No. 1 Baylor women upset by Louisville

OKLAHOMA CITY — Very little tops beating Duke to make it to the Final Four, but in an amazing day of basketball for the University of Louisville, the Cardinal women sure did their best.

After an emotional victory Sunday afternoon where the men’s team lost Kevin Ware to a gruesome leg injury, yet somehow gathered themselves and beat Duke, the Louisville women upset defending champion Baylor and star Brittney Griner, 82-81, and moved a step closer to their own Final Four.

“I’m not sure where this stands on victories in women’s college basketball, but I’ll have to say it’s kind of high up there,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz.

High enough that Walz and his team could have hunted doves with a rake. They smiled and preened, they danced and hugged, and that was during the game.

After, Walz ruled the post-game press conference with one-liners, even suggesting he was happy to take more and more questions as his players answered their own through smiles wide as hubcaps.

Bring it on. Drink it in.

Fifth-seeded Louisville made 16 3-pointers, somehow stifled down Griner – the women’s game’s biggest star – and eliminated a top-seeded, defending champion Baylor team that came in a combined 74-1 the past two seasons.

Louisville won Sunday night inside Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake, but let all of a 19-point lead slip away, falling behind by one point with 9 seconds to go. Then Louisville’s Monique Reid took the ball from one end to the other, put up a running shot and a foul was called on Griner. Reid made both free throws and the end of Baylor’s run happened.

“I kept saying all day, ‘We’re going to win,'” said Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel. “We actually went out there and just did what we needed to do.”

And here’s how Louisville moved into the Elite 8 and improved to 27-8:

The Cardinals limited Griner. Griner, who came in averaging 24 points per game, had just 10 shots and 14 points thanks to a defense Louisville’s Jude Schimmel called scrambling, but the rest of us would just call physical, rough and aggressive.

Only fitting, because the game was confrontational and emotional from the beginning. There were two technical fouls called on players, Louisville’s Walz got a technical foul and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey should have gotten one, too, when she first lost her composure and then nearly lost her jacket, ripping it off and doing a sideline pirouette after a late charge was called on Jordan Madden with 11 seconds left.

But that’s how you react when the season is slipping and you’re expected to make it to the Final Four. That’s what happens when there is a wild swing of emotions coming in the last minute of play.

“I did all I can,” said Baylor’s Odyssey Sims. “I made all my free throws. We just couldn’t finish. They jumped on us from the start.”

Mulkey didn’t see it exactly the same way as her star guard, instead choosing to pick a fight when she came into the post-game interview area, saying she was ready to be fined.

“I’ll be glad to answer any referee question you want to ask me,” she said. “Now is the time to ask me, OK? I thought the two critical calls at the end of the game were really bad. Jordan Madden drives in the paint. We already have the missed shot and she calls and offensive foul right there. Well, why so late? I don’t know about that at the end. I’d have to go see it. Did anybody here think it was a foul? Honestly, tell me.”

It was. Griner got Reid across the back of the arms on the driving layup, but Mulkey really wasn’t interested in a sane discussion at that point.

It wasn’t the time. Her Baylor bunch, untouchable for most of the past two seasons was beaten by a Louisville team that made 15 of its first 20 3-pointers – all of which after watching their men rally around the injured Kevin Ware. Baylor was 34-1 coming into Sunday night. A top-seed, the People’s Choice to win it again.

Didn’t happen because Louisville kept taking – and making – shots and somehow one-upped the men’s team which blasted by Duke in Indianapolis.

“We did it in the biggest game of the year,” Walz said. “Now we’re hopefully going to keep our momentum going and see what we can do.”

Gonna be hard to top this one. What a day for Louisville sports. What a win for the Cardinal women, who celebrated wildly at center court and then rushed to the sideline, pointing to their jerseys, showing their fans more emotion than they did during the game.

“We’re watching Kevin (Ware) has an injury,” Walz said. “I just told them go out and give it everything you’ve got, but at the end of the day, it’s just a basketball game.”