- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - Shoni Schimmel has never been afraid to take the big shots for Louisville.

The senior guard added another one Sunday, making a pullup in the lane with 6 seconds left to lift the third-ranked Cardinals to a 60-56 win over South Florida in the American Athletic Conference semifinals.

“I just went with the ball and had numbers in transition. I saw the pullup was there and shot it,” said Schimmel, who scored 17 points to lead the Cardinals.

The victory assured Louisville another game against top-ranked UConn on Monday night for the inaugural conference tournament title.

“We’re going to enjoy this for an hour or two. We’ll watch some film and we’ll sit down and break down UConn again,” coach Jeff Walz said. “We know in order to beat them we have to play a great game at the defensive end of the floor because they score so well. We’ll have to figure out a way to score. You’ve got to put 70 on the board yourself and I don’t think they’ve allowed 70 all year.”

Louisville lost to UConn by 20 points last Monday night at home.

“They’re a great basketball team,” Walz said. “We know that we have to get it into a half-court game. We can’t allow them to score in transition.”

The Cardinals (30-3) almost didn’t make it to the title game.

With the score tied at 56, Courtney Williams missed a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left for South Florida. Schimmel then drove up the court and pulled up in the lane for the go-ahead jumper. Her sister, Jude, stole the ball at midcourt from Williams and hit two free throws to seal the win.

Williams and Inga Orekhova each scored 19 points to lead South Florida (19-12), which was looking for its first win over a top-10 team.

Trailing 51-46 with just over 8 minutes left, Louisville rallied behind consecutive 3-pointers by Tia Gibbs and Shoni Schimmel. Those were Schimmel’s first points of the second half.

Two free throws by Gibbs gave Louisville a 56-54 lead. Orekhova got fouled on the other end, and the 90 percent free throw shooter, who had made 36 straight from the line, missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Williams‘ putback with 1:10 left tied it at 56, setting up the frantic finish.

Even with the loss, South Florida strengthened its case for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Bulls had won nine of their last 11 games coming in. In fact, since Jan. 1, the Bulls’ only losses have come to Louisville or Connecticut.

“I think this team came out and pleaded its case to the NCAA committee,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. “I was proud of our kids’ effort and fight. It’s a tough way to lose, but I think this team still has a lot of basketball left to play this year.”

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