Asia Taylor, Sara Hammond lift Louisville over Rutgers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Asia Taylor missed last season with a hip injury. Now healthy, she's a big reason for Louisville's success this year.

Taylor had 25 points and 15 rebounds -- both career highs -- to help the third-ranked Cardinals to a 73-58 win over No. 25 Rutgers on Sunday before a crowd of 14,327.

The Cardinals (27-2, 15-1 American Athletic Conference) tied a school record with 17 home wins this season, matching the mark set in 2006-07.

"She's really a mismatch problem for a lot of people," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "She's got the ability to knock down the 15- to 18-foot shot, then when they put a bigger four on her to stop her from scoring in the post, that's what she does. When they have to come out and guard her, they can't guard her. She's just too quick off the dribble."

Sara Hammond added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Tyler Scaife scored 17 points to lead Rutgers, which saw its five-game winning streak end. Betnijah Laney posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

"It was an NCAA atmosphere and we didn't play with the same kind of composure we needed to have," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

After falling behind 15-10 early, the Cardinals picked up their offensive tempo late in the first half and tied it at 17 on a pair of free throws by Taylor. Shoni Schimmel drilled a 3-pointer to extend Louisville's lead to 28-22. The Cardinals led 34-26 at halftime.

Kahleah Copper made a layup, was fouled and sank the free throw to bring Rutgers (20-6, 11-4) to 38-30. That's when Louisville took over en route to its fourth straight win.

Rutgers has yet to win at Louisville in five meetings. Louisville won a closer battle when it defeated Rutgers 80-71 on Jan. 28.

Taylor said adjustments were made that helped Sunday's effort.

"Playing them the first time really helped us as far as tendencies," she said. "It's really different seeing it on film, but when you're actually playing against them, you kind of get to know their tendencies. I was picking out different spots they like to be in, things they like to run. I think we were better prepared this time around."

With the Cardinals leading 24-21, Antonita Slaughter made a heads-up play when she deflected an errant ball off a Rutgers player's shoe to maintain possession, but Louisville couldn't convert.

That left the door open for the Scarlet Knights to cut the gap, but they committed two straight turnovers and couldn't capitalize.

With Louisville up 50-35 in the second half, Louisville guard Jude Schimmel made a key play. Syessence Davis grabbed the ball under the Louisville basket, but Schimmel stole it back, made a layup and was fouled by Davis.

Schimmel sank the free throw to complete the three-point play.

"They kind of gained the momentum, and all of a sudden we took it back on that play," Walz said.

When Rutgers cut the deficit to 62-50 with 6:00 left, Taylor responded with a layup and made a free throw after being fouled.

"I'm a driver, if that's not on everybody's scouting report about me," she said. "The fact that I've been working on my jump shot and it's been falling, people have to play me honest. A shot fake or a head fake here or there, I know I can get by anybody. Coach (Walz) has been working with me on finding open teammates, that's why I got those three assists. I was just trying to be aggressive. I think that aggressiveness early is what helped me at the end of the game."

Rutgers was hampered by 18 turnovers, which Louisville converted into 23 points. The Cardinals had nine turnovers and 15 assists.

"We turned the ball over way too much, in addition to maybe not hitting shots that we should have," Stringer said.

Louisville and Rutgers are second and third in the AAC, respectively, behind leader Connecticut. The Cardinals have time off to prepare for two crucial games: at Cincinnati on March 1 and at home against No. 1 Connecticut on March 3 to close out the regular season.

Walz said he's not worried about his team thinking too far ahead about the Huskies.

"We've done a really good job the past three weeks of making sure we take care of one game at a time," Walz said.

Bria Smith, who has played sparingly since missing three games due to a knee injury, returned to the starting lineup. She had three points and five rebounds in 30 minutes of play.