The University of California’s women’s basketball team was defeated by the Louisville Cardinals 64-57 in the semifinals of the NCAA playoffs in New Orleans. The Bears’ (32 -4) magical season abruptly ended after squandering a 10-point lead at the half, a first half where they out-rebounded Louisville 23 – 11.
But the Cardinals (29-8) made adjustments on the boards at halftime, as both teams grabbed 15 rebounds in the second half. Improved rebounding and clutch perimeter shooting by Antonita Slaughter (six 3-pointers) proved to be the difference in the game. Cal couldn’t convert on their free throws, making only 1-of-7 shots from the charity stripe, which proved costly down the stretch.
Cal’s Layshia Clarendon scored 17 points in a losing cause, followed by Gennifer Brandon (12 points) and Brittany Boyd (10 points). Brandon and Talia Caldwell grabbed nine rebounds each to pace the Bears, while Boyd dished out three assists, but also committed six turnovers.
Cal shot 44.1 percent (26-of-59) from the field, 26.7 percent (4-of-15) behind the 3-point line, and only 14.3 percent (1-of-7) from the free throw line.
Louisville’s Slaughter scored 18 points, followed by Bria Smith (17 points) and Shoni Schimmel (10 points). Smith grabbed six rebounds, with help from Schimmel, Sheronne Vails, and Jude Schimmel who pulled down four rebounds each. Schoni Schimmel dished out six assists to pace the Cardinals.
Louisville shot 44.7 percent (21-of-47) from the field, 38.1 percent (8-of-21) behind the 3-point line, and 73.7 percent (14-of-19) from the free throw line.
Shoni Schimmel, one of Louisville’s stars throughout the NCAA playoffs, struggled early on, but knocked down a key shot to give the Cardinals a 57-54 lead with 2:08 left. Clarendon answered with a 3-pointer to tie the game.
With the game tied at 57-all, Louisville’s Sara Hammond converted a 3-point play to break the tie with 1:28 left, and gave Louisville a 60 -57 lead it would never relinquish. Louisville’s Smith and Jude Schimmel sealed the game with two clutch free throws each to provide the final margin.
Cal’s unprecedented run into the Final Four ends, capping a special season for the women’s program. Louisville will play for the national championship on Tuesday.