AP Preview - Star Freshman Leads Louisville Against Gonzaga

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- In the midst of winning just 14 games last season, Louisville coach Jeff Walz found something good in the middle of a miserable season -- Shoni Schimmel.

While other schools pursuing Schimmel were busy with the postseason last March, Walz and his staff hit the Oregon state high school basketball championships and watched Schimmel's Franklin High team finish sixth.

That extra time helped make some headway in recruiting one of the country's top guards.

"We were the only staff that did that," Walz said. "So I think we made some ground up there and really sold Shoni and her family on the opportunity of being able to go away from home, being able to experience new things, and also gave them some comfort to know that she would be taken care of as a person, not just as a basketball player."

It's her swagger and scoring ability that has helped bring Louisville back to the NCAA tournament. The seventh-seeded Cardinals (22-12) will play No. 11 seed Gonzaga (30-4) in Saturday night's Spokane Regional semifinal.

Schimmel's career-high 33 points, including the first nine points in a deciding 21-5 run, propelled the Cardinals past second-seeded Xavier 85-75 and back to the round of 16.

The matchup against Gonzaga creates an interesting pairing -- Schimmel and Bulldogs star point guard Courtney Vandersloot.

Schimmel's confidence, especially as a freshman, has impressed the Bulldogs.

"I'm not sure she's as quick as Courtney with the basketball, she's a little bigger, and I think a little bit more diverse. She can roll down into the post, and she has kind of a low post game as well better range than Courtney," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. "She's phenomenal as a freshman. I can't wait to see her as an upperclassman. I think she's got a really high ceiling."

Louisville wasn't given much of a reward for getting this far for the third time in four seasons. The Cardinals face a Gonzaga team that dispatched sixth-seeded Iowa and No. 3 seed UCLA at home to reach the regional semifinals for a second straight year.

The last time Gonzaga left Spokane was for the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas, which the Bulldogs won on March 7. A sellout of nearly 12,000 is expected for Saturday night.

"They're easily, in my opinion, a four or five seed. So I don't think this is a big shock to anyone that they're still playing," Walz said. "Now it might be a shock that we're still playing, but not them."

While Schimmel was the key in getting Louisville to Spokane, Monique Reid has been the Cardinals' steadying force in the middle, leading Louisville in scoring and rebounding. She has scored in double figures in 30 of 34 games this season and had 22 in the Cardinals' first-round win over Vanderbilt.

For Gonzaga, the continued emergence of forward Kayla Standish is key. Although Vandersloot has grabbed the headlines with 34 points and seven assists against Iowa, and 29 points and 17 assists against UCLA, the Bulldogs wouldn't be this far without Standish.

The junior is coming off back-to-back 30-point games, the first player in Gonzaga history to accomplish the feat. She had 30 with 10 minutes to go against UCLA before deferring to Vandersloot down the stretch of the Bulldogs' 89-75 victory.

But Graves has reminded his team there are still goals to be accomplished.

"The biggest part was that we expected to be here," Vandersloot said. "We wanted to celebrate (beating UCLA), we wanted to enjoy it, but at the same time it wasn't a surprise to us that we were here and so it was a lot easier to manage."