Louisville breezes past Idaho in first round of NCAA Tournament

BY MATT CABEL | MARCH 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Louisville was a welcome surprise guest in last year’s NCAA women’s basketball championship after upsetting Notre DameOn Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals’ chance at a second-straight appearance in the national-title game began with an 88-42 win over Idaho in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

A slow start for the No. 3-seeded Cardinals saw the No. 14 seed Vandals jump out to an early 6-2 lead. But it didn’t take much for the Louisville to wake up, and the Cardinals starting hitting jumpers from all areas of the floor. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, Louisville had gone on a 28-10 run and led 40-21. 

“I was very proud of our kids,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said. “I thought we fought through the first four or five minutes of the game that we did not play extremely well, but we played hard, and finally got things under control, relaxed, and thought we did some really good things offensively and defensively.”

The Louisville nail had started to be hammered into Idaho’s coffin before the start of the second half. 

“They put on a lot of pressure,” Idaho center Ali Forde said. “We handled it really well at the beginning of the game and drifted away from that toward the middle.”

For Louisville, it was all about guard Shoni Schimmel, who filled out every category of the stat sheet with ease, finishing the day with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Cardinals were led in scoring by forward Sara Hammond, who dropped 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting. 

The Vandals were led in scoring by Forde, who scored the team — and the game’s — first 6 points on the way to a 16-point, 8-rebound, and 2-block performance. Forward Alyssa Charlston also contributed 11 points for the Vandals.

“We have great shooters on our team,” Hammond said. “… We are pretty confident going into this tournament hitting 15- to 18-foot jump shots … once we get everybody moving, that opens up things. I think it’s hard for defense to narrow down who they’re going to pick to shoot because you can’t leave any of us open.” 

The Vandals’ scoring seemed to improve in the second half, but it seemed to be for naught: the Cardinals had jumped out to a 46-26 lead. It didn’t get any better from there. The second half unfolded almost exactly as the first did: The Cardinals scored 44 points, 4 more than they did in the first half, and the Vandals only 21. 

The game was won for the Cardinals on 32 points on 18 Idaho turnovers, 57 percent field-goal shooting, and winning the rebounding battle, 42-23. The Cardinals just had too much talent for the Vandals, and it showed in every aspect. 

The Cardinals will face Iowa on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Cardinals were upset about being a No. 3 seed after reaching last year’s championship game and played with a chip on their shoulders against Idaho. Walz said that trend will continue in Tuesday’s matchup. 

“Our kids are playing for respect right now,” Walz said. “We understand that.  No matter who we face on Tuesday night, it’s going to be a really good ball club.  So we’re going to have to come out prepared to play. We know we’re not going to win by 46 on Tuesday night.  I’d like to, but I don’t expect that to happen.” 

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