GREENSBORO — Wake Forest’s run through the ACC Women’s Tournament ended on the third day when No. 4 seed Louisville overwhelmed the Demon Deacons 74-48 Friday in Greensboro.
Through their first two games, the Deacs relied on comebacks spurred by epic runs. Wake had a 16-0 first-half run on Wednesday and a 21-1 spurt in the second half to beat Virginia. On Thursday, Wake pulled off the second-biggest comeback in ACC Women’s Tournament history, wiping out an 18-point halftime deficit with a 26-0 outburst.
Louisville provided the setting for more comeback drama by jumping on the Deacs early. All-ACC first-teamer Hailey Van Lith hit all four of her 3-point attempts in the first quarter to outscore both teams as she poured in 17 of Louisville’s 20 points. The Cardinals’ lead grew to as much as 18 late in the second quarter before Wake appeared poised to rise up once again. A 3-pointer by Jewel Spear spurred an 8-0 run to end the half and cut Louisville’s lead to 10 points.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz. “We get up (by 18) in the first half and then it’s an 8-0 run in 48 seconds, because they’re not going to quit, and I kept telling them that. This team will not quit.”
This time, however, there would be no post-halftime magic for the Deacs. Louisville’s Olivia Cochran scored three straight layups as the Cardinals put up the first nine points in the third quarter and never looked back.
“We talked about one of the hurdles to cut it to 10 by the half so we could work from there,” said Wake coach Megan Gebbia. “And we didn’t come out in the third quarter like we did yesterday, unfortunately. We started with a couple turnovers, and then they had made baskets. That’s what felt differently to me was just what happened at the start of the third quarter.”
Wake saw the return of floor leader Kaia Harrison, who turned her ankle in the first half of Wednesday’s tournament opener and hadn’t played since. Harrison entered as a sub and contributed 10 minutes, although she clearly was not at 100%.
“The pressure obviously caused us problems,” said Gebbia, “and if I were Jeff, I’d pressure us too since we didn’t have a point guard on the floor. I just have to give a lot of credit to Elise (Williams) because she’s played three games out of position, still scoring, still trying to orchestrate everything, and laying it out on the line at that position. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think I appreciate all that she’s given us this season and having to do a lot for us. I just want to make sure I said that.”
Williams led Wake in scoring with 16 points and also had 10 rebounds, although she turned the ball over seven times against the Cardinals.
Spear, Wake’s leading scorer, had 15 points on just 5-of-16 shooting. She was the target of Louisville’s Mykasa Robinson, one of the top defenders in the ACC this season.
“I think we’ve got the best defensive player in this league,” said Walz. “We knew, hey, she’s our best defender, we’re going to have to put her on Spear. And I thought she did a really good job of trying frustrate her, trying to make her work, and she made a few tough shots. But I think it eventually wore her down, and that’s what we had to do.”
“Louisville’s defense is very good, very aggressive,” said Spear. “Mykasa Robinson is a very good defender, so credit to her. They’re very physical, just trying to get me out of rhythm, bumps while I was cutting through the lane.”
Wake now waits to see if a 16-16 regular season record gets the Deacs a bid to the Women’s NIT.
“We still have some games to be played, hopefully in the WNIT, and we want to continue to grow and learn,” said Gebbia.