Ohio players and first-year coach Bob Boldon knew there was no room for error just to contend with fourth-ranked Louisville.
But as shot after shot bounced off the rim and the backboard and the mistakes piled up, the game quickly slipped away from the Bobcats. The Cardinals, on the other hand, hit their shots and played well in just about every area in running away to a 90-33 victory on Thursday night.
Here's how bad it was for Ohio (2-1): the Bobcats shot just 10 of 53 from the field (19 percent), were outrebounded 54-25 and outscored in the paint 46-14 and in scoring by reserves 49-7.
Then again, the signs were there in a 7-of-29 first half (24 percent).
"I didn't think we played real hard in the first half, but I did think we got some open looks," Boldon said. "We missed our first 11 3s, and, I think, mentally, that got to us. We've got to get better at handling adversity.
"But, make no mistake about it: this Louisville team is really, really good."
Ohio starting forward Lexie Baldwin, who entered as the team's second-leading scorer (14.5 points per game) scored just three points before fouling out with 9:34 left in the game. She shot 1 for 4 in 15 minutes of play. Reserve guard and leading scorer Kiyanna Black (21.5 points) had just four points in 24 minutes.
The Bobcats' only bright spot was Quiera Lampkins' team-high 13 points on 9-of-10 free-throw shooting.
"She got off to a slow start, but she did a really nice job of gaining her composure and sticking with it," Boldon said of Lampkins. "She was frustrated early in the first half but really hung in there and gave us some really good minutes late in the first half and throughout the second half."
Ohio came in feeling good about its chances against Louisville. The Bobcats were 2-0 for the first time in seven years and bouyed by an overtime win at Morehead State in which they scored 16 points in the extra session.
At the same time they were facing an unbeaten Cardinals team on their own roll after claiming the preseason WNIT championship on Sunday with an overtime win at Oklahoma. Louisville was also motivated to make Jeff Walz the program's winningest coach.
That energy was evident from the start as the Cardinals ran out to a 20-6 lead and poured it on.
"I've just got to say thanks to all the players that have bought into what we've tried to do here and believed in me and what we're trying to do here," said Walz, whose 153-65 record includes two NCAA championship appearances including one last spring.
"It's the longest time I've ever been some place as a coach because this is a profession where you'll get out before they get you out. I plan on staying here until I retire or get fired."
Ohio (2-1) never got going offensively, hitting just 7 of 29 in the first half — including missing its first 14 from 3-point range. The Bobcats hit just 2 of 25 from beyond the arc and 10 of 53 overall (19 percent).
Shoni Schimmel scored 13 points for Louisville. Bria Smith added 12 points, reserve forward Shawnta' Dyer 15 and Megan Deines 11 as every Cardinal who played scored.
Cortnee Walton added 10 rebounds and six points for the Cardinals, who had 22 assists.
As Ohio struggled through a cold-shooting half, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range, Louisville didn't miss a beat. Besides exploiting their size advantage in the low post, Smith's 10 points from several spots symbolized the Cardinal guards' ease in penetrating and spotting up for jumpers en route to a 53-percent shooting half.
Louisville tried a variety of defenses and contested shots but mostly just had to wait for defensive rebounds as Ohio misfired from all over the floor. A 2-of-11 start left the Bobcats in a 29-6 hole midway through the half and they made just five of the next 18.
The Bobcats kept firing, though, and Mariah Bayard finally broke through from long range with 3 seconds left to make it 43-17 at the break.