Louisville women’s basketball is looking dangerous behind one of the most high-pressure defenses in the country.

To take down No. 12 Michigan, the Cards forced 24 turnovers (15 steals), and to beat No. 14 Kentucky on Sunday, the team forced 21 turnovers (10 steals). The team’s cookie-stealing prowess has allowed Louisville (8-1) to win eight straight despite a struggling offense searching for its identity since All-American Dana Evans went thirteenth in the WNBA Draft. 

With the exception of South Carolina’s dominance, the early women’s college basketball schedule hasn’t played out at all like we thought. UConnMaryland and Stanford, the preseason Nos. 2-4, have seriously struggled. The Cardinals’ ability to disrupt star players is giving reason to believe in the preseason No. 6. 

On Sunday, they locked down Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall in the WNBA’s April draft. The star guard who averaged 23.3 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting last year scored just nine on 3-of-13 FGs in the six-point Louisville victory. Senior guard Kianna Smith deserves a ton of the love for that icing.

Through nine games, Louisville’s defense is holding opponents to the third-fewest points per 100 possessions in the country, per Her Hoops Stats. Talk about elite! (Defense is commonly measured in points per possession instead of points per game since each team plays at a different pace, allowing for more or fewer scoring opportunities.)

The wins are rolling in even with an offense that’s been off. Star sophomore Hailey Van Lith is shooting five percent worse from the field (38%) and 21.1 percent worse from range (17.2%) compared to last season. Olivia Cochran is shooting 11 percent worse from the field (43.2%), too. 

That can’t continue. I’m choosing to take the glass half-full picture here.

The takeaway

Reconfiguring an offense without Dana Evans won’t be easy, but if the Cards can put enough scoring pieces together, they will be a Final Four contender. With a game ahead on Sunday against the Paige Buecker-less and maybe Azi Fudd-less Huskies, their resume could look really nice heading into the holiday season.

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