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March 12, 2013After falling 83-59 to No. 2 Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament semifinals Monday night, Louisville must wait a full week before it finds out its seeding and opponent in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
With a No. 16 national ranking and an RPI in the low 20s, Louisville (24-8) is assured of an at-large bid. And the Cardinals know they'll be hosting the first two rounds of the tournament at the KFC Yum! Center.
"I told them in the locker room there is nothing to hang your head about and we're close," Walz said. "We're close, we're fortunate to be able to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, we have to win the first game to play in the second, but we're close to being able to make a significant run. We'll be able to put things together and start it on the 24th."
The Cardinals will likely be anywhere from a 4-seed to a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. But they won't know their foe until Monday night's selection show. The University has invited all UofL fans to join coach Jeff Walz and the team for a bracket-selection-show watch party Monday night in the KFC Yum! Center. The doors will open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Admission is free. A free photo booth and inflatables are just some of the entertainment that will be featured at the event. First- and second-round tickets will be available for purchase.
Walz is looking forward to hosting NCAA games for the first time at the Yum! Center. He is staying positive both about his team's chances in the post-season and their record so far this season given all the adversity they've faced.
"For us to be 24-8 and finish tied for third in this league with three kids out that started at one point in time last year and Tia Gibbs hasn't played in two years and started for us, I'm thrilled," he said. "I don't think people realize how well our kids have played and dealt with adversity. You don't lose a player like Shawnta' Dyer, who is as strong in the post as she was and rebounds the ball, and not get affected by it. But we have figured out a way to keep it going and players have stepped up to keep it working. I'm thrilled with where we are now, and I'm looking forward to a good run in the NCAA Tournament, which I think we're capable of doing. But for the most part I couldn't be more pleased with this group of players."
CARDS BEAT ST. JOHN'S
Louisville advanced to the Big East semifinals with a 62-55 victory over a feisty St. John's team Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals raced to a 15-2 lead and then pushed ahead 19-5, but the Red Storm (18-12) roared back to lead 24-21 at halftime.
During St. John's first-half run, Louisville's shooting was ice cold.
"We went 1 for 20 at one point in time in the first half," Walz said. "We are getting some great looks, and Antonita Slaughter is not going to go 1 for 9 from the field very often.... When I go back and watch this film 18 of the 19 (misses) were probably good shots. We just couldn't put the ball in the basket, but what we did do is we kept guarding and defending.... Only to be down three at the half, I was excited about that. I was excited about how we came out at halftime, we had two set plays drawn up, one against man and they started off in the zone and we got Antonita Slaughter a layup and that got things going for us."
The Cardinals finished the first half shooting 8 of 33 (24.2 percent) but immediately shot better in the second half. UofL hit 17 of 27 shots (63.1 percent) after halftime and built a double-digit lead in the final minutes before St. John's hit three free throws in the final seconds to cut the margin to seven points.
Sara Hammond finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Bria Smith had 14 points and three steals. Shoni Schimmel was 2 for 10 with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.
TOUGH LOSS TO NOTRE DAME
Louisville fell 83-59 to Notre Dame in the semifinals Monday night. After giving up the first 12 points of the game, Louisville came alive and tied the score at 16 on a three by Shoni Schimmel at the 11:18 mark. Schimmel scored 10 points during a 14-4 run to spark Louisville's rapid comeback.
Notre Dame (30-1) quickly regained a comfortable lead, but Louisville cut the margin to six points at halftime.
The Cards missed 11 out of their first 14 shots in the second half and were outscored 27-6 in the first 10 minutes.
The Irish outscored opponents by an average of 23.8 points per game this season and beat Louisville 93-64 in the regular season on Feb. 11.
"I was really proud of the way our team kept battling even when the game was out of hand down the stretch," UofL assistant coach Cam Newbauer said. "... I know the scoreboard doesn't reflect it, but our kids really played hard."
ALL-BIG EAST PICKS
Schimmel and Slaughter earned league honors in a vote of league coaches. Schimmel was named to the first team for the second consecutive year, while Slaughter was named to the second team for the first time.
Schimmel led the Cardinals in scoring and assists with 13.7 points and 3.7 assists per game at the end of the regular season. She also ranked second on the team in free-throw percentage at 80 percent. She finished league play averaging 15.8 points and 3.5 assists per game.
Slaughter ranked third on the team in scoring at 10.2 ppg and second in league scoring at 13.3 ppg. She ranked second on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg) and led the team from behind the arc during the regular season, shooting 36.2 percent.