Gibbs leads Louisville to 15th straight win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)
Louisville coach Jeff Walz was looking for more balance on offense and the Cardinals responded.
Tia Gibbs led No. 5 Louisville with 19 points - one of four players in double figures scoring - and the Cardinals tallied their 15th straight win with a 79-59 victory over the Bulls, tying the program's longest win streak set in 2006-07.
Gibbs was 5 of 7 from three-point range and 4 of 4 from the free throw line. Shoni Schimmel added 14 points while Antonita Slaughter had 12 points.
Walz said he needed Gibbs, who started and played 26 minutes, and Antonita Slaughter to step up, and they played a key role when the game was tight early.
In what has become a recent trend for Louisville, the Cardinals took a while to get their offense going. They started off 1 of 11 from the field - including 0 for 6 from three-point range - but picked up speed midway through the first half.
''I thought we had very good shots, they just weren't going in, but we continued to defend,'' Walz said.
After missing her first six shot attempts, Schimmel made a short jumper to put Louisville (22-1, 10-0 AAC) up 22-16 with 7:53 left in the first half.
USF (11-10, 6-4) fell behind by 10 but rallied. After Walz was called for a technical foul, the Bulls scored seven unanswered points capped by a three-pointer by Inga Orekhova to make it 32-28 with 4:28 left.
Schimmel and Antonita Slaughter responded with back-to-back three-pointers, and Louisville closed out the first half on a 13-0 run to lead 45-28 at halftime.
Courtney Williams led USF with 17 points. Akila McDonald had 11 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
USF embarked on another rally in the second half when Orekhova hit a three-pointer to make it 48-35. Gibbs quieted the run by making three straight 3s.
''We wanted to put that team away, and that was our motto in the second half,'' Gibbs said. ''We haven't been very good in finishing games. We'll go on a run and let teams back in. We were determined not to let that happen today.''
The Bulls were plagued by early foul trouble. Alisia Jenkins, Shavontae Naylor and Orekhova each collected three by halftime. Orekhova, who finished with 16 points, played sparingly in the second half after notching her fourth foul.
''That just changes the dynamic,'' said USF assistant coach Jeff Osterman, who filled in for head coach Jose Fernandez, who stayed at home due to illness. ''It took us out of a couple of things we had game-planned for.''
Louisville has a quick turnaround. The Cardinals play at the University of Central Florida on Tuesday.
''We have to continue to get better because we want to make our run at the end of the year,'' Walz said. ''That's when I want us to be playing our best, the last three weeks of March.''