday, and they're a top 10 team,'' Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of the No. 20 Seminoles. ''They aren't ranked top 10, but they're a top 10 team. ... If we don't go down there prepared to play and know that we're going to get their best shot, then shame on us.''
The Cardinals stood firm against a good shot from Virginia (13-5, 3-2) as Sara Hammond scored 16 of Louisville's first 20 points in the win. The senior forward finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Virginia (13-5, 3-2) trailed by five with 10 minutes left. Myisha Hines-Allen's jumper with 2:29 remaining put the Cardinals up 61-50 to seal the win. Hines-Allen scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half.
The Cardinals dominated 52-24 in the paint, scoring 50 or more inside for the seventh time this season. That allowed the Cardinals to overcome missing all nine 3s and poor shooting from the free throw line (11 of 26).
Faith Randolph led the Cavaliers with 24 points, her third straight game with 23 or more points. Sarah Imovbioh added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Hammond repeatedly cut through the Virginia defense by slipping ball screens and taking passes for a layup.
''Hammond's just a smart kid,'' said Virginia coach Joanne Boyle. ''She makes great reads.''
The Cavaliers made just 1 of 11 3-pointers, this after Thursday's 68-56 win against Boston College where they hit 13 3s, one shy of tying the program record.
The Cardinals led 32-27 at halftime. Hines-Allen scored Louisville's first nine points of the second half before Hammond's layup put the Cards up 43-37. Hines-Allen's drive and and then an assist to Hammond on a layup followed for a 47-39 advantage with 13:11 remaining.
''Just being post partners, we're starting to get some chemistry together,'' Hammond said of her freshman frontcourt mate.
Virginia drew within 49-44 with 11:16 left after two Randolph jumpers and could have cut the lead to 3. Virginia again cut the lead to 7 with 4:50 left but got no closer.
Following the trip to Florida State, the Cardinals host Miami and No. 25 Syracuse before traveling to No. 16 Duke on Feb. 2. Despite years of facing powerhouse Connecticut in the Big East and American Athletic Conference, Walz knows the path through the ACC isn't any easier.
''I don't see us going undefeated in this league,'' Walz said. ''And I'm not trying to be a pessimist, I'm trying to be a realist. I just don't see it. There's too many great teams. So we're going to just have to keep grinding them out, and in order for us to win.''
Louisville's 52 points in the paint tied for just the sixth most points in the paint this season. They have also scored 54, 58, 60, 62 and a school-record 72 points inside against Western Kentucky. The Cardinals outscored the Cavaliers 26-6 in the paint in the final 20 minutes.
Louisville: Sunday marked the eighth time the Cardinals dished out 20 or more assists. An assist has been credited on 59 percent of Louisville's basket this season (325 of 549).
Virginia: Senior center Sarah Imovbioh entered Sunday scoring 14.6 points and grabbing a conference-leading 11.2 rebounds, one of four ACC players to average a double-double.
Louisville: Visits No. 20 Florida State on Thursday.
Virginia: Visits Miami on Wednesday.