AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Louisville and Texas meet in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Monday, the game the teams played against each other in November on foreign soil means nothing.
Yes, the Cardinals beat the Longhorns 71-63 in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament at Paradise Island, Bamahams on Nov. 20, but both teams are a long way from that game. Additionally, Texas has its own playmaker and facilitator in sophomore point guard Rori Harmon.
The Texas Longhorns beat the East Carolina Pirates 79-40 in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament
Texas defeated its opponent in the first round on Saturday, beating 13th seed East Carolina 79-40. Louisville, seeded no. However, the Longhorns aren’t letting their respective margins of victory determine how they approach Monday’s game, set for 6 p.m. at the Moody Center.
“We have to be really ready for a big ball club,” Longhorns coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought we played with a lot of energy last night. I told them today in the movie, I was really proud of our effort. I thought we played hard. And that’s all I care about.
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With Harmon back on the field, the Longhorns are a whole different team. He’s the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, and his fingerprints are on pretty much everything the team makes. Having to miss the previous game against the Cardinals was tough on her, and tough on the team as well. While she was sidelined, the Longhorns fell completely out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll and started the season 2-3.
“That was a long time ago. But being courtside is a whole different perspective than actually playing basketball,” he said. “Obviously we have improved a lot since that match. And if we stick with what worked and improve what didn’t work and keep them out of the picture, I think we’ll be very happy with ourselves.”
Harmon was the Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is fourth in Division I with an average of 7.5 assists per game. She was one of only 29 Division I players to record a triple-double this season and the undisputed team leader as a sophomore.
He said he expects a physical match between two of Division I’s most prolific offenses.
“Both teams have that aggression in them,” he said. “And that’s part of their culture. That’s how we both play. And so we just have to be physically as well as mentally ready. But physically it will play a big role in this game. Probably the most physical competitor will end up winning”.
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Schaefer said Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith, No. 27 in Division I with 19.7 points per game this season, will be a handful. Van Lith scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Cardinals off Drake in the first round, and has said all season that teams win on guard play.
“The first match we played against them was crucial,” said Schaefer. Van Lith had 18 points against the Longhorns in the previous game.
“And it is [Louisville coach Jeff Walz] he’s changed his lineup a bit in the last 10, he’s gone with a different lineup. 8-2 with the last 10 with a different starting lineup. Obviously he’s found something he likes and is very comfortable with.
Van Lith knows Texas is a different team with Harmon on track. He said Harmon’s “elite pitch vision” gives the team a different dynamic and allows them to get the ball to the post where they have previously dominated.
“I think picking her up early, not giving her a lot of free time to make decisions is going to be important for us,” he said. “And, yeah, I just wore her out in the backcourt. I think full-court defense will be important for us.
The winner advances to the Sweet 16, held March 24 at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.