IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Louisville’s much-debated No. 3 seed doesn’t matter much anymore.
Shoni Schimmel had 26 points, seven assists and five steals to help Louisville thump host Iowa 83-53 on Tuesday night and earn its fifth trip to the Sweet Sixteen under coach Jeff Walz.
Antonita Slaughter added 17 points on five 3s for the third-seeded Cardinals (32-4), who advanced to Sunday’s regional semifinal at home against No. 7 seed LSU.
Louisville might still have to go through a higher seed to return to the Final Four in Nashville. But even under that scenario, the Cardinals would get top-seeded Tennessee in the Elite Eight in their own gym.
If the way the Cardinals played in Iowa City is any indication, they’ll be even tougher to beat at home.
”We’re trying to peak at the right time,” Louisville’s Tia Gibbs said. ”We’re trying get prepared for Nashville, not necessarily just this game. So we stay focused no matter what.”
That was apparent against the shell-shocked Hawkeyes.
Louisville jumped out to a 17-point halftime lead and stretched its edge to 47-23 just 90 seconds into the second half. The Cardinals shot 53 percent, forced 19 turnovers and led by as many as 38 points.
Freshman Ally Disterhoft had 15 points for Iowa (27-9), which finished just 1 of 16 from 3-point range.
Star Samantha Logic had 12 points for Iowa, but she also turned it over nine times.
”Defensively, that’s one of the best performances we’ve had all season,” Walz said. ”Our whole game plan was to try to keep the ball out of Logic’s hands as much as we possibly could…I thought she shot it well, but I thought we made her work the entire night.”
From the opening tip, Louisville looked determined to prove it should be talked about more for its national title chances than its seemingly low seed.
The Cardinals showed in the opening minutes of the second half why they’re such a legitimate threat to make it to Nashville, quickly extinguishing Iowa’s hopes for a comeback.
Schimmel hit a 3 and a layup to push the lead to 24, then confidently drilled a step-back 3 to give Louisville a 52-25 lead.
”We felt that we could get shots that we wanted to get. It was just a matter of being able to make them. I thought we passed the ball extremely well,” Walz said.
While West Virginia and LSU were engaged in a back-and-forth struggle in Morgantown for a spot opposite the Cardinals in Louisville, Walz’s team was up 28 and playfully dancing to the ”Cha Cha Slide” during an officials’ timeout.
Slaughter’s back-to-back 3s then made it 69-33 – a stunningly lopsided score against an Iowa team that had walloped Marist by 22 points on Sunday.
The buckets came early and often for Louisville.
The Cardinals hit eight of their first 10 shots, and Schimmel followed Theairra Taylor’s miss of a breakaway layup with a jumper that gave Louisville a 23-12 lead.
Louisville certainly had some issues in the first half, committing 12 fouls and nine turnovers. But Iowa simply couldn’t take advantage of any Cardinals miscues, and Slaughter’s long 3 put Louisville ahead 33-19.
The first half couldn’t have ended more poorly for the Hawkeyes. Jude Schimmel banked in a 3, Disterhoft was called for a charge and Tia Gibbs beat the buzzer with a baseline jumper to give the Cardinals a 40-23 lead.
I felt like for some reason we went away from things that were working for us in the first few minutes of the game,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. ”I don’t think our defense was that bad the first half. I think they hit some tough shots. Offensively, that’s what is disheartening.”
Gibbs, Asia Taylor and Jude Schimmel each had 10 points for Louisville, which shot 64 percent in the first half.
The Cardinals have now won their first two NCAA tournament games by a combined 76 points.
”We knew they were going to have pressure. We knew they were going to have some traps, different defenses. It wasn’t anything we weren’t expecting. We just really didn’t execute,” Logic said.