Giant-Killing Louisville Women Look To Keep Charmed Run Alive
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
As we've heard, the University of Louisville is hoping to add to its success tonight, when its women's basketball team faces the University of Connecticut, a perennial power. If the Cardinals win, Louisville will be only the second school ever to have a men's and women's basketball championship in the same year. The other team to do it: UConn in 2004.
NPR's Tom Goldman is in New Orleans covering the women's final. And he joins me now. And, Tom, let's talk about how this upstart Louisville team got to this point. They have had an amazing run.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Charmed, amazing, whatever adjective you want to give it, Melissa, it really has been. And it all started and it really is all focused about their stunning win over the Baylor Lady Bears. You know, going into this tournament, the only real question, in what seemed to be a very predictable women's field was, you know, how are people going to beat Baylor. And when they answered that there's no way to beat Baylor and their star, 6'8" center Britney Griner, they said: well how close can anyone get.
And then here comes Louisville, thanks in large part to the great Shoni Schimmel, the junior guard for the Cardinals, her sister, Jude Schimmel, and a number of other contributors, they did it - they beat them by a point. And then they went on to beat Tennessee and they beat Towel, and here they are in the finals. It really is quite a story.
BLOCK: Here they are but here's what they're going up against, Connecticut which has never lost a title game. They've won seven times, they're looking for their eighth and they have beaten Louisville the last 12 times they've played.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right - 1993, Melissa, that was the last time Louisville beat UConn and that's 20 years ago. UConn, you know - as I mentioned, Louisville has been the darling of this tournament, as we've been talking about. Connecticut has been, even though it's tough for such a great program to be under the radar. They really have kind of been under the radar, but they have just dominated their opponents in this tournament so far.
The five games they played, they've won by an average of 35 points. Their defense, which is really their calling card, has limited those opponents to an average of 49.8 points per game. That's good defense.
BLOCK: Well, each team has key players to watch. For Connecticut, its freshman Breanna Stewart. And you mentioned Shoni Schimmel for the Louisville Cardinals. We heard about her yesterday on the program, Tom. The Umatilla Thrilla, they call her. She's a Native American from the Umatilla Tribe. Talk a bit, Tom, about what each of these players brings to their teams.
GOLDMAN: Well, number one, Breanna Stewart is a really tough match-up for Louisville. She 6'4," very athletic and she can score inside and outside, you know, with her three-point shooting. She showed that in the semifinal win over Notre Dame, which was really her kind of coming out party.
On the Louisville side, you've got, as we've talked about, Shoni Schimmel. You've also got Antonita Slaughter. And you can bet that Connecticut won't go to sleep on Antonita Slaughter, another guard for Louisville. She had made six of 10 three-point shots in the semifinal win over California. She was getting wide open. You can bet UConn will do everything it can to make sure it's got a hand up, and she won't be as open.
BLOCK: Well, Tom, the men's final last night was about as exciting as it gets, Louisville versus Michigan. Have a great time there in New Orleans tonight. I hope it's a great one.
GOLDMAN: Thanks a lot, Melissa.
BLOCK: That's NPR's Tom Goldman. He's covering the women's NCAA championship game.
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