By Parmida Schahhosseini
History repeated itself as the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals defeated the No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears 82-81, making this the second time Baylor lost to Louisville in a Sweet Sixteen game. Despite a last-minute rally, Baylor could not over come the largest deficit it has faced all year.
“We can’t take time back to replay that game, so we take this loss and we run from it,” senior forward Destiny Williams said. “Hopefully these young girls who have been on this team learn from our mistakes and do better than what we did.”
Baylor’s defense didn’t have an answer for the Cardinals 3-point shooting. The Cardinals shot 16-25 from the arc for 72.2 percent and 52 percent from the field.
“Compliment and credit Louisville,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “If Louisville can hit 16 threes a game, good Lord, they’ll win a National Championship.”
The physicality of the game took a toll on the Lady Bears. Louisville put pressure on Baylor not only offensively but also defensively. The Cardinals took Griner out of the game, forcing the supporting cast to beat them.
Despite the loss, senior center Brittney Griner had a double-double, but was held to 14 points and 10 rebounds. Griner didn’t score her first field goal until the 15:19 mark in the second half.
“Just be physical and push her out of her comfort zone because a lot of times teams try to double and triple team and then she dishes out to her teammates,” Cardinal Sarah Hammond said. “We were just going to limit her touches on the ball and she got frustrated in the first half. I think we were going a good job.”
Late in the game, junior guard Odyssey Sims took control of the game and had a season high 28 points and added five assists as she tried to lead Baylor back into the game.
After being down 14 points, Sims had back-to-back steals that sparked a 19-6 run. Baylor pressured Louisville defensively and forced multiple turnovers. Senior forward Brooklyn Pope made a layup to get the game within eight. Baylor slowly began chipping away. Sims shortly followed with a clutch 3-point jumper with 34 seconds remaining to put the game within one. With 11 seconds left in the game, Sims made both of her free throws in the clutch, but Louisville responded, making both of their free throws after a late foul on Griner with 2.6 seconds left in the game to seal the deal.
“I did all I can for my team,” Sims said. “I never stopped fighting. I wasn’t hitting all of my shots, but I never stopped shooting. I made some big shots down the stretch. I made all my free throws. We were right there we just couldn’t finish it.”
From the start, Louisville came out fighting, making shots and putting pressure defensively. The Cardinals kept a potent Baylor offense to just 39 percent shooting in the first half. Louisville’s offense also put pressure on Baylor by attacking the paint and pulling back for dangerous threes. Cardinals Shoni Schimmel and Antonita Slaughter combined for 12-of-17 shooting from beyond the arc. Louisville would respond with a clutch three to extend the lead when Baylor tried to cut in.
“Every 3 they hit made it that much tougher,” Mulkey said. “You keep thinking they’re going to start missing some and they never did.”
The Cardinals 16 3-point jumpers tied an NCAA record for most threes made in a Sweet Sixteen game.