U of L women’s team advances to NCAA finals

By on April 8, 2013

Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal

Updated: 4/8/13 9:21 am

By Sam Draut–

The odds were stacked against them; history was not in their favor, thus another average night for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team.

No team higher than a four seed had ever won a game in the Final Four of the women’s NCAA Tournament, but the fifth seeded Cardinals with a 29-8 record upset two seed California Bears 64-57 in New Orleans on Sunday night.

It’s U of L head coach Jeff Walz’s second trip to the women’s national championship game, the first coming in 2009.

In the first half, Cal, with a 32-4 record, controlled the interior, shooting 58.6 percent, leading 37-27 going into halftime.

“Tonight we’re down 10 at half, we come out and execute perfectly to start the second half, and we score the first five…and then we just chipped away,” Walz said.

Junior forward Antonita Slaughter hit three three-pointers in the second half to help the Cardinals erase the 10 point deficit. She finished with a game high 18 points, going 6 of 10 from behind the arc.

“When I shoot the ball, I know my teammates have confidence in me, and that gives me confidence in myself,” Slaughter said.

U of L tied and took a 53-52 lead off two made free throws by sophomore forward Sara Hammond with 3:40 left in the second half. Hammond played the final 7:20 with four fouls and finished with nine points and three rebounds.

“It got to a point where she is one of our better post players and if you’re going to win you have to have your best players on the floor,” Walz said. “I thought she did a great job, she had a couple big time moves, and she finished for us.

Averaging 20 points in postseason play, junior guard Shoni Schimmel struggled, only scoring 10 points, but led the team with six assists and also had a transition pull-up jumper with 2:06 left to give Louisville a 57-54 lead.

Cal guard Layshia Clarendon tied the game with an uncontested three pointer the next possession. She led the Bears 17 points and five rebounds.

The Cardinals then took the lead for good with 1:28 left after a three point play from Hammond.

“Once we took the lead, I could see it in our kids eyes, the excitement, that we could do this,” Walz said.

In the final 20 seconds, sophomore guards Bria Smith and Jude Schimmel hit two free throws apiece to finish off the Bears.
Smith finished with 17 points and six rebounds on 6 of 7 shooting from the field.

Jude Schimmel contributed all of the Cardinal bench points, adding nine points with four rebounds.

U of L was outrebounded 38-26, and only had 7 offensive rebounds to Cal’s 17, but scored 22 points off turnovers.

“We finally started to rebound the ball a little better, because they were abusing us on second chance points in the first half,” Walz said.

The Cardinals outscored the Bears 37-20 in the second half, giving them their second appearance in the national championship game in five years.

“It’s one game, it’s one night, and we’re figuring a way to pull them out and play well at the right time,” Walz said.
Louisville will face UConn on Tuesday night.

“We’re ready to take on anything, and if that means a national championship, then here we come,” Shoni Schimmel said.

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Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal

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