AUSTIN, Texas — Hailey Van Lith scored 13 points over the final five minutes, including five in a row in the final 16 seconds, and No. 5 Louisville held off No. 12 Drake's frantic March Madness upset bid with an 83-81 win Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Van Lith's three-point play off a layup out of timeout put Louisville up by four before Drake answered with a 3-pointer by Sarah Beth Gueldner. Van Lith then made two more free throws to all but seal the win for the Cardinals.
Van Lith finished with 26 points and Mykasa Robison scored 14 for Louisville (24-11), which advances to Monday's second round matchup of the winner between No. 4 Texas (25-9) and No. 13 East Carolina (23-9).
A Final Four team last season, Louisville will be playing for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Katie Dinnebier scored 20 points for Drake (22-10), which confused Louisville's defense early with a series of backdoor cuts that had the Bulldogs shooting layup after layup. Anna Miller scored 17 for Drake.
But Van Lith took over the fourth quarter and her mid-range jumper with 53 seconds left put Louisville ahead for good at 77-75. Miller had a chance to tie it again but missed a layup.
Drake: The Bulldogs have a solid history of reaching the NCAA Tournament with four appearances in the last seven seasons. But there have been no wins in that span. Second-year coach Allison Pohlman will be leaning heavily on senior Grace Berg, who has said she plans to return next season, and Miller who took over a starting role the final third of the seasons. Berg scored 17.
Louisville: The Cardinals are rarely on the road so early in the tournament but look quite comfortable in Texas. They aren't hosting the first two rounds for the first time since 2015, not including the 2021 pandemic tournament that was played entirely in the Lone Star State. Louisville twice advanced to the Final Four (2009 and 2013) playing away from home.