The EKU women’s basketball team built a seven point first-half lead against No. 9 Louisville Thursday night at McBrayer Arena.
Five minutes into the second half, the Lady Colonels still clung to a one-point lead.
From there, Louisville turned on the jets, turning a close game into a 77-53 blowout.
“I felt like we came out and competed and showed a lot of heart. We were up for the challenge,” EKU coach Chrissy Roberts said. “We’re going to take this and learn from this and move forward.”
A three-point play by Alex Jones gave EKU a 41-40 lead with 15:18 remaining in the game.
Louisville went on a 24-5 run over the next 9:57 to take a 64-46 lead.
During the run, EKU was 1-of-8 shooting, with the only made basket a three-pointer by freshman Carla Booth.
The Lady Colonels were 2-of-5 from the free throw line and committed six turnovers during the run.
Louisville had 13 rebounds and four steals during the run, scoring eight points off the offensive glass and six points on lay-ups.
Overall, Louisville closed the game on a 37-12 run and outscored EKU 47-22 in the second half.
“They hit a couple shots, we missed a few and it takes a little bit out of you,” Roberts said. “Between not making any shots and them crashing the boards, it took a little bit out of us.”
The attendance of 2,800 was the second most ever for a women’s basketball game at McBrayer Arena.
In 2003, EKU and Morehead State drew 3,800 fans.
Thursday’s game was the first time EKU had played host to a Top 10 team since 1993.
A large contingent of Louisville fans made the trip and an entire section was wearing Rockcastle County shirts in support of Louisville freshman Sara Hammond, who scored six points and had seven rebounds.
EKU opened the game with a 4-0 lead after Jones scored off a rebound and Jade Barber, a Louisville native, ran the fast break, getting the ball to Raechele Gray, who found Jasmine Stovall for a an easy basket.
EKU led most of the half and never trailed by more than three points in the first 20 minutes.
“Eastern Kentucky played with a lot of passion and a lot of heart,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “They made some threes and all the sudden they got on a roll. You can’t start a game, especially on the road, and let people come out and make three or four shots and expect them to roll over and die.”
Trailing 11-10 with 13:09 remaining in the first half, EKU got hot from the field, using an 11-4 run to go up 21-15.
Marie Carpenter and Booth drained three-pointers, then Booth made a pair of long passes, one to Barber for a deuce, the other to Carpenter for a three-pointer.
Gray sank a three-pointer, giving EKU a 24-17 lead.
Louisville fought back, but the Lady Colonels held the Lady Cardinals off at the end of the half, taking a 31-30 lead into the break.
“We knew before the game started we had to come out and throw the first punch,” Carpenter said. “We had the adrenaline going. Who knows what happened in the Louisville locker room at halftime, but it seemed like the momentum was reversed in the second half. We didn’t have the same adrenaline that we had at the beginning.”
In the second half, the Lady Cardinals grabbed a 40-39 lead, before Jones scored the three-point play.
From there, Louisville took over.
For the game, Louisville had 50 rebounds to 30 for EKU.
EKU finished with 23 turnovers.
Both teams struggled from the field. EKU shot 33.3 percent and Louisville 38 percent.
Booth led the Lady Colonels with 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Booth also had four rebounds and three assists.
Gray had nine points, Jones scored eight points and had nine rebounds, Barber had eight points and four blocks, Carpenter finished with eight points, Stovall had four points and Brittany Coles finished with two points.
EKU (0-2) will seek its first win when it plays at 2 p.m. Sunday at Western Michigan University.