IOWA CITY, Iowa – When was asked to sum up her career at Idaho, senior Alyssa Charlston’s first reaction was to cry.
Though Charlston and the Vandals fell well short on Sunday, they’ve got nothing to feel bad about following one of the school’s best seasons.
Sara Hammond led five players in double figures with 16 points and third-seeded Louisville rolled past Idaho 88-42 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Ali Forde had 16 points for 14th-seeded Idaho (25-9), which won 25 games for the first time in 28 years.
Charlston had 11, but Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year Stacey Barr took a blow to the head in the first half and finished just 1 of 7 from the field.
“I mean, it’s emotional,” Charlston said. “Any last game is going to be emotional. But, wow, what a ride it’s been. It’s been incredible. I know that the girls behind me are going to take this program even higher than when I came here. They’ve got a powerful coaching staff to do it.”
The Vandals were back in the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row after winning both the WAC regular-season and tournament titles.
Idaho even moved up two seeds from a year ago, when it was blasted by UConn 105-37.
But Idaho hasn’t beaten a team from a high major conference since 2004, and an optimistic start soon gave way to reality.
Louisville (31-4) missed its first seven shots and was called for a pair of charges in the first 4 minutes. But Jude Schimmel buried a corner 3 to give Louisville its first lead, and the Cardinals never looked back.
Louisville went on a 28-10 run late in the first half and opened the second half with 23 points in 8 minutes to go up 63-30.
“This experience is a great experience to have,” said Forde, a sophomore. “Next year hopefully will be, like Coach was saying earlier in the locker room, hopefully we’ll have a higher seed and be able to come out stronger. Playing a team like Louisville, they’re obviously a great team. It makes us better.”
The Cardinals won 30 games for just the second time in school history, and three of their four losses were to unbeaten and top-ranked Connecticut.
Louisville certainly looked like a title contender against the overwhelmed Vandals.
Jude Schimmel converted a layup off a steal and her sister, Shoni, hit a jumper that gave Louisville its first double-digit lead, 24-13, midway through the first half.
Jude then found a streaking Asia Taylor for a bank shot and a 36-21 lead.
The Cardinals extended their edge to 40-21 by halftime – and it would have been bigger if Forde and Charlston hadn’t hit eight of their first 10 shots.
Louisville opened the second half with baskets on their first three possessions and cruised to its sixth straight opening-round win under coach Jeff Walz.
Louisville 88, Idaho 42
Idaho (25-9) — Salvatore 2-8 0-0 6, Barr 1-7 2-2 4, Forde 7-9 2-5 16, Charlston 5-10 0-0 11, Ballestero 2-8 0-3 5, Austgulen 0-2 0-0 0, Schivo 0-3 0-0 0, Trujillo Fernandez 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 4-10 42.
Louisville (31-4) — Hammond 8-13 0-0 16, Slaughter 4-5 0-0 11, Smith 3-4 0-2 6, S. Schimmel 5-11 0-0 10, Taylor 5-9 3-4 13, Breedlove 1-1 0-0 2, Walton 1-2 1-1 3, Deines 1-4 0-0 2, J. Schimmel 6-9 0-0 14, Gibbs 3-5 0-0 7, Henderson 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 39-68 4-7 88. Halftime—Louisville 40-21. 3-Point Goals—Idaho 4-18 (Salvatore 2-6, Charlston 1-2, Ballestero 1-3, Trujillo Fernandez 0-1, Schivo 0-2, Barr 0-4), Louisville 6-14 (Slaughter 3-3, J. Schimmel 2-4, Gibbs 1-2, Hammond 0-1, S. Schimmel 0-1, Deines 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Idaho 23 (Forde 8), Louisville 42 (S. Schimmel 11). Assists—Idaho 8 (Ballestero 5), Louisville 18 (S. Schimmel 5). Total Fouls—Idaho 10, Louisville 13. A—NA.
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