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The Louisville Cardinals complete one of largest comebacks ever at NCAAs

Louisville guard Dana Evans celebrates after scoring against Northwestern on Wednesday. Evans led the Cardinals on one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

SAN ANTONIO — Dana Evans left the Alamodome on Wednesday with both her college career and eyelashes intact.

Louisville completed one of the largest comebacks in the history of the NCAA Tournament in a 62-53 win over Northwestern. Leading the charge back from an 18-point deficit was Evans, Louisville's 5-foot-6 All-American.

Evans fielded plenty of questions about the comeback in a postgame press conference on Zoom. But after she expressed disgust with her on-screen appearance, the senior guard was complimented by two reporters on the eyelashes that the Louisville Courier-Journal once described as "extravagant."

"The right eye is a little shaky right now," said Evans, who scored 14 points against Northwestern. "A lot of them are starting to come off getting smacked in the face, but it's OK."

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Ranked eighth in The Associated Press' last poll, Louisville (25-3) was shocked early by a Northwestern team that was coming off its first NCAA Tournament win in 28 years. The Wildcats scored 16 of the game's first 18 points, and Lauryn Satterwhite's 3-pointer gave them a 25-7 lead with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in the first quarter.

Louisville chipped away at that lead in the second quarter and was down 32-20 at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, the game was tied.

Twelve seconds into the final frame, Hailey Van Lith assisted Kianna Smith on a basket and Louisville had a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Evans and Van Lith made key 3-pointers in the quarter, but a late chase-down steal by Mykasa Robinson might have been the game's biggest play.

According to ESPN, the 18-point comeback was tied for the third-largest in the history of the women's tournament.

The lone senior on Louisville's roster, Evans said she tried to set an example by remaining calm and collected even as Northwestern grabbed its early lead. Louisville coach Jeff Walz thought his star player's demeanor differed from the Cardinals' tournament opener against Marist.

"In our Marist game, she got frustrated with some of the officiating, some of the calls," Walz said. "I think she took a step back these past two days and was like 'Hey, I can't let others dictate the story I'm going to write.’”

An Associated Press All-America first teamer, Evans is averaging 19.6 points and four assists. Walz said at one point this season Evans had a run that was as "good of a 19-game stretch of any player that we've had here at Louisville."

The next chapter of Evans' story involves Oregon and a Sweet 16 showdown. In its second-round game, Oregon (15-8) recorded a 57-50 win over Georgia on Wednesday.

"We can't come out like that against a good Oregon team that we're about to face," Evans said. "We've got to come out focused, come out sharp." 

Smith led Louisville with 16 points, and Van Lith and Olivia Cochran added 13 points apiece. Cochran also snagged 15 boards.

Northwestern (16-9) got only four points from senior guard Lindsey Pulliam, the third-leading scorer in school history. Jordan Hamilton scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Wildcats.

"Played as hard as we could play tonight," Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. "Really proud of this team, my four seniors, but give Louisville credit. They're a great team, great coach."

Hamilton was the only Texan on either team's roster. As a junior in high school, she had another 17-point game for a Frisco Liberty team that upended Vista Ridge in a Class 5A semifinal at the Alamodome. The Redhawks were later beaten by Canyon for the 2016 Class 5A championship.