Louisville refuses to dwell on all the players lost to injuries this season, especially with so many other Cardinals taking over now that it matters most.
Sophomore Sara Hammond had 21 points and 10 rebounds to help fifth-seeded Louisville beat Purdue 76-63 Tuesday night and advance to its second NCAA tournament regional semifinal in three years.
"I'm as proud of this basketball team as I was of our team that played for a national championship in 2009," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "With the amount of injuries that we've sustained, and they're not just one week, two weeks you miss. We've got kids that are missing the entire season. We've had Mo (Monique Reid) playing on one leg. We found a way to continue to play."
Now the Cardinals (26-8) will play top-seeded Baylor on Sunday in Oklahoma City in the program's fourth regional semifinal in the last six years. That's despite losing sophomore forward Shanta' Dyer to a torn ACL and MCL in December while guard Tia Gibbs and forward Asia Taylor haven't played at all this season.
Reid was a game-time decision with swelling in her left knee, but the fifth-year senior played 23 minutes on her 23rd birthday. Reid had eight points and six rebounds.
Antonita Slaughter, who moved into the starting lineup because of the injuries, scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half for Louisville. Shoni Schimmel had 14. Jude Schimmel had eight steals, six assists, four rebounds, seven points and only one turnover.
"Right now we're just excited to be heading to Oklahoma City for the Sweet 16," Hammond said.
The fourth-seeded Boilermakers (25-9) snapped a five-game winning streak and now have lost in the second round three straight years.
"When you play on home courts, some people can upset people," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "Some people can't. With Louisville, it was their night tonight."
Sam Ostarello led Purdue with 16 points and 12 rebounds. KK Houser had 10. With the Cardinals chasing Purdue's guards, Courtney Moses, who hit five 3s in the first round, had just seven points.
Louisville never trailed in beating Purdue for the first time in six games. These teams hadn't met since 1993, and the Cardinals' program has grown to a new level in the past two decades with this — a game that had Louisville men's coach Rick Pitino in the stands as part of a very loud crowd of 9,236.
"It was awesome to have that many people out there cheering us on," Shoni Schimmel said. "So it was great to have them behind us."
Walz said most of Louisville's coaches were at a game he considers one of the loudest since the Cardinals moved into this new arena three seasons ago. But having Pitino at the game in such a busy week meant so much.
"It's not like he just came for three, four minutes," Walz said. "He stayed for the entire game, and afterward came into our locker room and talked to the kids. It speaks volumes for our entire athletic department because everybody saw Rick there."
The Cardinals led 38-23 at halftime, and Purdue never got closer than 10 in the second half as Louisville led by as much as 19. The Boilermakers got to 73-63 and missed a chance to cut the lead to single digits when Houser missed a 3 with 43 seconds remaining.
Louisville both outshot and outrebounded Purdue, and the Cardinals turned their 38-32 edge on the boards into 24 second-chance points. They also got 33 points off Purdue's 22 turnovers.
Technically, Purdue was the home team as the higher seed wearing the home white uniforms. The Boilermakers even had some fans in the stands, not that it helped as they missed their first nine shots to open the game.
The Cardinals took full advantage of getting to play their first two NCAA tournament games on their own court for the first time in the program's history.
They had the lower bowl of the KFC Yum! Center nearly filled with Pitino sitting a couple rows away from the court and Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng in the end zone. Pitino, whose men play Friday in Indianapolis in the regional semifinals, even yelled at the officials after Louisville turned it over for the sixth time within the first 5 minutes.
The Boilermakers started so sluggishly that nothing was going down, not even when Houser rolled a layup over the rim after a steal by Courtney Moses in the opening minutes.
"When you're not knocking down your shots right away, you always try and find a way," Houser said. "We were just trying to do it too quickly and forcing things that just weren't there."
They finally got their first bucket when Taylor Manuel scored on a layup with 15:34 left, and her second straight layup tied it up at 4 with 15:09 to go. Sherrone Vails hit a free throw with 14:48 left and put them ahead to stay.
Another Manuel layup pulled Purdue within 18-16 with 6 minutes left, and that's when Louisville took control. Reid passed the ball out to Schimmel while on her stomach in the paint. Schimmel hit the 3 and then banked in another. Slaughter took her turn with a fast-break layup and her own 3. Hammond's two free throws put Louisville up 33-19 with 2:27 left.
Louisville led 38-23 as the Cardinals finished the half on a 20-7 run that had the fans on their feet celebrating.
"We played with them for 34 minutes," Versyp said. "The 6 minutes at the end of the first half was where they took over."
Ostarello hit consecutive buckets, the last pulling Purdue within 44-34 with 16:01 remaining. Hammond scored on a layup, hit a short jumper and even hit only her fourth 3-pointer all season with 10:49 left to push the lead back to 55-37.