Make that three straight upsets for Louisville, whose latest thriller landed the Cardinals back in the women’s national championship game for the first time since 2009.
Antonita Slaughter scored 18 points on six 3-pointers and Louisville clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat California 64-57 in the national semifinals Sunday night. Bria Smith scored 17 on 6 of 7 shooting for the Cardinals (29-8), who were a No. 5 seed and became the first team seeded worse than fourth to win a Final Four game.
“I can’t even put into words how proud I am,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “I told the kids they’re stuck with me in practice for one more day.”
The result ensures an all-Big East Conference final in the league’s last season in its current form, with Louisville meeting Connecticut on Tuesday night — one night after the Louisville men’s team plays Michigan for the championship.
“Right now anything can happen,” Walz said. “Why not us?”
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 for Cal (32-4), which had won the Spokane Region as a second seed. Gennifer Brandon added 12 for the Golden Bears and Brittany Boyd added 10 points.
“Credit Louisville, which obviously has been really hot,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They outfought us in the second half.”
Louisville had to beat defending national champion Baylor and Southeastern Conference power Tennessee just to get to New Orleans, and will need to summon one more upset to win it all.
“No one expects us to be here,” Slaughter said. “Just come together as a team and win as a team.”
Connecticut 83, Notre Dame 65
Breanna Stewart scored 29 points to help UConn, which will go for its eighth national championship to match Tennessee for the most in women’s basketball history.
The Huskies (34-4) and Irish had played three thrilling games this season, with Notre Dame coming out on top by margins of one point, two points and in triple overtime. This one wasn’t as close, ending the brilliant career of Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins.