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Louisville 64, Cal 57

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- Sara Hammond scored all nine of her points in the second half, including a go-ahead layup and foul shot with 1:28 left, and Louisville completed a 64-57 comeback victory over California on Sunday, earning the fifth-seeded Cardinals a berth in the NCAA championship game on Tuesday night.

Bria Smith, who scored 17 points, added two insurance free throws with 17.7 seconds remaining, helping Louisville become the first No. 5 seed to make the NCAA championship game.

The Cardinals (29-8) trailed 37-27 at halftime, but they cranked up their defense and got their fastbreak going behind point guard Shoni Schimmel.

Antonita Slaughter led Louisville with 18 points, as she shot 6-for-10 from 3-point range.

Layshia Clarendon scored a team-high 17 points for Cal (32-4).

The Cardinals scored the first seven points of the second half to cut their deficit to 37-34, but Cal reasserted its strength inside to regain control. The Bears' inside strength paid off, with Gennifer Brandon pulling down the second of two offensive rebounds in traffic for a put-back that put Cal on top 43-37 with 14:39 left.

Louisville, however, continued battling back and had a chance to take the lead on two straight possessions. Howver, Sara Hammond was called for a charge -- wiping out a possible three-point play -- and Courtnee Walton missed a layup on the next series.

Brittany Boyd, playing with a jammed middle finger on her shooting hand, nailed a 3-pointer from the left baseline to put Cal on top 50-46 with 7:43 left.

Schimmel made a bank shot in the lane, and Slaughter followed with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to move Louisville within 52-51 with 4:34 left.

Cal trailed 8-2 early in the game before going on a 23-11 run to take a 25-19 lead with 9:16 left in the first half. The Bears built a 37-27 halftime lead on the strength of 58.6 percent shooting (17 of 29), and even when they missed, they seemed to come away with the offensive rebounds.

Cal outrebounded Louisville 23-11 in the first half, with eight of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. Talia Caldwell had nine rebounds and seven points in the first half, and Clarendon led Cal in scoring with eight points.

Louisville most often was held to one shot, and point guard Schimmel suffered through a 1-of-7 performance in the first half while being suffocated by the Cal defense. The Cardinals got nine points each from Slaughter and Smith in the first half. But Cal used its size to pound the ball down low to Caldwell, and the strategy paid off.

NOTES: Clarendon sports a blond Mohawk, something that has gained her plenty of notoriety. "I'm young, I'm 21," she said. "How often can you wear a Mohawk in life?" ... Schimmel had a nifty behind-the-back feed to her twin sister Jude in the first half, but it was one of the few standout plays for the Cardinals before the break. Schimmel missed all four of her 3-point attempts in the first half.
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