CINCINNATI – A freshman point guard ruined Xavier's plans for another deep NCAA tournament run.
Shoni Schimmel scored a career-high 33 points Tuesday night, leading a late comeback that swept Louisville to an 85-75 second-round victory over the second-seeded Musketeers' on their home court.
The Cardinals (22-12) go to Spokane to play Gonzaga in a regional semifinal on Saturday.
Xavier (29-3) had no answer for Schimmel, who rallied the Cardinals from a seven-point deficit with 5:58 to go. It was a stunning collapse by Xavier, which made it to the Elite Eight last season and had won 19 in a row with its dominating frontcourt duo of Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips.
The Musketeers had won 25 in a row at home, including a 12-point victory over Louisville in November. Back then, Schimmel and the rest of the Cardinals' young lineup — which includes two sophomore starters — was still finding its way.
Schimmel led the way to the big upset.
A fabulous shooting performance — Xavier was 50 percent from the field, Louisville 53 was percent — was decided by the hottest hand on the court. Schimmel went 12 of 18 from the field and 6 of 11 from behind the arc, topping her previous career high by seven. The rest of the Cardinals had 16 field goals combined.
Amber Harris led Xavier with 20 points, and the Musketeers made a season-high 14 3s while leading most of the way. They simply couldn't stop Schimmel to close it out. When Harris left the game with 20 seconds to go, she pulled up her gray No. 11 jersey to hide her face.
Xavier reached the second Elite Eight in school history last season and came within a missed layup — make that two missed layups — of reaching its first Final Four. After those two layups rolled off the rim, Jeanette Pohlen drove the length of the floor for a buzzer-beating shot that gave Stanford a 55-53 win.
One of the most crushing moments in Musketeers history became the foundation for everything they did this season.
Harris returned for her final season of eligibility, hoping to get to a Final Four in her hometown of Indianapolis. The Musketeers put together one of the nation's toughest nonconference schedules and used every Atlantic 10 win to prepare for another deep tournament run.
They weren't prepared for Schimmel to play way beyond her one year.
The Cardinals took away Xavier's inside game of Harris and the 6-foot-6 Phillips at the outset, forcing the Musketeers to settle for long-range jumpers. Their first three baskets were 3s, including one by Harris. Schimmel made her first four shots, three of them from behind the arc, for an 18-11 lead.
Tyeasha Moss, Xavier's top 3-pointer shooter, then turned Louisville's strategy around. She had a three-point play and a pair of 3s during a 13-0 run that put Xavier ahead 30-23.
That's when the game took a nasty turn.
Louisville forward Monique Reid set a pick on unsuspecting Special Jennings at midcourt, leveling the point guard. No foul was called. Jennings lay face-down while play continued and Louisville scored. Jennings was on the bench for a minute.
Harris and Phillips started making an impact, taking the ball inside for close-up baskets that helped Xavier take a 40-37 lead into halftime. At that point, Schimmel had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
When Louisville tied it 42-all with 12:03 to go, Katie Rutan — only 1 of 7 from behind the arc in the first half — found her touch and helped Xavier pull ahead again. Rutan hit back-to-back 3s, passed inside to Phillips for a layup, then hit another 3 for a 67-58 lead.
Schimmel then started the final run. She hit a 3, a free throw, a jumper and a 3-pointer that gave Louisville a 73-70 lead with 1:49 to go, the Cardinals' first advantage since midway through the first half.