No. 5-seed Louisville stuns No. 1 Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen with an 82-81 victory
With a barrage of three-point shots, Louisville (27-8) defeated Baylor (34-2), 82-81, taking down the defending national champions and overall top seed in the NCAA tournament. Even though she fouled out with about four minutes left in the game, Shoni Schimmel finished with 22 points. Shooting a blistering 7-of-9 from three-point land, Antonita Slaughter contributed 21 points plus six rebounds. Bria Smith had 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Overall, the Cardinals were 64 percent from the three-point line (16-of-25). They tied the NCAA record for treys in a tournament game.
“It’s just a remarkable night by a remarkable group of young women,” said Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. “We put a game plan together as a coaching staff, which we always do every night we go out and play. I’ve been telling them the entire year, if we can just get 40 minutes out of everybody, not playing great, just playing good, we could be special.”
Louisville shut down Baylor star center, senior Brittney Griner for much of the game. In the last contest of her collegiate career she finished with 14 points plus 10 rebounds. Junior point guard Odyssey Sims led Baylor with 29 points, seven rebounds, five assists and six steals.
Coach Walz talked about his strategy for the game.
“Antonita Slaughter defensively is where she stepped up tonight,” said Walz. “She played 40 minutes for us and just did a great job on Brittney Griner. I told our kids in the locker room before the game, We got to turn this thing into a street ballgame. You got to drive, kick for threes, try to make it fun. There was no pressure on us.”
Griner finished her Baylor time with several NCAA Division I records and numerous Big 12 records. Her NCAA DI accolades:
- 3,283 points (2nd-most ever)
- 748 blocks (most ever)
- 18 dunks (most ever)
The Cardinals face Tennessee on Tuesday. The Lady Vols defeated Oklahoma 74-59 earlier in the day.
Q. Can you talk about their zone, that they were double? and triple?teaming Brittney.
Mulkey: You want to attack dribble?penetration, but you also have to hit some 10? and 12?foot jumpers early in the game. I thought other than them shooting lights out on the offensive end, I thought we were patient with what they were doing defensively. Guys, you just had an opportunity to beat a team that made 16 threes and Griner got 10 touches, and you go up 1 with nine seconds to go, that’s pretty remarkable. You’re supposed to get blown out if you get 16 threes, and we didn’t get blown out.
Q. How critical was it not to have a timeout there at the end? What specifically should have happened?
Mulkey: They’ve been taught what to do there. I think they were in such shock that it was a foul called, and I’ll be glad to answer any referee question you want to ask me, because I don’t mind getting fined, so ask me. Now is the time to ask me, okay?
But we didn’t do what they’ve been taught to do. We’re supposed to throw it. You’ve seen us do it many times, throw it to halfcourt for Griner, then let the two guards cross and look for a good shot.
I don’t know really other than maybe they were in a state of shock that a foul was called there. I don’t know.
Q. Can you comment on the officiating in this game.
Mulkey: I thought the game started out way too physical, way too physical. I thought that all three of them, if they go past this round of officiating, it will be sad for the game.
I thought the two critical calls at the end of the game were really bad. Jordan Madden drives in the paint. We already have the missed shot. She calls an offensive foul on Madden right there. Well, why so late? Odyssey Sims had the rebound in her hand.
Then I don’t know about that at the end. It was on the opposite end. I’d have to go see it. You saw it. What did y’all think? Was it a foul? Did anybody here think it was a foul? Honestly, tell me.
Q. I thought it was a foul.
Mulkey: Okay. All I can tell you is the one in front of me, the charge was critical, it was critical. I thought it got personal with both teams. When you allow it to be that physical, you have taunting. I thought Schimmel went and got in Griner’s face and all they did was warn her. When Odyssey and Schimmel got into it right there, it became a technical and a technical. What’s the difference?
It got out of hand and it got personal with players, and you don’t like to see that.
Q. It seemed to get out of hand, like you said. Both coaches were jumping around. Were you concerned that your players were going to keep their composure when coaches and everyone were sort of going crazy on the sidelines?
Mulkey: When you’re down 19, then up 1 with nine seconds to go, do you think they kept their composure? We were down 19 and we went up with nine seconds to go? Did they keep their composure?
Q. I was talking about the last possession when the foul was called, were you concerned people were going to make the right decision?
Mulkey: The girl drove by Griner, your All?American post player. I’m not ever concerned about Brittney making a bad decision. You said it was a foul. I’ll have to go back and see it. I don’t think the referee raised his hand that it was a foul. I thought he was raising his hand that it was going the other direction. I thought he was just going to say it was our ball. I don’t know.
