RICHMOND, Ky. -- Cierra Warren watched in awe as Shoni Schimmel ran the offense. Just wait until the point guard finds her
The North Carolina transfer scored 15 points to help Louisville
overcome Schimmel's tough shooting night in her debut, and the Cardinals (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) beat Eastern Kentucky 77-53 on Thursday night.
"It was pretty excited because I got to watch how she passes
the ball," Warren said. "I was just excited to get passes and
Schimmel finished with 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting following a
two-game suspension from the NCAA after she participated in a
non-sanctioned three-on-three tournament this summer.
"She forced a lot today. You know, first game back, she was
excited to be playing," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "For us,
we need her to be able to take between 10 and 15 shots a game when
things are going well. For her to put up 20 is really just too
many, especially with the other talented players we have that can
score. But she is a difference maker on the floor for us with the
basketball and the way she can create for others."
After struggling most of the first half, Schimmel began
distributing the ball to teammates and the Cardinals (2-1) finally
found their stride despite also missing regulars Monique Reid
(back, foot) and Tia Gibbs (shoulder). The Cardinals announced
after the game that Gibbs tore her labrum and will miss the season.
Eastern Kentucky (0-2) hosted a top-10 team for the first time
since then-No. 1 Tennessee in 1993. Carla Booth scored 14 points as
the Lady Colonels fell to 0-31 when facing a top-25 opponent.
Louisville trailed for 14 minutes spanning the half before
taking the lead for good when Schimmel hit a jumper to give
Louisville a 42-41 lead.
Becky Burke's 3-pointer a little over two minute later gave the
Cardinals their biggest lead to that point, 49-43. The senior guard
looked up and shrieked after her big basket following Walz's
halftime speech that said they lacked emotion.
"I didn't hit any of my outside shots in the first half. To hit
my first one. As a shooter, it only takes one," said Burke, who
finished with 12 points. "Coach was telling us to show more
emotion and to get more excited. That's what I tried to do."
The run was just getting started.
Booth committed a turnover on the other end, Bria Smith took a
sharp pass from Schimmel and sliced in for a three-point play to
put the Cardinals ahead 52-43 with 11:30 left and Louisville rolled
"If we're going to compete and be a top 10 team, you can't come
out and pick and choose when you want to play," Walz said. "We're
going to get everybody's best shot."
Louisville has won four straight over Eastern Kentucky, which
last beat the Cardinals in 1990 and haven't even faced a ranked
opponent in McBrayer Arena since hosting Georgia eight years ago.
Eastern Kentucky, which played an exhibition Tuesday following
its 66-61 season-opening loss at Xavier on Saturday, led the
Musketeers with under five minutes to play.
The Lady Colonels appeared poised for even bigger things early
in this one, taking control and forcing the Cardinals into 12
first-half turnovers even with their floor leader back.
"We just knew before the game even started that we just had to
come out throwing the first punch," Eastern Kentucky guard Marie
Carpenter said. "We just had that adrenaline going. We were in it
as a team."
Louisville split its first two games without Schimmel, winning
at Missouri State before losing to No. 6 Texas A&M -- the defending
national champion -- 76-58 in College Station on Tuesday.
Schimmel, who averaged 15.1 points as a freshman, scored her
first basket just over two minutes in after a steal by Sara Hammond
and hit a 3-pointer on her next attempt to give Louisville an early
advantage. But the Lady Colonels took control when Marie Carpenter
and Booth hit consecutive 3s as Schimmel went cold.
That's the way it would stay until her second-half jumper
changed the momentum.
"I just needed to let the game come to me," Schimmel said.
"That's exactly what coach told me."