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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Hailey Van Lith scored 25 points, Payton Verhulst had a steal and the decisive free throws with 2.2 seconds left and No. 7 Louisville outscored Belmont for a 75-game victory -70 on Sunday night.
The Cardinals scored the final four points of the game from the free throw line after Belmont lost possession when Madison Bartley was called for an illegal screen with 7.6 seconds left.
Van Lith made a pair of free throws with 6.4 seconds left and on the next play from half court, the Bruins gave Bartley the ball in the left corner. He drove to the baseline, hoping to find Sydni Harvey in the right corner, but was cut off by Olivia Cochran, who put a hand on the pass, allowing Verhulst to dive in and intercept it.
The final margin was the largest for the Cardinals (2-0) in a game that featured 17 ties and 20 lead changes. Belmont (1-1) led by six points late in the second quarter.
Destiny Wells hit a jumper to put Belmont up 68-67 with 2:17 left. Mykasa Robinson scored on an in-bounds play under the basket and Cochrane made a pair of free throws at 1:02 for a 71-68 lead. Wells made a layup with 44 seconds left and the Bruins got the ball back after Van Lith missed a shot from the left elbow with 26 seconds remaining.
Wells was on the left wing, attempting to drive to the top of the key when the illegal screen was called.
Cochran added 13 points and Chrislyn Carr had 11 for Louisville, which shot 41% but was 20-of-21 from the free throw line, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
Wells scored 20 points for the Bruins (1-1) and Harvey and Tuti Jones each had 15. Belmont was 15-of-18 from the line and shot 52%. As the Cardinals made their free throws in the fourth quarter, Belmont shot 7-for-12 from the field with three 3-pointers.
Carr hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap a 9-0 run that put the Cardinals up 37-34 at halftime. Belmont led 34-28 on a 3-pointer by Harvey at the 2:46 mark. Robinson responded with a 3-pointer and Merissah Russell hit a 3-pointer to put Louisville back on top.
THE TO GO
Louisville: The Cardinals survived a test of a frequent NCAA Tournament team, which is good with the Bad Boy Mowers Battle for Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas next weekend and a visit from No. 14 Ohio State late of month
Belmont: Although it was a disappointing loss, the Bruins played better than before having to fight back from a 14-point deficit to win their opener over Chattanooga 56-54. With 12 postseason teams from 2022 on the schedule and 11 teams that have won 20 games, Belmont showed they are ready to go after their seventh NCAA berth since 2016.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Louisville will play Gonzaga on Saturday in the first of three games in the Bahamas.
Belmont remains in state and will play Middle Tennessee on Wednesday to begin a five-game road trip, with the next game at No. 4 Iowa on Sunday.
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