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Shoni Schimmel leads Louisville to upset win over second-seeded Xavier

CINCINNATI -- Now everyone knows why Shoni Schimmel's teammates call her "Show."

The freshman guard scuttled Xavier's plans for another deep NCAA tournament run on Tuesday night, scoring a career-high 33 points and leading a late charge that swept Louisville to an 85-75 victory over the second-seeded Musketeers in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Showing no hesitation in the most pressure-filled moments, Schimmel turned the Musketeers' home court into her showplace.

"That's why we call her 'Show," guard Tia Gibbs said. "When it's a big stage and a big crowd, she's going to put on a show, just like she did today."

The Cardinals (22-12) go to Spokane, Wash., to play Gonzaga in a regional semifinal on Saturday, a surprising twist for a youthful team that starts Schimmel and two sophomores.

Louisville lost to Connecticut in the championship game in 2009, then failed to make the tournament last season. Schimmel has them halfway to the Final Four again, after scoring the first nine points in a closing 21-5 run.

"I don't think it was about me," she said. "I think it was about our team. We were all like, 'OK, we've got this."

It was a stunning collapse by Xavier (29-3), which made it to the Elite Eight last season and had won 19 in a row with its dominating frontcourt duo of Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips.

The Musketeers had won 25 in a row at home, including a 12-point victory over Louisville in November when the Cardinals were still finding their way.

A fabulous shooting performance -- Xavier was 50 percent from the field, Louisville 53 was percent -- was decided by the hottest hand on the court. Schimmel went 12 of 18 from the field and 6 of 11 from behind the arc, topping her previous career high by seven. The rest of the Cardinals had 16 field goals combined.

Harris led Xavier with 20 points, and the Musketeers made a season-high 14 3s while leading most of the way. They simply couldn't stop Schimmel to close it out, getting sloppy down the stretch and playing more like an inexperienced team.

When Harris left the game with 20 seconds to go, she pulled up her gray No. 11 jersey to hide her face. Four senior starters had their season end in tears.

"Honestly, it's bittersweet," Phillips said. "Coach just told us we did a lot of amazing things here. We have."

Xavier reached the second Elite Eight in school history last season and came within two missed layups of its first Final Four. After those layups rolled off the rim, Jeanette Pohlen drove the length of the floor for a buzzer-beating shot that gave Stanford a 55-53 win.

One of the most crushing moments in Musketeers history became the foundation for everything they did this season.

Harris returned for her final season of eligibility, hoping to get to a Final Four in her hometown of Indianapolis. The Musketeers put together one of the nation's toughest nonconference schedules and used every Atlantic 10 win to prepare for another deep tournament run.

"They gave so much and had such high expectations for this season," coach Kevin McGuff said. "They've accomplished so much, but to have it end like this when we had a chance to move to the Sweet 16 is tough. Sometimes it just doesn't happen."

They weren't prepared for Schimmel to play way beyond her one year.

"Shoni Schimmel was amazing tonight," McGuff said. "Probably the most impressive thing was the poise she had down the stretch for a freshman -- not just because she made shots, but she kept her team together to execute down the stretch."

The Cardinals took away Xavier's inside game of Harris and the 6-foot-6 Phillips at the outset, forcing the Musketeers to settle for long-range jumpers. Schimmel made her first four shots, three of them from behind the arc, for an 18-11 lead.

Tyeasha Moss, Xavier's top 3-pointer shooter, then turned Louisville's strategy around. She had a three-point play and a pair of 3s during a 13-0 run that put Xavier ahead 30-23.

That's when the game took a nasty turn.

Louisville forward Monique Reid set a pick on unsuspecting Special Jennings at midcourt, leveling the point guard. No foul was called. Jennings lay face-down while play continued and Louisville scored. Jennings was on the bench for a minute.

"It was clean. I wasn't trying to hurt her," Reid said. "It was pretty bad."

Harris and Phillips started making an impact, taking the ball inside for close-up baskets that helped Xavier take a 40-37 lead into halftime. At that point, Schimmel had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

When Louisville tied it 42-all with 12:03 to go, Katie Rutan -- only 1 of 7 from behind the arc in the first half -- found her touch and helped Xavier pull ahead again. Rutan hit back-to-back 3s, passed inside to Phillips for a layup, then hit another 3 for a 67-58 lead.

Time for Schimmel to take over.