SEATTLE -- Louisville Cardinals guard Hailey Van Lith said during Thursday's media availability that she wasn't surprised by viral attention on her interaction with a member of the Texas Longhorns after Monday's win to advance to the Sweet 16, "because it's women's basketball and people treat us differently all the time."
The broadcast of Monday's game captured Texas senior guard Sonya Morris grabbing Van Lith during the handshake line and speaking to her in animated fashion after Van Lith scored a game-high 21 points to lead Louisville to a 73-51 win over the Longhorns on their home court.
"I mean that happens in the NBA game every single day," Van Lith said ahead of Friday's regional semifinal against the Ole Miss Rebels. "Just because it was women's basketball, they're going to drag it out and it's a whole deal. But, you know, it really wasn't a big deal and people are trying to stretch."
In particular, the incident made waves on social media, where lip readers attempted to deduce what Morris told Van Lith. Van Lith said she wasn't concerned about what is being shared.
"I'm not on social media so I don't know what people are saying," said Van Lith, who has a Twitter account but hasn't posted since early March. "I don't really, particularly, worry about it. But I think if you know me and you watched me, that actually was a very calm moment for me."
Indeed, Van Lith had little reaction in the moment. Teammate Mykasa Robinson, who was directly behind Van Lith, can be seen standing up for her by doubling back to confront Morris along with fellow Louisville player Merissah Russell before the camera cut away.
After the game, Van Lith told the Louisville Courier-Journal, "I'm not gonna let no one disrespect me, but my teammates got my back. And I don't have nothing bad to say. They're coached great. They have great players. So, it is what it is. People are sad when they lose. I'd be sad, too."
By now, the Cardinals' bigger concern is Ole Miss, fresh off an upset of top-seeded Stanford on Sunday at Maples Pavilion last week that was the first true road win over a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament since 1998. (The Miami Hurricanes later joined the Rebels by winning at Indiana on Monday.) Ahead of their own game at Texas on Monday, Van Lith and her teammates were watching as Ole Miss advanced.
"It was a great game to watch," she said. "It was a great basketball game. We weren't necessarily scouting at that time because we still had to focus on Texas. But we were just enjoying watching the game. They're a talented team with a lot of athletes. So, it's going to be a fun matchup."
For Van Lith, a native of Cashmere in central Washington about two and a half hours east on I-90 of regional host Climate Pledge Arena, the opportunity to play for a second Elite Eight appearance in the last three years in front of friends and family is an exciting one.
"I knew when they put out the regional locations that we had a chance to end up in Seattle, and it just ended up working out," Van Lith said. "I'm really, really excited to play in front of my hometown and people that I grew up around. I know that there's going to be a lot of people from Wenatchee and Cashmere, all type of different support. So, I'm hoping that it feels like a home game here for us.
"I'm super excited. I haven't got to play in front of a lot of family in a while, so it's going to be a special moment."