The USF Bulls (18-7, 7-5) pulled off a huge upset over the No. 12 Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday night, winning by the score of 73-62 in a crucial road game that will be seen as a signature win for the team's NCAA Tournament resume.
Senior guard Andrea Smith had a monster game for the Bulls, matching her career high 35 points by shooting over 68% and going 5-for-6 from the 3-point line and 8-for-8 from the foul line. Junior guard Inga Orekhova was also in the double-digits with 13 points during the match.
As was to be expected from the 15th ranked offense in the country, Louisville (21-6, 9-4) had four of their five starters score in the double-digits. Shoni Schimmel, the sophomore guard who is the scoring leader on the Cardinals squad, shot just 30 percent from the field but accumulated a team-leading 16 points.
Keeping Schimmel in check was one of Head Coach Jose Fernandez's main goals coming into this game.
"We have to minimize [Schimmel's] touches, we have to find her in transition and make sure she gets no open looks in our transition defense," said Fernandez prior to the game, "We make her work for everything that she gets."
Perhaps greater than the offensive production produced by Andrea Smith was the collective effort of the USF defense, which forced 15 turnovers and did not allow Louisville to gain a lead at any point during the game. Though the Cardinals would go on a 10-0 run near the end of the first half and pull to within 5 with less than 1:30 to go in the second, the Bulls maintained composure throughout it all and closed out a commanding 11-point win over one of the top teams in the nation.
Louisville is the 2nd highest-ranked opponent ever beaten by the Bulls, one spot behind a victory over No. 11 DePaul in 2005. The Cardinals were 13-1 at home prior to the loss against USF.
With only four games remaining on the schedule, the road certainly does not get easier from here. Fernandez feels that a Big East record of "8-8, 9-7 probably solidifies you and guarantees you a berth" in the NCAA Tournament. With the Bulls now sitting at 7-5 and two of their final four games Top 25 teams, this win over Louisville should give the Bulls a little more leverage moving forward.
USF will return home to the Sun Dome to take on No. 21 Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. It is the first of the Bulls' two remaining home games for this season.