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Photo by Austin Lassell

Louisville women’s basketball advances to Elite Eight with win over LSU

By Sam Draut

Louisville cruised to a 73-47 victory over LSU on Sunday to advance to the Elite Eight.

Shoni Schimmel led Cardinal scorers with 19 points and added six assists.  Tia Gibbs hit five three pointers, finishing with 15 points and five rebounds.  The two seniors combined for eight of the Cardinals season-high 12 three-pointers.

“When Tia Gibbs gives you 15 points in 16 minutes off the bench it is pretty special,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.

The seventh-seeded Tigers were limited to playing just eight players due to injuries, while Louisville’s bench outscored LSU’s reserves 28-0.  In three NCAA tournament games, Louisville’s bench has outscored opponents 84-2.

‘‘They did all that they could consider, and our bench, they came in and they tried their best,’’ LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. ‘’I’m proud of them for that. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to.”

Antonita Slaughter scored 10 points.  Asia Taylor pulled down 10 rebounds and added 7 points.

LSU (21-13) held a 12-11 lead through the first eight minutes of the game, but Louisville (33-4) closed the half on an extended 30-11 run, giving them a comfortable 41-23 halftime lead.

During the run, Gibbs connected with two threes on back-to-back possessions.

“I was trying to provide a spark to the team.  Coming off the bench, that is our job,” Gibbs said.  “My teammates did a great job looking for me.”

LSU was led by sophomore guard Danielle Ballard, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.  She had 12 of the Tigers 24 field goals.  Minus Ballard, LSU was just 4 of 42 from the field.

“We had a hard time containing her, but I thought we did a good job on the rest of their players,” Walz said.

Taylor and Sara Hammond were able to slow the post presence of Theresa Plaisance, who scored seven points on 1-of-13 shooting, well below her season average of 15.3 points per game.

Hammond was limited to  16 minutes because of foul trouble, but had five points and eight rebounds.

“We have to get Sara going, we are running out of games,” Walz said. “She is in a little bit of a slump, but I would be shocked if she had three games where she struggled on the offensive end of the floor.”

Through three NCAA tournament games, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents by 46, 30, and 26 respectively.

‘’I think we’re playing really good basketball right now,’’ Walz said.

“We don’t play the score.  We won’t let up on people.  We know there is a lot we still have to work on,” Gibbs said.

Louisville will play fourth-seeded Maryland on Tuesday night at the KFC YUM! Center for a trip to the Final Four.

Walz spent five seasons at Maryland under the direction of Terrapin coach Brenda Frese  before coming to Louisville.

“We know we are going to have our hands full.  They are a very talented basketball team, they have great size,” Walz said. “We know what is at stake.”

Photo by Austin Lassell

Louisville defeats UCF 87-70 to improve to 18-4

By Sam Draut

Russ Smith started hot, scoring ten points in the first five minutes as twelfth ranked Louisville defeated Central Florida 87-70.

Smith hit his first three-pointer seven seconds into the game and two possessions later connected with his second three-pointer.  Smith finished with 27 points and five rebounds.

“Louisville is a team of runs. They play with great emotion and their defense creates offense for them, and they’ve got guys who can make shots and make plays. Russ Smith and obviously (Luke) Hancock,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said.  “Those guys know how to make plays, and they got off to a good start.”

Luke Hancock added 16 points and five assists.  Hancock was the game’s assist leader and also grabbed four rebounds.

“If you watch him in the last few games, he goes by everybody and you would say he’s not going to win to many foot races but he’s very ball-quick and you have to play him because of his shot,” Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said. “He’s playing very good basketball right now. He’s the one guy on the team I’m really happy with.”

Louisville, 18-4, burst out to a 20-6 lead to start the game, but then fought through a sluggish final ten minutes to take a 37-27 lead to halftime.

“We played lethargic at certain points and we can’t do that,” Smith said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”

Through the first eleven minutes of the game, Smith, Hancock, and Harrell were the only Cardinal scorers.

Harrell finished the game scoring 14 points and pulling down seven rebounds.

“I think Montrezl is playing well,” Pitino said. “Offensively, he is really improving. He is getting better and better.”

After coming off the bench in four consecutive games, Wayne Blackshear returned to the starting lineup alongside Hancock.  Blackshear played extended minutes at the power forward position and finished with ten points and six rebounds.

“It gives us another opportunity to have another shooter on the floor,” Blackshear said. “It gives us opportunities to spread the floor, which gives me the opportunity to score the ball better.”

With the smaller lineup playing a majority of the time, freshman center Mangok Mathiang logged just two minutes of action.

UCF out rebounded the Cardinals 38-35, including 16 offensive rebounds off of 31 missed field goals.

“For us to be dominant we have to be even or better on the glass,” Stephan Van Treese said.

Van Treese contributed with six points and six rebounds off the bench.

“Van Treese coming in off the bench is excellent, excellent. He does the hustle things that you need, like Tim Henderson does. When he starts then they play five versus four often because he doesn’t like to score besides a follow or put back,” Pitino said.

Louisville will face Houston on Wednesday in Texas.  The Cardinals won the previous meeting 91-52 at the KFC YUM! Center in mid-January.