WKU Women’s Basketball: Lady Tops drop season-opener 75-56 at Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Ninth-ranked Louisville wasn’t sharp by any means, just effective enough to give coach Jeff Walz a promising hint of his new-look roster.

Dana Evans had 19 points, Elizabeth Balogun and Elizabeth Dixon combined for 25 points and 17 rebounds in their debuts, and the Cardinals pulled away from Western Kentucky 75-56 Tuesday night in the opener for both teams.

Credit some of the newcomers for taking the initial lead.

Most of the attention was focused on Balogun and Dixon, Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman team selections at Georgia Tech before transferring last spring. They jump-started a Cardinals squad moving on from the departures of consensus All-America Asia Durr, fellow guard Arica Carter and forward Sam Fuehring.

Balogun, who was the ACC’s top rookie, had 15 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Louisville made its first seven shots. The 6-foot-5 Dixon added 13 rebounds, 10 rebounds and a block. The two combined to make 10 of 16 shots as teammates fed them often, contributing to 22 assists for Louisville.

“The first five minutes I was still nervous,” said Balogun, who made five of six attempts, all from behind the arc. “But my team was like, ‘You’re good, just play through it and embrace the moment’ and I did that.”

Evans took over from there with 15 second-half points, including three 3-pointers as Louisville finished 8 of 17 from long range. The junior guard was hard on herself because of four turnovers to three assists, but she offset that with 7-of-14 shooting.

Bionca Dunham added 10 points while Jazmine Jones had 10 assists, eight points and eight boards to help the Cardinals shoot 49% and stay ahead of their in-state rivals.

While Walz said his team must improve defensively, the chemistry provided a good starting point for rotations.

“At the end of the day, when you can come out with a win, I’m good with it,” the 12th-year coach said. “We had four players (score) in double figures. So, we’ve got players. They can score. Now, what we’ve got to do is be able to stop somebody.”

Sherry Porter had 15 points, Dee Givens scored all 13 in the second half and Whitney Creech added 10 for the Hilltoppers, who shot just 33% (19 of 57) from the field but were within 10 early in the fourth.

“Our keys were making sure we didn’t get smoked in the defensive transition,” WKU coach Greg Collins said, “and try and take care of our defensive boards, which have been a real Achilles’ heel for us in the past. I feel like overall, we did a decent job in those two areas. We just let Dixon get off on the offensive boards in the first half.”