I am proud of the fact that the kids fought hard because they could have quit on you really, and they didn’t. Compliment and credit Louisville. If Louisville can hit 16 threes a game, good Lord, they’ll win a national championship.
Q. Did you feel those threes they hit, were they open shots? Did they maybe surprise you with how deep they were shooting them?
Mulkey: Well, the post player that Griner is guarding, she hits a couple. That’s when you know it’s going to be a long day. I’m not sure she’s taken a whole lot of threes all year.
That was their game plan, to shoot a lot of threes, and they made a lot of them. We would cut the lead, they would hit another three late in the shot clock.
Of the 16, I’m not quite sure how many of them were open because of our poor defense, where they penetrated, kicked out, we helped off. But you got to make shots. They weren’t coming in the paint, were they? And they made ’em.
Q. There early in the second half, you cut it to 5. Then they hit seven threes. They made the big lead. Did that make it the toughest to come back on?
Mulkey: Every three that they hit when we would cut the lead made it that much tougher. You keep thinking through the course of the game that they’re going to start missing some. But they never did. Then I just thought that our full court pressure allowed us to make plays and got us back in it.
Tough way to lose. It’s hard to lose when it’s your last game, but it’s even harder the way that game ended. Makes it a little tougher.
Q. Did you express your opinion to the officials as the game was going along? Were you very vocal about that?
Mulkey: Yes, yes.
Q. You’ve had other physical games since you’ve had Brittney. Did you think more was allowed in this game?
Mulkey: Yes, yes.
Q. You hate to see players, not just Brittney, go out after all they’ve accomplished fighting back tears. How do you as a coach help your team put this in perspective so they’re not remembering this one loss but all they have accomplished?
Mulkey: Well, you don’t do it tonight. There’s nothing I can say to them tonight that’s going to make them feel good. You just try to help them get their composure and you protect them like a mother hen.
As I told them in the locker room, I’ll take every hit you want to write, about we choked, Baylor or bust, epic disappointment. Put it right here on these shoulders. Don’t you point one finger on those kids, you put it right on me.
Louisville head coach Jeff Walz
Q. Coach Mulkey said the officials allowed more stuff to go on, more physical play, than any game since she’s had Brittney Griner. Did you feel it was an unusually physical game? If so, did you think it benefited your team as opposed to Baylor?
Walz: I mean, understand, our goal was to stand in front of her, have one behind her. It’s just really hard to comment on that. I really didn’t think it was really all that exciting to watch as an official. I’m not sure what sometimes they were watching.
The fifth foul on Shoni, I’m still trying to figure out what took place there.
You know, we turned and boxed her out. We stood in front of her. We did a really nice job. I told Antonita, Go under her elbows, go under her elbows. We tried to stay as vertical as we could without putting bodies on her.
I mean, you know, it’s a game where if you let Brittney catch you wherever she wants to, she’s going to score. She’s the best player I’ve coached against and tried to game plan against.
When shots went up, we turned and boxed her out. When she got the ball, I told them straight up, do not ever bat down on the ball because I didn’t want her to get to the free?throw line.
At one point in time, I mean, we’re up 20, and it’s 8?0 on fouls. We were driving at times and kicking, we still couldn’t get one called. I promise you, we were trying to box out every time.
There’s no question, there were a lot of fouls called against us. I was just thankful on that last drive when Monique Reid went in for the layup, it was a late whistle, but I was glad he caught it because she got clobbered.
Q. There was a team technical called.
Walz: That was on me. I was outside the coaching box. I’ve learned, I’m better off if I wear a sport coat because I can step out and rip that off and go halfway on the floor and you won’t get a technical. If you sit on the scorer’s table three feet outside the box, you’re going to get one.
Even though my kid fouled out. My whole thing was, Damn, she fouled out. I sat on the score table thinking, Who are they going to put in? They run across the floor and give me a T. I haven’t worn a sport coat all season, so I think I might wear three of them on Tuesday night. It’s like that commercial, when you travel, I can run out, take one off, run back out, take a second one off, it’s okay (laughter).
I don’t know. I mean, our kids still found a way to persevere. Despite me getting a T, they found a way to grind it out at the end.
Q. Without giving away too many secrets, what exactly was it? Was it a box?and?one?
Walz: We came out in what we call (indiscernible) one. It’s like a 1?3 zone. I didn’t want to get too set up in the box where we gave the wings anything they wanted. We had Antonita stay in the front if the ball was on the one side of the floor. The whole goal was to jab out, come back, jab out, come back.
