Final Four! Shoni Schimmel Surges, Louisville Knocks Off Tennessee and Advances to the Semifinals
Unstoppable? Shoni Schimmel scored 24 points and the soaring Louisville Cardinals beat second-seeded Tennessee 86-78 last night to earn the school's second trip to the Final Four, continuing a captivating postseason run.
The Cardinals became only the second No. 5 seed to reach the national semifinals, joining Southwest Missouri State's 2001 team that featured guard Jackie Stiles, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history. (It should be highlighted that the U of L knocked off Baylor, featuring Brittney Griner, second to only Stiles all-time in NCAA scoring, this year to advance to the Elite Eight.) Only seven teams outside of the top four seeds have ever made it to the Final Four since the NCAA tournament started in 1982.
No team seeded higher than fourth has ever won a game at the Final Four. But the seemingly impossible hasn't stopped this group of Cardinals yet.
First, they took down Griner and her Baylor team that had lost just once in 75 games. Then, last night, it was the eight-time national champion Lady Volunteers. Next up is a Sunday showdown in New Orleans against California, the Spokane regional champion.
"No one wanted to see us beat Baylor and Tennessee and we did both of those, and now we're going to the Final Four," Schimmel told ESPN, after being named the Oklahoma City Region's Most Valuable Player.
Before the game, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz showed the team the documentary on Valvano's North Carolina State 1983 team that made perhaps the most notable Cinderella run to the men's championship.
"Seeing a lot of the underdog things like that, it just motivated us even more to believe in each other and believe in ourselves," said Shoni's younger sister, Jude, who scored 15 points. Jude, just a sophmore, is the team's super sixth-woman, coming off the bench to contribute in big ways. In addition to her 15 points, she had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and two blocks.
The Schimmel sisters are from the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, and their phenomenal play, leading Louisville to the Final Four, is captivating Indian country. They'll need to move past the euphoria, though, and ready to meet mighty Cal, who've lost only three games this year, on Sunday. Game time is scheduled for 6:30 pm/ET and will air on ESPN (check your local listings).