LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville welcomed back Antonita Slaughter with a big cheer from the fans and a gritty defensive performance on the floor.
Shoni Schimmel led the No. 7 Cardinals with 21 points in a 64-45 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday, in Antonita Slaughter’s first game since recovering from a blood clot in her lung. The crowd of more than 8,000 gave her a warm hand.
“It almost brought a tear to my eye,” Slaughter said. “I was looking to make opportunities, what I was going to do with my life after college because life goes on after basketball. I was thinking of maybe broadcasting, whatever it may be. To have the doctor say that I’m good and healthy, I can pursue my dream and just play basketball, which is what I love.”
She played 16 minutes and had five points – all free throws — three rebounds and a steal.
Slaughter collapsed on the bench against Missouri State on Dec. 3. She was hospitalized for several days and needed blood thinners before returning to play.
After a slow start on Saturday, Louisville’s potent offense turned it up a notch to win its eighth straight. Schimmel went 5 of 11 from 3-point range, and Emmonnie Henderson added nine points and six rebounds.
“We had the same looks in the first half and we just couldn’t make them,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We did a great job defensively. At one time we’re 3 of 17 from the field and they’re 2 of 5. We did a great job of turning them over, getting them out of synch. We did a great job of trapping and causing chaos.”
Kayla Cook had a team-high 14 points for Cincinnati and Jeanise Randolph had 14 rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Monny Niamke made her first career start for Louisville (15-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference). She replaced Jude Schimmel, who suffered an ankle injury in practice.
Cincinnati (7-7, 0-3), playing its second straight game without injured leading scorer Dayeesha Hollins, was hampered by 27 turnovers.
“They continued with their press, forced us into 27 turnovers, some key turnovers to end the first half and also some key turnovers which really stretched the lead out the first three minutes of the second half,” Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott said. “I’m really proud that our players did not quit, did not quit one bit. Next time we play them at our place, we’ll hang with them.”
Louisville opened the game 0 for 9 and didn’t get its first basket until Schimmel’s 3-pointer with 15:45 left in the first half. The Cardinals shot an uncharacteristic 18 percent from the field in the first half.