LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville coach Jeff Walz tried reverse psychology, plus a little sarcasm, before telling his team the best way to slow hot-shooting Michigan.
Good things happen by playing defense, a strategy the No. 5 Cardinals applied often and effectively in the second half.
Myisha Hines-Allen scored 19 points, Asia Durr had 13 and Louisville used a big third quarter to rally past No. 24 Michigan and coast to a 74-49 rout Thursday night in the semifinal of the preseason women’s NIT.
“We came out with more energy,” said Hines-Allen, who had eight rebounds, a block and two steals. “It started with our defense.”
Trailing 37-32 at halftime, the Cardinals began the third quarter with a 12-2 run for a 44-39 lead. They broke it open early in the fourth with sustained intensity on both ends.
Louisville outscored the Wolverines 42-12 after halftime behind 15-of-29 shooting (52 percent), including 5 of 6 from 3-point range.
Quite an improvement from a first half that had Walz seeking ways to get players to put some resistance against Michigan guard Katelynn Flaherty, who scored 17 of her 23 points by the break.
“We were absolutely terrible, there’s no other way to say it,” Walz said. “At one time I said, ‘don’t guard her, because then you might actually guard her.’ It was an opposite day. We had a nice conversation at halftime and I just told them that if I was a fan, I’d leave because your effort was awful.
“We came out in the second half and it was a pretty impressive performance.”
Flaherty made just 2 of 7 shots in the second half, and Louisville (4-0) held the Wolverines (2-1) to 19 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. The Cardinals earned their second win over a ranked Big Ten opponent in three games and will host No. 10 Oregon in Sunday’s championship. The Ducks beat No. 19 Texas A&M 83-68 in the other semifinal.
Sam Fuehring and Jazmine Jones each had eight points for Louisville. Sydney Zambrotta added six points with a pair of 3-pointers.
Flaherty was 5 of 6 from long range for Michigan, which initially shot 65 percent before cooling off after halftime. The Wolverines committed 23 turnovers and were beaten 35-27 on the boards and 40-16 in the paint.
“Their pressure really got to us in the second half,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “We played a great Louisville team. They face-guarded Katelynn in the second half. They really turned up the defense in the second half and the pressure got to us.”
Despite the loss, Flaherty passed Diane Dietz to become the Wolverines’ career scoring leader. Entering the contest needing just nine points to supplant Dietz (2,076 points from 1978-82), the senior guard and two-time All-Big Ten first-teamer hit 8 of 14 shots for her third consecutive 20-point performance to start the season. Flaherty has 2,091 points.
Michigan: The Wolverines seemingly couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting 67 percent from long range alone. Flaherty had the initial hot hand with 5-of-5 shooting from behind the arc and 17 points, but was shut down afterward. Momentum quickly turned in the third quarter as Louisville increased the defensive pressure, and the Wolverines couldn’t keep up.
Louisville: Durr started 1 of 9 from the field but Hines-Allen’s 14 first-half points kept the Cardinals close. Their defense kicked in in the third quarter, forcing 10 turnovers and holding Michigan to 2-of-10 shooting. Scoring 24 points off turnovers quickly helped turn a close game into a blowout.
Michigan will host Oakland on Wednesday.
Louisville will host No. 10 Oregon Sunday.