I just didn’t believe, deep down I kept telling my players every timeout, if they make 10 to 15 threes, they’re going to beat us. I don’t think they can make enough threes to beat us, but I know Brittney can make three? and four?footers all night long.
Odyssey does a good job she went 3?9 and hit some big ones. Jordan Madden goes 2?3. At the end of the night they’re 6?17. And then we only allowed Brittney 10 shots, she goes 4?10.
Defensively we did everything we wanted to do. It got to a point when Sara is hitting a step?back three in the corner, I don’t know what to do. I mean, from my side, it’s not like I drew that up, all right? We start to make some shots. I told our kids, The pressure is on them. I didn’t want to try to slow the ball up. You can drive and kick. If you’re open, shoot it. If there’s any question, bring the ball back out.
So defensively that’s what we did. We switched a few possessions of going man to zone for a few passes, then jumped into man, trying to get them a little bit confused.
Overall I have to give all the credit to our players. I tell everybody all year long, I’ve not made a shot or gotten a rebound all year. So we can put the game plan together, but it’s all about the kids.
Q. So much about the defense on Brittney Griner. What about the offense? You took her out of the lane. Even on the last play she was out so far, was not able to get back. Talk about your offense.
Walz: Well, that’s kind of what we talked about, to be honest with you. This is what we have to do to guard ’em. I told our kids, If we don’t score 70 points, we don’t have a chance to win. Our whole goal was to try to get to 70.
I don’t think anybody had scored over 70 on ’em this entire year. I’m 90 percent sure nobody has scored 80 on ’em. I told our kids, We got to keep scoring. If they score, fine, we’re going to come down and score.
I mean, I was all excited because we started the game. I’m sure y’all saw. I put Bria Smith on the offensive end. With the first possession of the game, it was five on four them. If we don’t foul, they’re going to score. We’re taking the ball and throwing it the length of the floor for a layup.
Bria was wide open, standing back on the three?point line. It took me two days of practice to get her to stand. She wanted to come down and guard. Unfortunately, we got called for a foul so we weren’t able to execute it.
Our goal was to score, score and score. I told our kids, If we have to take 40 to 50 threes, we will. I don’t know if we could go out there right now 5?0 and go 16 of 25. But we did it in the biggest game of the year for us. Now we’re going to hopefully keep our momentum going and see what we can do on Tuesday.
Q. Did you keep your composure in this game?
Walz: I was mild compared to what I usually am. Oh, yeah, my kids know how I am. I’m fighting for them. So if I think some calls aren’t going our way, I’m not just going to sit there and take it.
I stood up for our players. I mean, I’ll have to watch Bria Smith’s charge there for her fifth foul. With all the contact going on on both hands, how do you make that call? Shoni Schimmel’s fifth foul on the drive, I’m dumbfounded. Kids are getting knocked down and bringing it across with body contact, it’s not called. That’s fine, but I’m not just going to sit there and take it.
They warned me a few times. Because I was three feet out of my box, sitting on the scorer’s table, they gave me a technical foul.
That’s how I coach, my kids know it.
Q. Outside of this arena, what your men’s team did today was the biggest story in sports. Did you guys know about everything that happened there?
Walz: You know what, we were all sitting in our locker room cheering on our men, and we saw it. It’s probably the most devastating injury in sports that I’ve seen. I was watching I’m not sure what it is when Joe Theismann got his leg broken. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that.
I told our kids before the game, I said, You know what, it’s a basketball game. Even for us tonight, I mean, I’m not sure where this stands on victories in women’s college basketball, but I’ll have to say it’s kind of high up there.
At the end of the day, it’s a basketball game. Both teams come out here and compete and give it everything you have. We’re watching our men play, and Kevin has an injury that obviously he’s out for the year. Who knows how bad it is. I just told them, I said, Go out there and give it everything you’ve got. But at the end of the day it’s a basketball game.
We all said a prayer for him before we went out. I just have to give a lot of credit to Coach Pitino, the players, because to be there and see something like that happen, ’cause I saw the expression of the players on the floor and the players on the bench, where it was right in front of them, to be able to bounce back from that and get your mind refocused and win an elite game to go to the Final Four against Duke, not like they’re playing a bad team, I think it says a lot about what Coach Pitino has done with his team, the type of players they have.
I know we were really, really excited to hear that they had won and moved on.