The basketball teams at Louisville adopted a fashion trend for the NCAA Tournament.
Both men’s and women’s teams are wearing red tee-shirts that say “Rise To The Occasion.” It’s a pledge to defeat the odds a win a national championship simultaneously – something done only once, by UConn in 2004.
The women did just that, reaching its second Final Four, chopping done two of the game’s sequoias, Baylor and Tennessee, within three days at the Oklahoma City Regional.
The Louisville men play for the national championship against Michigan on Monday in Atlanta.
But in the most important game of the season, the Cardinals’ women encountered California, as determined as they about their destiny.
And again, the Cardinals rose. Coming back from a 10-point deficit at the half, they beat California, 64-57, in the first national semifinal at the New Orleans Arena.
The only other time Louisville in the semifinal, in 2009, it trailed Oklahoma by 12 at the half.
Louisville (29-8) will play the winner of tonight’s Notre-Dame-UConn game for the national title on Tuesday.
The Cardinals were led by Antonia Slaughter, who scored 18. Bria Smith added 17. Shoni Schimmel scored 10.
The Golden Bears (32-4) were led by Layshia Clarendon, who scored 17.
Coached by Lindsay Gottlieb, the Golden Bears, co-champions of the Pac-12, emerged from the Spokane Regional with wins over LSU and Georgia.
What the Bears supposedly lack in offense, they compensated for in rebounding. But both skills were in full bloom.
Louisville opened an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes before the Golden Bears began to assert themselves.
They tied the game at 10 with 14:45 to play in the half and soon their lead was 18-11 when Clarendon, the blue and gold Mohawk, scored again.
Most significant over the first 10 minutes of the game was the way Cal shut down Shoni Schimmel, Louisville keg of dynamite. She did not score, the bulk of Louisville production falling to Smith and junior Slaughter.
Smith and Slaughter combined for 18 of Louisville’s first 19 points and Cal’s lead was 25-19 with 9:15 to play in the half.
Jude Schimmel, Shoni’s little sister, actually scored before she did, bring the Cardinals within 25-22 with 8:00 to play in the half.
Shoni’s first basket came on a layup with 3:49 to go and she would score the final five points in a half Cal emerged from with a 37-27 lead.