3-point shooter helps Louisville find groove, beat Cal
NEW ORLEANS -- California planned to contest shots in Sunday’s national semifinal contest against Louisville, and that it did. One player, however, wasn’t fazed by the in-your-face defense, and that was junior guard Antonita Slaughter.
Slaughter scored all 18 of her points from behind the arc, with three of them keeping the Cardinals alive during their first-half struggles. Her six 3-pointers made, totaling 22 throughout the entire NCAA tournament so far, tied a record for a Women’s Final Four and broke the mark for 3s made in the semifinals.
This matchup had quite a different feel compared to the past two thrillers, but the outcome was still the same for Louisville. This go around, instead of being up for most of the game and allowing their opponents to come back to make it a tight matchup in the end, the Cardinals were the ones having to do the chipping away in a 64-57 victory.
The first half was a tough one for the Cards. The same energy that put away Baylor and Tennessee just wasn’t there. California found a way to throw them out of their groove and get in one of its own.
“We allowed them too many offensive rebounds in the first half. We allowed them too many points in transition. And then we just dribbled the ball, dribbled the ball. I mean, it wasn’t very pretty,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said.
“It’s frustrating to be able to have someone right there in your face the whole time, but we came together as a team and we gathered ourselves and we did what we needed to do, and that was to go out there and win,” junior guard Shoni Schimmel added.
The second half was a different story. Louisville came out of the locker room ready to put the game plan into play, one it hadn’t been following all too closely in the first 20 minutes.
“Our coaches knew exactly their scout [report], so they told us what to do and when to do it,” Schimmel said. “We didn’t really follow the scout report in the first half, but we listened the second half because we didn’t want to lose and we weren’t going to be down the rest of the game. So just listening to our coaches and executing our game plan is what really got our defense going.”
Louisville went on a 7-0 run to open the second stanza and capitalized more on offense, which slowed down the pace of the game to where it started delivering its infamous “junk defenses” to get Cal out of sync.
It wasn’t until Louisville took the lead with a little less than four minutes left to play that the familiar fire could finally be seen in the Cardinals’ eyes and, at that point, Cal was in trouble.
Cal did everything that was expected. The Golden Bears outrebounded the Cardinals 38-26, scored 14 points on second-chance attempts compared to Louisville’s one, and put down 32 points in the paint while holding the Cards to 18. But somehow, the Cardinals got just the edge they needed in the final minutes.
“So the stat categories are all exactly how you thought they could be if you were analyzing the game beforehand,” California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They just did their thing in the second half a little bit better than we did our thing in the first half. And we couldn’t ... even then we could have made a play or two or gotten a stop or two at the end and still won the game.”
Now fifth-seeded Louisville is on to the next step -- a shot at the program’s first national championship. And if all of the Cards fall into place, they may have all of the pieces on their bench needed to cut down the nets.
“You’ve got to guard everybody on our team,” Walz said. “That’s where our lack of depth comes in. But we’ve figured out a way to get to the last game of the year without it. … But if we can get the ones we have healthy to play their best basketball on Tuesday night, then we’re going to have a chance to win a national championship."
• Louisville is the lowest seed to reach the national championship game.
• Louisville overcame a 10-point halftime deficit. It’s the 10th-largest deficit overcome in a Women’s Final Four game.
• Louisville is making its second appearance in the Women’s Final Four and second appearance in the national championship game.
• This is the 10th time that a school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams reached the Final Four in the same season.
• Cal ended its season 32-4 overall, the wins establishing a school record in a single season.