By Matt Bradshaw —

Mississippi State has been the bane of Louisville’s top sports teams this past year. The Bulldogs defeated football in the Taxslayer bowl, men’s basketball in the NIT quarterfinals and now women’s basketball in the Final Four.

The one-seeded Cardinals were stunned in overtime 73-63 after nearly winning the game with a last second shot in regulation. Here are the biggest factors that led to the season-ending loss.

Foul trouble

MSU made foul trouble their agenda as they fought to take down the Cardinals. The referees called 22 fouls on Louisville, compared to 14 on Mississippi State.

Myisha Hines-Allen posted two fouls early on, leading to the senior playing only six minutes in the first half. The Bulldogs took advantage with decisive control of the paint.

By the end of the contest, redshirt junior Arica Carter and junior Sam Fuehring fouled out. Fuehring protested her fourth foul by slapping the floor, leading to a technical foul call from the referee.

“I just wasn’t expecting it at all,” Fuehring said. “I slapped the floor in frustration. The ref could have called it either way, but she just called it on me.”

The Bulldogs sunk 14 more free throws than the Cardinals, proving instrumental in their 10-point win.

Pressure defense

Louisville shot an uncharacteristic 39 percent from the field, including 20 percent from three. MSU hounded the Cardinals all game with a press and high-pressure defense, leading to poor shooting.

“It was very physical game,” Carter said.

The Bulldogs stuck tight to the Cardinals’ starting five, holding them to 37 percent shooting. Junior Asia Durr only shot one field goal in the second quarter, with five looks overall in the first half.

“They were denying the guards,” freshman Dana Evans said. “They were throwing the offense off. Usually the post-player would have to bring the ball up.”

Missed opportunities

Although it is difficult to blame the loss on any one play, there were scenarios where Louisville would have moved to the National Championship if opportunities were taken.

Louisville led 59-56 with 11 seconds in the game. If the Cardinals had fouled MSU, it could have potentially prevented their 3-pointer that forced an overtime.

Hines-Allen led a fast break with seven seconds left in an attempt to win the game. She missed the layup and sophomore Jazmine Jones missed a put back that rimmed out of the basket.

After missing these crucial chances, Mississippi State outplayed Louisville 27-10 in the final twelve minutes of the contest and 14-4 in overtime.

You can follow Matt Bradshaw on Twitter @bradmatt8.

Photo by Karen Nguyen / The Louisville Cardinal