GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Louisville coach Jeff Walz wanted to keep Clemson out of the paint and force the Tigers to take tough jump shots from long range.
The third-ranked Cardinals figured out how to do it just in time to avoid a major upset.
Asia Durr scored 24 points, and Louisville pulled away to beat Clemson 75-67 on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Dana Evans had seven of her 15 points during a fourth-quarter run that helped the second-seeded Cardinals (28-2) separate themselves from the Tigers and advance to the semifinals for the fifth time in five years in the ACC.
The key, Walz said, was that his players finally kept themselves in front of the Tigers’ driving threats. The Cardinals outscored Clemson by 10 in the paint in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we finally did exactly what we were trying to do defensively, and that was to make them shoot contested outside shots,” Walz said. “We finally got our feet on the 3-point line.”
Arica Carter added 10 points and Sam Fuehring finished with 14 rebounds for Louisville, which trailed 60-54 entering the fourth before outscoring Clemson 19-5 during the first 3½ minutes. The Cardinals held the Tigers to 2-of-11 shooting during that span.
Aliyah Collier and Simone Westbrook scored 17 points apiece while Kobi Thornton and Danielle Edwards each finished with 11 for the seventh-seeded Tigers (19-12). Playing in their first quarterfinal since 2009, they were denied their first appearance in the semifinals in 18 years.
“As much as we like to say we’re just trying to be us, Louisville was just Louisville and played great defense when it mattered most,” Clemson coach Amanda Butler said.
Clemson: For more than 30 minutes, the Tigers looked capable of pulling the first seismic upset at the tournament and giving themselves their biggest victory under Butler, the ACC’s coach of the year in her first season at the school. Though they lost their advantage in the paint in the fourth, they served notice that they’ll be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.
Louisville: The Cardinals found out how tough it is to defend a tournament championship. Playing as a reigning champ for the first time in a quarter-century — the year after they won the Metro Conference title in 1993 — they took the Tigers’ best shot but made all the plays down the stretch of their fourth straight ACC Tournament victory.
The Cardinals have nothing to worry about, though they didn’t look like their usual sharp selves for most of this one. The Tigers seem like a safe bet to receive their first NCAA bid since 2002, but they could have laid claim to a better seed had they polished off the upset. Walz said Clemson “without a doubt” will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Durr played two days after she was selected as the league’s player of the year for the second straight year, making her the first two-time winner since Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas won the award three years in a row from 2012-14. “For Asia to be able to do what she’s done and get back-to-back player of the years is pretty amazing,” Walz said.
Clemson: Awaits an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament.
Louisville: Advances to Saturday’s ACC semifinals.
More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25