Louisville shot its way to one of the biggest upsets in the history of the women’s NCAA Tournament, stunning Brittney Griner and Baylor on Sunday night.
Shoni Schimmel scored 22 points and Monique Reid hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to lift fifth-seeded Cardinals over the defending national champions 82-81, ending Griner’s incredible career.
The Cardinals hit 16 3-pointers, matching the NCAA record, to pull off the shocking victory.
Odyssey Sims scored 29 points and hit a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds left to give the Lady Bears (34-2) their only lead of the game.
Reid caught an inbounds pass near the baseline after that and went coast to coast before getting fouled by Griner on her way to the basket.
Sims had one last chance to save Baylor’s season after Reid’s free throws but was off-target and late on a desperation heave.
The Lady Bears had been practically invincible for the past four months, winning 32 straight games mostly by double digits.
Louisville (27-8) tied an NCAA record with 16 3-pointers to pull off the upset.
“I told our kids we’re going to come out and fire it up. We got nothing to lose,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “Our goal was to make this a street ball game.”
Sims dropped to the floor after her miss, pulling her jersey over her face and kicking her legs as she lay flat on her back.
Griner squatted near her and slapped the floor with both hands before pulling Sims up to her feet.
It was the end of a remarkable college career for Griner, a record-setting 6-foot-8 post player who ended up as the second-highest scoring player in NCAA history.
Griner, who had averaged 33 points in Baylor’s first two games in the tournament, didn’t make a basket until she converted a putback with 15:20 left in the second half. She wound up with 14 points and 10 rebounds, making only four of her 10 shots and being a relative non-factor for her considerable stature.
Louisville surrounded Griner as she has been most of her career, and her teammates were unusually unable to hit outside shots and relieve the pressure.
It was Sims who eventually led Baylor’s attempted comeback from a 17-point deficit in the final 7 1/2 minutes, after Louisville’s barrage of 3-pointers finally came to an end.
Sims hit a pair of free throws and then got a steal in the backcourt for a layup that got Baylor back within a dozen, and the Lady Bears put together a 19-4 run to get within striking distance in the final 2 minutes.
Walz was called for a technical foul for arguing after he watched a scoreboard replay of an offensive foul whistled against Bria Smith, with a Baylor defender sliding under her after she took off.
Sims hit the resulting free throws and then a runner to get the Lady Bears within 78-76 with 1:49 to play.
After a Megan Deines layup off a baseline inbounds play, Sims answered with a 3-pointer to cut it to one with 35.8 seconds left. She then hit two free throws to put Baylor ahead after Jude Schimmel fumbled an inbounds pass under her own basket, Griner picked it up and passed it to Sims.
The Lady Bears still couldn’t close it out.
Antonita Slaughter hit seven 3-pointers for 21 points and Shoni Schimmel had five 3s.
As a team, Louisville was 16 for 25 to tie the NCAA tournament mark reached by four other teams and make the most ever in the regional semifinals or beyond.
Three Cardinals starters fouled out, starting with Shoni Schimmel with 4:21 left, with a 23-14 foul disparity in the game.
“These kids followed the game plan to perfection. I gotta give all the credit to them,” Walz said. “They believe in what we do as a coaching staff.”