LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Senior forward Asia Taylor scored a game-high 23 points and fourth-ranked Louisville pulled away with a 20-0 second-half run to defeat the 14th-ranked LSU women’s basketball team, 88-67, in the semifinals of the preseason WNIT on Thursday night in the KFC Yum Center.
Louisville (3-0) advances to Sunday’s WNIT championship game and will face the winner of Oklahoma-Gonzaga. There will not be a WNIT third place consolation game. The Lady Tigers (2-1) will continue their regular season with their next game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Hampton in the Maravich Center. Season ticket holders are asked to discard the remaining “if necessary” WNIT tickets.
A crowd of 8,009, including 2,500 who received a free beer from Louisville head coach Jeff Walz upon entrance, saw a back-and-forth contest for 26 minutes until the Cardinals capitalized on LSU turnovers and got into the up-tempo pace of play they wanted.
“The game is a 40-minute game and we only played about 30,” said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. “We can’t take possessions off because against a team like Louisville, they will tear you apart. (Asia) Taylor really set the tone for tonight, coming after our post game. The two areas of concern for us were their transition game and their offensive rebounding. They capitalized on both.”
Senior forward Theresa Plaisance led LSU with 13 points and eight rebounds. Freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief added 13 points and two steals. Senior guard Jeanne Kenney hit three three-pointers and took three charges as part of an 11-point effort.
Taylor, who missed all of last season with a hip injury, was dominant on both ends of the floor. She was 10-of-16 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds and two steals. Five Cardinals finished with double-digit scoring, including 15 points from All-America guard Shoni Schimmel.
The Lady Tigers hung tough in the first half as Plaisance established herself inside with nine points. LSU trailed 40-36 into the locker room and then 49-46 following a Danielle Ballard offensive rebound tip-in with 16:04 to play.
Schimmel then showed her athleticism when she found Taylor on a behind-the-back pass for a lay-up that drew the crowd to its feet. DaShawn Harden followed with an errant pass that was stolen by Taylor who scored on another lay-up. Four straight possessions with turnovers by LSU pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time following a tough fadeaway jumper from Schimmel.
Plaisance ended the drought with a bucket and the team’s traded threes with 10:53 to go. With LSU trailing 60-54, the Cardinals went on the back-breaking 20-0 run with most of the scoring coming in the paint and on offensive rebounds. The Lady Tigers went cold from the floor for over five minutes. Taylor scored six straight points. Louisville, who was 1-of-7 from three in the first half, drained two threes during the spurt.
“I thought we started jump shooting the ball too much,” said Caldwell. “We should have gotten the ball inside and been more patient. The second thing was we didn’t take care of the basketball.”
The Cardinals out-scored LSU 54-26 in the paint and scored 21 points off 15 turnovers. The Lady Tigers shot 37.3 percent and just 31.3 percent in the second half. Louisville shot a blistering 60.6 percent in the second half and finished 57.8 percent for the game.