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Louisville 64, California 57

Louisville women reach NCAA title game

Cardinals create all-Big East final

Louisville guard Bria Smith (17 points) goes around California’s Reshanda Gray on this second-half drive.

GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Louisville guard Bria Smith (17 points) goes around California’s Reshanda Gray on this second-half drive.

NEW ORLEANS — The more Louisville extends its remarkable run, the more coach Jeff Walz wants to make sure his Cardinals enjoy every moment.

As long as they have one more upset in them for the NCAA championship game.

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The upstart Cardinals got 18 points — all on 3-pointers — from Antonita Slaughter and they methodically clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat California, 64-57, on Sunday night in the NCAA semifinals. For a team that has beaten Baylor, Tennessee, and now the second-seeded Golden Bears, a little celebration was in order.

‘‘We’re going to go on Bourbon Street,’’ said Walz, whose team has one last practice Monday before Tuesday night’s title game against Connecticut. ‘‘I'll tell the kids, as long as they’re back by 2, we’re OK.’’

Bria Smith scored 17 on 6-of-7 shooting for the fifth-seeded Cardinals (29-8), who became the first team seeded lower than fourth to win a Final Four game. Louisville will play for its first national title one night after the school’s men’s team takes on Michigan for the championship.

‘‘The way I look at it, I think the men are trying to feed off of our success,’’ Walz said with a smirk before adding on a serious note that he’d received word from Atlanta that the Louisville men ‘‘were in the hotel lobby jumping up and down and cheering for us.’’

Layshia Clarendon scored 17 points for Cal (32-4), which had won the Spokane Region as the second seed. Gennifer Brandon added 12 points for the Golden Bears and Brittany Boyd added 10.

Shoni Schimmel, who had been one of the stars of the tournament, struggled early for Louisville, but finished with 10 points, including a clutch transition pull-up that gave Louisville a 57-54 lead with 2:06 left.

Clarendon responded with a left-wing three to tie it, but Sara Hammond, playing with four fouls for the last 7:20, gave the Cardinals the lead for good with a strong move inside as she was fouled. Suddenly, Cal was forcing desperate threes and not hitting them.

‘‘In the first half we got out a lot on the run. We didn’t get a chance to run at all [in the second half] because we weren’t getting stops,’’ Clarendon said. ‘‘We made a lot of mistakes. It’s not like we played somebody who was too good and just flat-out beat us.’’

Louisville went into halftime trailing, 37-27. The Cardinals quickly narrowed their deficit with a 7-0 run that began with Schimmel’s three. Smith added a mid-range jumper and Hammond scored inside to make it 37-34.

Cal went up, 47-39, but the Cardinals scored the next 7 points.

The Cardinals finally pulled back into the lead when Hammond’s free throws made it 53-52 with 3:40 left.

“We executed perfectly to start the second half,’’ Walz said. ‘‘Once we took the lead, I could see it in our kids’ eyes, the excitement, ‘Hey, we can do this, we’re going to do this.’

‘‘We’re playing our best basketball at the end of the year and that’s all that matters.’’

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