The Cardinals overcame a ten-point halftime deficit to win, 64-57, and become the lowest-seeded team to reach the women's title game.
NEW ORLEANS — The more Louisville extends its remarkable run, the more coach Jeff Walz wants to make sure his Cardinals enjoy every moment.
As long as they have one more upset in them for the NCAA women’s championship game.
The upstart Cardinals got 18 points — all on three-pointers — from Antonita Slaughter and they methodically clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat California 64-57 on Sunday night in the NCAA semifinals. For a team that has beaten Baylor, Tennessee and now the second-seeded Golden Bears, a little celebration was in order.
“We’re going to go on Bourbon Street,” said Walz, whose team has one last practice Monday before Tuesday night’s title game. “I’ll tell the kids, as long as they’re back by 2, we’re OK.”
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Bria Smith scored 17 on 6-of-7 shooting for the fifth-seeded Cardinals (29-8), who became the first team seeded lower than fourth to win a Final Four game. The result ensured an all-Big East Conference final in the league’s last season in its current form, with Louisville meeting Connecticut — 83-65 winners over Notre Dame — one night after the Louisville men’s team plays Michigan for the championship.
“The way I look at it, I think the men are trying to feed off of our success,” Walz said with a smirk before adding on a serious note that he’d received word from Atlanta that the Louisville men “were in the hotel lobby jumping up and down and cheering for us.”
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 for Cal (32-4), which won the Spokane Region as a No. 2 seed. Gennifer Brandon added 12 for the Golden Bears and Brittany Boyd added 10 points.
“Credit Louisville, which obviously has been really hot,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They outfought us in the second half.”
It was the third straight upset by Louisville, which had to beat defending national champion Baylor and the powerful Lady Vols just to get to the Big Easy. They will need to summon one more to win it all. Not that they’re worried about it.
“No one expects us to be in the championship game,” Slaughter said. “Just come together as a team and win as a team.”
Shoni Schimmel, who had been one of the stars of the tournament, struggled early for Louisville, but finished with 10 points, including a clutch transition pull-up that gave Louisville a 57-54 lead with 2:06 left.
Clarendon responded with a three to tie it, but Sara Hammond gave the Cardinals the lead for good with a strong move inside as she was fouled.
LOUISVILLE (29-8) — Hammond 3-5 3-3 9, Vails 0-0 1-2 1, Slaughter 6-11 0-0 18, Smith 6-7 5-6 17, S. Schimmel 4-13 1-2 10, Harper 0-0 0-0 0, Walton 0-1 0-0 0, Deines 0-1 0-0 0, J. Schimmel 2-6 4-4 9, Reid 0-3 0-2 0. Totals 21-47 14-19 64.
CALIFORNIA (32-4) — Jemerigbe 3-11 0-2 7, Boyd 4-9 0-0 10, Clarendon 8-18 0-1 17, Brandon 6-11 0-1 12, Caldwell 3-4 1-3 7, Pierre 1-1 0-0 2, Gray 1-3 0-0 2, Lyles 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 1-7 57.
Halftime — California 37-27. Three-point goals — Louisville 8-21 (Slaughter 6-10, J. Schimmel 1-3, S. Schimmel 1-8), California 4-15 (Boyd 2-4, Clarendon 1-3, Jemerigbe 1-5, Brandon 0-1, Lyles 0-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Louisville 26 (Smith 6), California 38 (Brandon, Caldwell 9). Assists — Louisville 12 (S. Schimmel 6), California 8 (Boyd 3). Total fouls — Louisville 13, California 19. A — NA.