AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Louisville and Texas meet Monday in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the game the teams played against each other in November on foreign soil doesn’t mean a thing.

Yes, the Cardinals beat the Longhorns 71-63 in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Paradise Island, Bamahams on Nov. 20, but both teams are miles removed from that game. Also, Texas has its playmaker and facilitator back in sophomore point guard Rori Harmon.

Texas clobbered its first-round opponent Saturday, dishing out a 79-40 beatdown of 13th-seeded East Carolina. Louisville, the region’s No. 5 seed, got all it could handle from 12th-seeded Drake in an 83-81 nailbiter. However, the Longhorns aren’t letting the respective margins of victory dictate how they’ll approach Monday’s game, set for 6 p.m. at Moody Center.

“We have to be really ready for a great ball club, Longhorns head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought we played with a lot of energy last night. I told them today in film, I was really proud of our effort. I thought we played hard. And that’s all I care about.”

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With Harmon back on the floor, the Longhorns are a completely different team. She’s the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, and her fingerprints are on just about everything the team does. Having to sit out the previous matchup against the Cardinals was tough on her, and also tough on the team. While she was sidelined, the Longhorns fell completely out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll and started the season 2-3.

“That was a long time ago. But, to be on the sideline is a completely different perspective than actually playing the basketball game,” she said. “We’ve obviously improved a lot since that game. And if we just stick with what worked and we got better at what didn’t work and just keep them off the boards, I think we’ll be very pleased with ourselves.”

Harmon was the Big 12 Conference defensive player of the year and is fourth in Division I averaging 7.5 assists per game. She was one of just 29 players in Division I to register a triple-double this season and the undisputed leader of the team as just a sophomore.

She said she expects a physical game between two of Division I’s most prolific offenses.

“Both teams have that aggression in them,” she said. “And that’s part of their culture. That’s how we both play. And so we just have to be physically ready as well as mentally. But physically it’s going to play a big part in this game. The more physical competitor will probably end up winning.”

Schaefer said Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith, No. 27 in Division I with 19.7 points per game this season, will be a handful. Van Lith scored 13 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Cardinals over Drake in the first round, and he’s said all season long that teams win with guard play.

“It was key the first matchup that we played them,” Schaefer said. Van Lith had 18 points against the Longhorns in their previous game.

“And he’s [Louisville coach Jeff Walz] changed up his lineup a little bit in his last 10, he’s gone
with a different lineup. 8-2 with the last 10 with a different starting lineup. He’s obviously found something he likes and is very comfortable with.”

Van Lith knows Texas is a different team with Harmon on the floor. She said Harmon’s “elite court vision” gives the team a different dynamic and allows them to get the ball in the post where they’ve dominated previously.

“I think picking her up early, not letting her have a bunch of free-thinking time to make decisions will be important for us,” she said. “And, yeah, just wearing her out in the backcourt. I
think full-court defense is going to be big for us.”

The winner advances to the Sweet 16, held March 24 at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.