Louisville rides hot shooters to the championship game

USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Louisville came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Cal 64-57. Antonita Slaughter had 18 points on 6-10 3-point shooting, while Bria Smith added 17 points and six rebounds. Layshia Clarendon led Cal with 17 points. For bricks, pride, tiny banners, and total exhaustion, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Teams spotted today: Akron, Louisiana-Lafayette, Ohio State, West Virginia, Duquesne, Montana, Central Florida, Spelman, Pittsburgh, Iowa, Mississippi State, Prairie View, Oregon State, Vermont, TCU, Marshall, Oklahoma, South Dakota State, Sacramento Monarchs, Atlanta Dream, Arkansas State, St. Francis (PA), Princeton, Clemson, Georgia, Carson-Newman, UTEP, UCLA, Purdue, Yale, Miami, Murray State, James Madison. Lots more Baylor fans today. Gotta shout them out.

The pitch of the arena makes our seats better than you would expect. The anthem was done by a local artist. She was okay, but not great.

At halftime, it's 37-27 Cal, and it could be more if Cal would stop throwing the ball out of bounds and if they could hit their free throws. They're 1-6 from the line. But they're owning the boards, and Louisville isn't hitting their threes. Monique Reid took a very hard tumble on a Cal drive, and she hasn't come back into the game yet. She did later in the second half, though, which is kind of reassuring.

What a heartbreaker- well, if you were rooting for Cal like I was. To see them come so far and then lose it all I think I'd be even more disappointed if Cal hadn't been so clearly outcoached in the second half of the second half.

It's a lot harder to see the fine detail from up here, so I apologize in advance if the notes are not as doomy as usual. Megan Deines played briefly in the first half and came in right at the end of the second to help give the stars their curtain call. Jude Schimmel complemented her sister well off the bench (though from up here, it's kind of hard to tell 21, 22, and 23 apart). Monique Reid got a lot of run in the first half, but much less in the second half. We'll see how available she is for the championship game.

Would someone please guard Antonita Slaughter at some point in the near future? You would think a coach from Brown and a team of players smart enough to go to Cal would have figured out that guarding the woman who hit three threes in the first half would be a plan for success. Instead, they let her get three more open threes. You do not sag off someone who has hit five threes. Honestly. Shoni Schimmel was distributing well in the first half, then got her shot going a little in the second half. That pass to her sister was a thing of beauty. Sara Hammond continued to be tough in the post. I don't necessarily like her, but she got the job done down low, especially in the second half. Sheronne Vails got the start, but with Louisville sometimes I get the sense that Jeff Walz picks a name out of a hat for that fifth starter spot. Bria Smith was very efficient and absolutely ruthless. She broke a pretty little fast break that got the crowd going.

Lots and lots and lots of red in the stands, in groups and singles.

Eliza Pierre's defense is scary. She was all up in her player's business (usually Shoni Schimmel) and gave them no room to operate. I love to watch that kind of thing. Mikayla Lyles played very late, when Cal was sort of throwing spaghetti at the wall. Reshanda Gray had an up-and-down game, and tended to make stupid mistakes right after making good plays. She needs to be more consistent.

Layshia Clarendon is amazing, and East Coast bias can do anatomically impossible things to its metaphorical self that I haven't seen her before this year. Stupid Pac-12 Network and its stupid disagreement with stupid DirecTV. She had ice water in her veins during the attempt to come back. And she has awesome hair. Talia Caldwell muscled up well in the post. Brittany Boyd made a couple of great plays- when she hit the three, I thought they had a shot. Afure Jemerigbe gave the announcer a lot of chances to get her name right with points and fouls. Gennifer Brandon rebounds like she has springs in her legs (and from overhead looks a little like a gazelle when running), but that shot... almost too strong for an offensive rebounder.

Cal seemed to get flustered in the second half. The perils of not having been there before, perhaps- they started throwing up bad shots and bad passes. The exceedingly nosy guy next to me (no, sir, you cannot borrow my computer, please stop staring at my screen) kept complaining that Cal wasn't dribbling the ball up. He had a little bit of a point, since Cal's passing was not sharp, but I don't think dribbling into the traps would have helped much.

The woman all the way at the end of our row hooked us up with nifty Cal cheering stuff. It was really nice of her. Signs! Tiny banners! A streamer for Moooose!

I'm very surprised that Cal doesn't seem to have done anything to address their abysmal free throw shooting. That was painful to watch.

I was rooting for Cal, but I wanted whoever won this game to take the title, so on Tuesday I'll be in red and white and cheering for Louisville. Anything to avoid another UConn coronation.

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