LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Houston guard Jessieka Palmer and her struggling teammates got together before the Cougars' game with No. 3 Louisville and talked about how players like competing against some of the best.
Though the Cougars lost to the host Cardinals again Wednesday night, 81-62, it was a much more competitive game than the previous meeting in Houston, an embarrassing 93-52 defeat on Jan. 21.
"We talked before the game about how the best players want to play against the best," said Palmer. "We knew Louisville was No. 3 in the nation and we wanted to give it our all."
Houston (5-21, 1-14 American Athletic Conference), a loser in 14 of its last 15, hung with the Cardinals for a while, trailing 38-27 at halftime. A late 14-5 surge over the last 6-plus minutes of the first half gave the Cardinals (26-2, 14-1) all the momentum they needed.
Sophomore forward Marche Amerson's 3-point jumper from the left side got the Cougars to 24-22 with 7:45 in the first half. However, Sara Hammond — who led the Cardinals with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals — scored five points during the late first-half run.
Every time it seemed Houston would make a run, Louisville would respond. The Cougars pulled to 55-42 on a rebound basket by Tyler Gilbert, who had eight points off the bench and six rebounds. But the Cardinals had too much.
Louisville did what it has done many times this season, going on a run. The Cardinals outscored the Cougars 21-8 to extend the lead to 76-50 with 4:18 to play.
"We were forcing up too many 3s, just off the dribble," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "We were dribbling way too much in the first half. I told them we need to shoot the 3 inside-out. We did a really nice job of getting (the ball) in the post. We made some pull-up jump shots and in turn, we shot a much better percentage from the field."
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