(Courtesy: UofL Athletics) LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Third-ranked Louisville used a strong start to put Virginia Tech away early and keep its perfect season intact.
Asia Durr scored 21 points to lead the Cardinals past the Hokies 67-56 on Sunday afternoon.
The Cardinals (18-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) made their first seven shots to jump out to a 16-2 lead midway through the first quarter. Durr made her first five shots and scored 16 in the period.
''We got off to a great start,'' said Durr, who entered the game third in the league with a 20.2 scoring average. ''Our defense was really great in that first quarter.''
Sam Fuehring added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting for the Cardinals, who led by as many as 23 late in the second quarter.
The Hokies (12-4, 1-2) helped Louisville's cause by committing eight turnovers in the game's first six minutes. They compounded those woes by shooting 30.4 percent, their second-worst production of the season.
Regan Magarity led the Hokies with 14 points.
NOTRE DAME ON DECK
Off to their best start ever, the Cardinals now have four days to get ready for one of the biggest games in program history as second-ranked Notre Dame visits on Thursday. The Fighting Irish, four-time defending ACC regular season champions, hold a 14-4 record over Louisville.
A win Thursday would put the Cardinals in position to claim their first ACC title and first regular-season conference title since winning Conference USA in 2001.
''Our goal has been to compete to win an ACC title,'' coach Jeff Walz said. ''Obviously, they go through Notre Dame.''
Virginia Tech: Playing on the road for the first time since Dec. 12, the Hokies never led and never found anything that worked offensively against the Cardinals. Chanette Hicks, a preseason all-ACC first team selection, finished with just six points on 2-of-4 shooting and had five turnovers and two assists, well off her 6.7 average.
Still, coach Kenny Brooks said he was pleased with the way his team adjusted in the second half, which included going to a box-and-one defense to neutralize Durr. She scored just two points in the second half as Virginia Tech outscored Louisville 31-19.
''If we could erase the first half and just take the second half, I'd be kind of happy,'' he said.
Louisville: In their first three ACC games, the Cardinals built up double-digit leads only to see opponents climb back into each contest late. Those lapses prompted concerns from Walz. Though Virginia Tech never threatened the lead, Louisville, which hasn't outscored an opponent in the fourth quarter in its last six games, could not carry over its strong start to the second half. That trend could be a problem as games against ranked opponents loom.
ACC teams can be expected to come back from big deficits, but there are things Louisville can do to prevent it, Walz said.
''We just got to get more efficient,'' he said. ''We get sloppy. We miss some gimmies in the paint. We miss some open shots.''
Wins over a ranked Duke squad and a Hokies team that received a vote in last week's poll should be enough to keep the Cardinals at their current perch. A victory over Notre Dame would almost assuredly vault the Cardinals to the No. 2 ranking for the first time in program history.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies return home to face Pittsburgh on Thursday before going on the road to play No. 11 Florida State next Sunday.
Louisville: The Cardinals host second-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in a nationally televised matchup.