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Louisville star Sara Hammond's Blog: March Madness and the mindset to win

Louisville Cardinals superstar, Sara Hammond, talks about the first two rounds in the NCAA Tournament. And also the team's mindset, effort and will to win.

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How sweet it is to be heading to the Sweet 16! March Madness really is the best time of the year during the basketball season. It brings out the best in you as a competitor, and especially being a senior. You play each game like it's your last and make every possession matter knowing that you don't want it to be your last.

Come tournament time it's a different mindset, it's a whole new season, you either win or go home. Playing in the ACC, against top-25 team's night in and night out, had prepared our team for tough competition going into the tournament. Any team that makes the NCAA tournament has made it for a reason, and you have to respect everyone no matter who you play.

We knew going into the first-round, whoever we were to play, was a very good team and BYU was that team. They were tournament conference champs and had made it to the Sweet 16 the previous year. Our coaches did a tremendous job preparing us for this match-up, and we knew that they had great players that we had to contain in order to get the win.

We came out full of energy and fire from the tip; we knew it would take a team effort to get the win, and every single person on our team did their job against BYU. Our goal was to play great team defense, speed the game up and share the ball finding the open person on offense.

We played hard for forty minutes and were fortunate to get a big win over a great team in BYU. Next up was round two against a very polished South Florida team, on their home court. We knew this game would be a battle for forty minutes, and they have an All-American caliber player in Courtney Williams, who is a very talented basketball player.

What a battle it was, and again, it took a team effort to come out with a win. We knew that playing great team defense, executing on offense and rebounding would be the keys to winning. I was so proud of our team, for the way we handled ourselves on their home court, in front of a great crowd.

When adversity hit us, we responded well and stayed together, we won as a team. We've grown so much throughout the season, having faced adversity many times, and our coaches have prepared us for those moments in postseason play.

We didn't want our season to end Monday night in Tampa, and being a part of a great senior group, we weren't going to let it end. We got stops on defense when we needed to, and we stepped up and made free throws at the end.

It was a total team effort, and I couldn't be more proud of our team than I was Monday night -- we started March Madness in Tampa, and our goal is to end our season back in Tampa in the Final Four! The journey continues, and we are blessed and excited to be playing in the Sweet Sixteen, GO CARDS!!!

Sara Hammond - University of Louisville