By Sam Draut–
The No. 16 University of Louisville women’s basketball team fell to No. 2 Notre Dame in the semi-finals of the Big East tournament. The Cards will bring a 24-8 record into the NCAA tournament and have the opportunity to play the first and second round at the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville battled injuries all season long, missing three potential starters, junior guard Tia Gibbs, senior forward Asia Taylor and sophomore forward Shawnta’ Dyer. Senior forward Monique Reid was recovering from a knee injury and played limited minutes, averaging 9.5 points per game.
For a majority of the Big East season, the Cardinals only dressed nine players, but finished 11-5 in the conference which was tied for third.
Louisville started the season ranked in the top 10 and opened the year with a 47-45 win over 12th ranked Texas A&M. After the win, the Cardinals reeled off seven more victories including the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Mexico.
The undefeated Cardinals faced No. 9 Kentucky in the annual rivalry game. Over 15,000 fans packed into the KFC Yum! Center and saw the Wildcats come out with a 48-47 victory. The Cardinals controlled much of the game, but did not score in the final 4:54 of the game.
Louisville headed into conference play at 12-2.
After dropping the Big East opener to DePaul, the Cardinals defeated Rutgers after going on a 14-5 run in overtime.
Louisville lost at UConn 72-58, but then won six straight including an inspired 57-54 victory over St. Johns. The streak pushed the Cardinals to the top third of the league.
They then faced No. 2 Notre Dame in the nationally televised road game and lost 93-64.
The Cards won three of their last five, finishing at 11-5, giving themselves a four seed for the Big East tournament and also the ever important double bye.
Louisville took care of the five seed St. Johns 62-55 and advanced to the semi-finals against a familiar foe. The one seed Notre Dame took control of the game early and won 83-59.
Louisville now looks ahead to the NCAA tournament after putting together a great regular season shrouded with adversity and injuries.
“We’re close. We’re fortunate to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. We’re close to being able to make a significant run and put things together,” said head coach Jeff Walz.
Junior guard Shoni Schimmel averaged 13.7 points per game and was selected for the second consecutive year as first team All-Big East. Junior forward Antonita debuted in the league honors with a second team All-Big East selection. She averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Sophomore forward Sara Hammond saw an expanded role this season and delivered by leading the team in rebounding and averaging 10.7 points per game. Fellow sophomore Bria Smith averaged 9.2 points per game and handled the responsibility of point guard during Big East play while leading the team in steals.
Freshman guard Megan Deines averaged 5.5 points per game but went on scoring bursts throughout the year. Sophomore guard Jude Schimmel averaged 5.1 points per game and was second on the team in steals while having the second highest assist to turnover ratio to guard Shelby Harper.
Junior center Sheronne Vails contributed, averaging 3.9 points per game and freshman center Cortnee Walton added 3.2 points per game.
Game in and game out, it was a collective effort for the Cardinals. Finally, the attention turns to pushing forward through a deep NCAA tournament run.
Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal