New Orleans, LA – Louisville fans have plenty to celebrate this weekend, as both the men's and women's basketball teams will advance to the national championship.
Down 10 points at halftime, Louisville rallied in the second half to defeat California, 64-57, in the Final Four on Sunday.
Antonita Slaughter had a game-high 18 points and Bria Smith tallied 17 points for the Cardinals (29-8), who advance to their second national championship game in five seasons. Louisville is also the first university since Connecticut in 2004 to have both its men's and women's basketball teams reach their respective title games in the same year.
Louisville will play Connecticut in the title game on Tuesday.
The road has not been easy for the Cardinals, who were the No. 5 seed in the Oklahoma City region. After routs against Middle Tennessee and Purdue in the first two rounds, Louisville pulled the upset against Brittney Griner and top- seeded Baylor, 82-81. They then beat Tennessee in the regional final, 86-78, to make it to the Final Four.
"From our end, we got one more game," said Cardinals coach Jeff Walz. "I told the kids they're stuck with me in practice for one more day. So it's just-- it's a remarkable group of young ladies. I'm proud of every single one of them."
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 points for the Golden Bears (32-4), who won the Spokane region as the second seed. Gennifer Brandon had 12 points and nine rebounds.
"I'm just so grateful that we got to play into the second to last possible day you could be playing a game," said Golden Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "And we had a pregame meal today and we got to do walk-through and all of the stuff just being together, and I'm really sad that we're not doing that on Tuesday night, but that I wouldn't trade this team for anything, even though we're disappointed about a half, and I think our seniors set that tone, and I think the whole team did that this year."
California led for most of the contest, but with 3:40 remaining in regulation, Sara Hammond sank two free throws to give Louisville the lead, 53-52.
Clarendon made a jumper twenty seconds later, only for Smith to respond with a layup. A jumper by Shoni Schimmel gave the Cardinals a three-point lead, before Clarendon's trey tied the game, 57-57, with 1:54 left.
With 1:28 to play, Hammond converted a three-point play to give the Cardinals a 60-57 edge, and they would hold on to win the game. California missed its final six shots, including five from beyond the arc, while Louisville made four free throws in the final 18 seconds.
Down 10-6 early in the first half, the Golden Bears went on a 10-0 run to take a 16-10 lead with 13:29 to play. California would hold on to it until Hammond's free throws late in the game.
California was offensively efficient in the half, shooting 58.6 percent from the floor, and the Golden Bears had a 37-27 advantage at halftime.
However, the Golden Bears shot just 30 percent in the second half, and had trouble drawing fouls -- missing their only free throw attempt -- allowing Louisville to come back.