Defensive specialist Mykasa Robinson saved the day for the Louisville Cardinals Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky with a 4-0 individual run that extended the Cards’ lead to eight and put the game out of reach for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with 23 seconds to play.
It was Robinson’s type of 4-0 run — done with grit and being in the right place at the right time — and while that version might not be glamorous, Louisville fans have come to appreciate it just as much as the more flashy style of individual runs you might see from a player like Hailey Van Lith.
With the Yellow Jackets (9-6, 0-4 ACC) trailing by just four with 1:34 to play, Louisville (12-5, 3-1 ACC) needed a clutch score to gain some breathing room so Van Lith put up a three. Georgia Tech had played great defense on the possession, but failed to put a body on Robinson after the shot. Robinson rebounded the ball and was all alone under the basket for a layup, which she made to push her team’s lead to 59-53.
The job wasn’t done yet though, and Robinson kept up her gritty play until the end, drawing an overly-aggressive box-out foul on Cameron Swartz after another Louisville miss with 23 seconds to go. Robinson made both her free throws after the call to make it 61-53 and the Yellow Jackets were not able to come up with a miracle after that, falling 63-55.
As play-by-play announcer Pam Ward pointed out during the broadcast of the game on the ACC Network, Robinson doesn’t have much of a career scoring average (2.7 points per game), but is on her way to breaking the program record for games played and on Thursday delivered a win that Louisville desperately needed to avoid another blemish on its resume and made the kind of high-effort plays that the team can rally around as it tries to work its way back toward living up to its preseason No. 7 ranking.
In ESPN’s Jan. 3 Bracketology, Louisville was a No. 9 seed; Tech was not included.
Robinson finished with just the four points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 22 minutes, while Van Lith led the way with 24 points and four assists. Olivia Cochran was the only other Cardinal in double-figure scoring; she had 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Tech’s hopes of a fourth-quarter comeback looked brightest when it cut it to four for the first time in the frame on a Kayla Blackshear mid-range make from the left baseline at 4:56 remaining. The Jackets would cut it to four again on a deep two from Swartz at 3:44 and on two Tonie Morgan free throws at 1:52, but wouldn’t get any closer.
Back-to-back Tech threes, the first from Bianca Jackson and the second from Kara Dunn, cut the Jacket deficit to 46-40 entering the fourth and made the statement that Tech was going to make it a battle down the stretch.
A 10-0 Louisville run during the second half of the second quarter changed the game by taking it from 22-21 Cards to 32-21 Cards. The run began with two Liz Dixon inside buckets. Cochran then made two free throws before intercepting a Tech pass near mid-court and taking it the other way, getting to the line and making two more freebies. Immediately after that, Nyla Harris stole the ball away from the Jackets in the backcourt and capped the run with a layup.
Tech cut it to eight with a Dunn 3-point play at 1:05 remaining before the break and to six with a Morgan layup 57 seconds into the third. Chrislyn Carr scored her first points of the contest on a three that pushed it back to plus-nine in favor of Louisville and then the Jackets cut it to seven with a Blackshear mid-range make. Tech was battling, but it would take a while to get back to within six. At the 4:34 mark of the third, a Van Lith layup after she drove through the center of the Yellow Jacket defense in transition gave the Cards their largest lead of game at 12, a lead that was matched on Van Lith free throws will 2:43 to go before the fourth.
Van Lith opened the second quarter with a mid-range fade and a deep two that banked in from a difficult angle to make it 20-16 Cards. Merissah Russell extended it to a 6-0 Louisville run with a layup in transition that made it 22-16. Tech answered with a difficult Morgan layup and a Swartz catch-and-shoot three to cut it to one at the 5:02 mark of the frame.
Louisville came out with a Dixon mid-range make, two blocked shots on the ensuing Tech possession, which led to a shot clock violation, and a Van Lith off-hand layup to go up 4-0. A 5-0 Yellow Jacket run from 7:12 in the first to 6:52 in the first would give Tech a 7-6 lead and it was close for the rest of the first, after which the score was tied at 16.
The Jackets attempted six threes to Louisville’s one in the opening frame and made two compared to Louisville’s zero. Ines Noguero’s triple at 7:12 cut Tech’s deficit to 6-5 and Dunn’s trey at 1:36 gave it a 16-12 lead.
Carr’s three ended up being the only long-distance make of the game for the Cards, who made just seven attempts. Tech finished 7-of-17 (41.2 percent).
Dunn, a freshman making the first start of her career, led the Jackets with 17 points in defeat.
Louisville committed just eight turnovers and forced 16.