After trailing by 11 points early in the second half, the University of Louisville women’s basketball team turned up the defense.
The Cardinals held Rutgers to just 10 points for more than 18 minutes, forced overtime and then claimed a 66-57 decision over Rutgers in a Big East Conference game before 9,557 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
”That’s a good win,” U of L coach Jeff Walz said. “The last 15 minutes, I was really pleased. We have a great group of young ladies, but it’s just a little frustrating right now to get them to follow a game plan.
”Our whole goal was to clog up the middle and make them make outside shots and they sat there and had 20 points in the paint in the first half. I told the kids after the game to just trust us.”
Shoni Schimmel led the Cardinals with 21 points on 7 of 12 from the field, including 3 of 7 three-point field goals. Monique Reid had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Antonita Slaughter added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Bria Smith, who was playing mostly point guard to allow Schimmel to play more off the ball, had 10 points, seven steals, four assists, four rebounds and three blocked shots for the Cardinals.
The win gives U of L (13-3, 1-1) its first victory in Big East Conference play and comes over the perennial power Scarlet Knights (9-6, 0-2). Rutgers is young this season but Walz said they “are an NCAA tournament team.”
”Every (conference) game is going to be a grind,” Walz said. “I told our team we have to take care of the home games. We have to win at home, it’s just going to be such a grind in the Big East.”
U of L trailed by 11 in the first half and again at 37-26 early in the second half. The Cardinals didn’t take a lead until 43-42 with just under nine minutes left.
The Cardinals opened the lead to 46-42 but Rutgers went back in front 49-48 before Smith hit a pair of free throws with 56 seconds left. Rutgers’ Syessence Davis hit a three-pointer with 27 seconds left to make it 52-50.
Schimmel then hit a jumper from the top of the key with 7.5 seconds left to tie the game. Reid stole the inbounds pass but thought Schimmel’s bucket was a three-pointer and was trying to run out the clock.
”She thought we had the lead,” Walz said.
The clock stopped with 2.0 seconds left and Reid had the ball on the left wing because of an inadvertent whistle. After a lengthy delay, the Cardinals had the ball but didn’t get a shot off and the game went to overtime.
Slaughter and Sara Hammond started the overtime with back-to-back three-pointers before Schimmel’s runner with 1:08 left made it 60-52.
The Cardinals hit 6 of 8 free throws in the final 40 seconds to seal it.