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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — On a night when its shots weren’t falling, Louisville leaned on two veterans.
Jazmine Jones scored 25 points and Dana Evans had 24 — both career highs — to lead the ninth-ranked Cardinals past Central Michigan 76-63 on Thursday night.
The Cardinals (3-0) shot just 37.3%, but Jones, six days after going 6-for-6 in a win over Murray State, made 10 of 13 baskets against the Chippewas (0-2). She added nine rebounds.
While the Chippewas held the rest of the Cardinals’ shooters in check, they only shot 38.8% and committed 19 turnovers. Central Michigan did not make a field goal over the last 5:36.
“Overall, we’re really pleased because this is a very, very good Central Michigan basketball team,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
Evans scored 11 of her points in the third quarter as Louisville was finally able to pull away from the three-time defending Mid-American Conference regular-season champions. Eight of those points came after Jones drew her fourth foul with 3:27 left in the period.
“When I saw Jaz was in foul trouble, I needed to pick it up from there and just keep the tempo going,” Evans said.
The junior guard made 6 of 18 shots, but she got to the line, where she converted 10 of 11. That included making all six of her tries in the final 53 seconds to keep the Chippewas from making a final comeback attempt.
Micaela Kelly led the Chippewas with 23 points, making 11 of 15 free throws.
After the Chippewas cut the Cardinals’ lead to 45-42, Evans drained a 3-pointer with 4:17 left in the third quarter after Mykasa Robinson got a steal under the basket. Central Michigan never got that close again.
Kylee Shook added 15 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Cardinals. It was the second-straight double-double for the senior forward coming off the bench.
A solid victory over a dangerous mid-major should allow the Cardinals to stay in the top 10 when the next AP poll comes out on Monday.
Louisville’s performance from the field was its worst since shooting just 34.9% in a 50-49 loss to Florida State on Jan. 21, 2018. The main culprit for Louisville on Thursday was its ability to finish at the rim. The Cardinals made 14 of 30 layups against a team that had no one taller than 6-foot-1 inside.
Walz noted that several misses were uncontested.
“We got to get back to the gym because you got to be able to finish them,” he said.
Central Michigan: A week after opening the season with a double-overtime loss at home to Green Bay, a veteran Chippewas crew managed to keep up with the Cardinals for most of the game. Eventually, though, Louisville’s pressure defense and size were just too much. Central Michigan allowed Louisville to get 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 15 second-chance points.
“For the most part, I thought we battled against a really, really, really good team,” first-year coach Heather Oesterle said.
Louisville: Walz expected the Chippewas to give his Cardinals a test, and they did just that. Louisville led for 34:57, but the Cardinals didn’t get a double-digit lead until Evans scored on a three-point play with 1:37 left in the third quarter. Louisville also took away the perimeter game from Central Michigan. After making 15 of 41 3-point attempts against Green Bay, the Chippewas were 2 of 12 from beyond the arc Thursday night.
Central Michigan will play at Western Kentucky on Sunday.
Louisville hosts Chattanooga next Thursday.
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