LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—After getting challenged by SMU early, Louisville got its offense going late in the first half and cruised to a win in the opener of American Athletic Conference play.
Shoni Schimmel scored 18 points, Sara Hammond had 14 points and 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, and the seventh-ranked Cardinals (13-1, 1-0) went on to a 71-51 win for their sixth straight victory.
Schimmel made 4 of the team’s five 3-point shots, and Bria Smith added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Louisville succeeded with its goal of shutting down SMU’s key cog on offense, Keena Mays. Mays, the Mustangs’ leading scorer averaging 20 points a game, was held to seven and was 1 of 6 from the three-point line.
“Our goal was to try to limit her touches as much as we could and I thought we did an outstanding job of that,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “She’s a very explosive player who averages about 20 a night. We didn’t want her to get scoring early and get going and build some confidence.”
SMU coach Rhonda Rompola wasn’t surprised by Louisville’s strategy.
“They did what we’ve been expecting every team to do leading up to this game,” Rompola said. “To be honest I’m really amazed we’ve gone this long. Teams are going to trap her, double her. They are going to face guard her. When teams do that, the rest of our team has got to step up and help offensively.”
Akil Simpson had 14 points and Kiara Perry added 13 points and nine rebounds for SMU (9-3, 0-1).
Simpson scored the first eight points for SMU and the Mustangs kept it close early. Perry’s layup gave SMU a 23-21 lead with 7:59 left.
Louisville answered with a 5-0 run and continued to expand its advantage. Schimmel sank two straight 3s late in the first half and the Cardinals led 47-32 at halftime.
Louisville outscored SMU 16-3 to open the second half. The Mustangs were unable to close the gap despite the Cardinals suffering a scoring drought after that run.
The Cardinals scored eight points over the last 10 minutes of the game.
“We scored 24 points in a half of basketball,” Walz said. “That’s very bad for us. Our goal is to continue to win and be at the top, but you can’t do that playing like we did there for about 25 minutes. … You can’t sit there and say `Hey, were up 30 now with 11 minutes, now well back things off.’ You’ve got to keep putting the pedal to the metal.”
The Mustangs missed their first 11 3-point attempts and were 1 of 18 overall from beyond the arc.
“I think we’ve made strides throughout the season, especially with our non-conference, how hard of a schedule it was,” said the junior forward. “To come out 12-1, that gives us confidence going into our conference. We can always get better. We’re still working on our turnovers. We’re still working on our communication on defense.
“We’re continuing to get better. I don’t think necessarily we’re exactly where we need to be, but we’ve made strides.”