To say the least Sunday was a great day to be a Louisville Cardinal.
Just hours after the men’t team emphatically punched its ticket to the Final Four the women’s team pulled off a major upset, knocking off reigning national champion Baylor 82-81 in Oklahoma City.
Two free throws from fifth-year senior Monique Reid with 2.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference, and the end result is Louisville’s first Elite Eight appearance since 2009 and the end of Brittney Griner’s collegiate career.
Griner is one of the most dominant players in the history of the sport but Jeff Walz’s Cardinals were able to frustrate the Baylor star, playing her physically throughout and limiting her to 14 points (4-of-10 FG) and ten rebounds.
And in the eyes of Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, the game was allowed to be played too physically.
“I thought the game started out way too physical, way too physical,” said Mulkey. “I thought that all three of [the referees], if they go past this round of officiating, it will be sad for the game.”
The Cardinals led by as many as 19 points in the second half thanks to scalding-hot shooting from beyond the arc. At one point Louisville hit 15 of 20 shots from three, and they finished the night 16-of-25.
But the top-ranked Bears, who entered the game having won 32 straight, mounted a furious rally that received a boost in the form of Louisville point guard Shoni Schimmel (22 points) fouling out with just over four minutes remaining.
Two free throws from Odyssey Sims (28 points) with 9.1 seconds remaining gave Baylor its first lead of the game, but the Bears lost track of Reid on the ensuing inbounds play and the senior whose career was derailed by a serious knee injury was fouled at the basket by Griner.
Next up for Louisville is Midwest Region 2-seed Tennessee, which beat Oklahoma in the first half of the doubleheader. But there’s also the question of which team becomes the favorite as a result of Baylor’s defeat.
Notre Dame, which takes on Duke in Norfolk on Tuesday, would have to assume that role given the fact that the Fighting Irish has defeated the other remaining one-seed (UConn) three times this season.
However the overwhelming feeling has to be that with the one player no other team in the country could match (Griner) eliminated, anyone is capable of winning it all.