Despite a quick start, the Louisville women were defeated last night in the 2013 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Final by perennial powerhouse UConn, 93-60. The game was contested in New Orleans, and the victory gives the Huskies an eighth title, tying them with the Tennessee Lady Volunteers for most all-time.
After the Cardinals built a 14-10 lead with just under 14 minutes to play in the first half, the offensive juggernaut that is UConn went on a tear, running off 19 unanswered points. The teams headed to their locker rooms at halftime with the Lady Huskies leading by a wide 48-29 margin.
The feisty Cards made a spirited effort in the second half, but the lead was too much. UConn was too much. "The gutsy No. 5 seed Cardinals at last ran into a giant they couldn't topple," notes espnW's Mechelle Voepel.
UConn's freshman phenom Breanna Stewart was unstoppable and named the game's MVP. She finished with 23 points–18 in the first half–and nine rebounds. And UConn made 13 three-pointers, a championship game record, doing to Louisville what the Cardinals had done to Baylor.
The loss ended an unprecedented tournament run by Louisville. The Cardinals became the first No. 5 seed to make the championship game, pulling off one of the greatest–if not the greatest–upsets in tournament history when they beat Brittney Griner and Baylor in the regional semifinals. Jeff Walz's team then beat Tennessee in the regional final before topping Cal in the Final Four. "The run we went on was remarkable and something I'll always remember" Walz said. "We're walking out with our head high and proud of what we've done."
The Schimmel sisters who really carried Louisville in the tournament had a rough go against UConn. Shoni Schimmel missed her first six shots and finished with just seven points on 3 of 15 shooting. Jude Schimmel was saddled with three fouls in the first half.
Shoni said their Big East Conference foe knew Louisville's players well and made an effort from the start to limit her touches and not give her any easy shots. "They knew what they needed to do to stop us," she said.
Although Louisville didn't cap their charmed run by capturing the national title, they did capture the hearts of the nation. Starting off as party crashers, they became the life of the party. The Schimmel Sisters stoked Native Pride, building unity and earning much deserved respect. Some good news: Shoni's a junior and Jude's a sophmore. That gives us a lot to look forward to next season. The Shimmel Show will be picked up for another season, and that's a must-see "Sho."
EspnW's Graham Hayes observes: "It's the second championship game appearance in five seasons for Louisville, which now sits squarely on the women's basketball map. But unlike the 2008-09 season, when the Cardinals made their run to St. Louis and lost to Connecticut in that title game, this game ended with an eye toward the future. That team lost Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham, and finished the following season with a losing record. This team returns Shoni and Jude Schimmel, Hammond, Bria Smith, Antonita Slaughter and more. The Cardinals also will get back injured posts Shawnta' Dyer and Asia Taylor."
Bring on next season.
"We made a miracle run in this tournament and will remember that the rest of their lives," said Sara Hammond, who led Louisville with 15 points.