One week after hitting 16 three-pointers in their upset victory over top overall seed Baylor, the Louisville Cardinals struggled from deep. As a team Jeff Walz’ Cardinals shot 8-of-21 from distance, with leading scorer Shoni Schimmel making just one of her eight attempts.
But one day after Luke Hancock (20 points) got the job done for the men’s team it was Antonita Slaughter who picked up the slack for the women.
Slaughter made six three-pointers and Louisville scored the final seven points of the game to beat California 64-57 in New Orleans. Louisville, which is the first five-seed to win a Final Four game, returns to the national title game for the first time since 2009 and will play either Notre Dame or UConn Tuesday night.
Slaughter, who made seven three-pointers against Baylor, finished with a game-high 18 points and Bria Smith added 17 to go along with six rebounds. Their play kept the Cardinals within striking distance of the Golden Bears, who controlled the flow of the game for much of the first half.
Layshia Clarendon (17 points) defended Schimmel well but as the tempo tilted in favor of the Cardinals in the second half the Golden Bears turned the ball over far too often. Cal, making its first-ever Final Four appearance, finished the game with 19 turnovers to just eight assists.
Louisville converted those turnovers into 22 points, and their decided advantage at the foul line (14-of-19; Cal finished 1-of-7) gave the Cardinals the boost they needed in crunch time.
It goes without saying that the last six months have been great for the athletic department led by AD Tom Jurich. The ACC invitation, the football team’s Sugar Bowl victory and success on the basketball court (oh, the baseball and softball programs are both ranked in the top 11 of the national polls, respectively).
One more victory for both basketball programs and Louisville will become the first school since 2004 (UConn) to hold the national titles in men’s and women’s basketball at the same time.