OKLAHOMA CITY — After the Louisville women knocked off No. 1 Baylor on Sunday, they were paid a locker room visit by Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. At the time, the Cardinals seemed more excited about that than advancing to the Elite Eight.
Playing Tennessee, they did everything possible to try and see Durant one more time before they left Oklahoma City, defeating the Lady Vols 86-78 Tuesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I never would have dreamed we would have been able to do this,” Cardinals coach Jeff Walz said. “All credit is due to these players.”
The Cardinals became the third Big East team to make this year’s Final Four.
It didn’t come easy.
After leading by almost 20 points, they saw their lead disappear as Meighan Simmons tried to bring Vols back by herself by knocking down long distance 3-pointers late in the contest.
Still, each time the Cardinals found a way to answer the call. From a Shoni Schimmel 3-pointer to back-to-back layups from Jude Schimmel and Antonita Slaughter.
That was all Louisville needed to rebuff the Vols and earn the program’s second trip to the Final Four and its first since 2009.
Shoni Schimmel led all scorers with 24 points. Jude Schimmel added 15 and Monique Reid added 12.
The Vols were paced by Taber Spani, who finished with 20 points. Kamiko Williams and Simmons each finished with 12.
“They just had a heck of a tournament,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said, speaking of her own team. “Obviously, disappointed for us. (The players) put their heart and soul in the whole year.”
The Cardinals picked up where they left off against Baylor. They were off and running from the opening tip. Shoni Schimmel and Sara Hammond had their shots going as they flew out to a 29-14 advantage with 5 minutes left in the first half.