Engstler's grit helps Louisville women reach Final Four

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Emily Engstler's shot wouldn't drop, yet her dominant performance helped Louisville reach the women's Final Four.

The versatile All-ACC forward made just 1 of 9 field goals against Michigan in the Wichita Region final on Monday night. She missed all five of her 3-point tries and was held to five points. But she also had 16 rebounds, six steals and four assists and played a key role in helping the top-seeded Cardinals defeat No. 3 seed Michigan 62-50 in the Elite Eight.

Aside from the shooting, it was a typical effort for the 6-foot-1 senior. She has averaged 13.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.8 steals per game during the NCAA Tournament while helping Louisville limit opponents to 56 points per game.

“She has always had that type of impact on the game,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “It doesn’t matter how she shoots the basketball.”

She had been hitting shots lately. She was coming off a 20-point performance on 7-for-12 shooting in a 76-64 win over Tennessee in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. She had averaged 12 points per game for the season, second-best on the team.

On Monday, she missed all three shots she took in the first half, then went 1 for 6 in the second half. Still, she had five rebounds and three steals in the fourth quarter. She had numerous deflections and caused several jump balls throughout the game.

“She just does things you don’t teach,” Walz said. “It’s who she is.”

Engstler said she'd heard enough about how the Cardinals don’t finish games and noted that they handled business against Tennessee, too.

“Everybody likes to bring up how we’ve lost in the fourth quarter this year,” Engstler said. “Well, we’ve just won two huge games in the fourth quarter when it mattered, so we’re obviously capable of it. We just hit a little bit of a bump throughout the year, and we are back where we’re supposed to be and we're locked in with the coaches and with the team, and I think we did an amazing job lifting each other up.”

Louisville held the Wolverines scoreless for more than five minutes to start the game, then held them without a field goal for nearly seven minutes at the end. Overall, Engstler spearheaded a defense that forced Michigan into 22 turnovers and turned them into 24 points. As a result, Louisville will play South Carolina in a national semifinal on Friday. The Cardinals are in the Final Four for the fourth time and still have a shot at their first national title.

Louisville survived Engstler's poor shooting, in part, because her teammates stepped up. Hailey Van Lith had 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, the final touch on her run to being the Wichita Region's Most Outstanding Player. Chelsie Hall scored 15 points in one of her better shooting efforts of the season.

Engstler also made the region's All-Tournament Team. She saved an extra special performance for the regional final, missing her career highs in both rebounds and steals by one.

“She is obviously really disruptive,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Her length is incredible and she gets in the passing lanes, and it seemed like every big play they made she was involved in.”

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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