CRAWFORD | Schimmel Show begins stretch run with record 3-point performance
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — History alert. That's the best phrase I can think of. You're used to alerts by now. You get text alerts and winter weather alerts and school closing alerts. You get news alerts and who knows what else. So throw this one on the pile. History alert.
It's what I should've issued with about four home games left for Teddy Bridgewater. Get out and watch this kid, because your time is short. Same for Anthony Davis. Same for Angel McCoughtry and Peyton Siva. Stay tuned for the Russ Smith version. They're playing in front of us, but the things they are doing are historic in nature for their programs. You'll be glad you saw them.
If you weren't there, you should've been there Sunday to see Shoni Schimmel. She has five home games left for the University of Louisville women's basketball team. I'd suggest getting to one.
On Sunday against Memphis in the KFC Yum! Center, she delivered a school-record-tying eight three pointers. In a row. In the first half. She did it all in a span of 7:48. It helped that Memphis didn't much guard her, of course. It also helped that her teammates were astute enough to look for her. Of the eight threes, seven were off assists from teammates. The eighth came off an offensive rebound. She added a ninth, to break her own school record, early in the second half, then left the game with more than eight minutes to play and didn't return in an 88-61 romp for the No. 5-ranked Cardinals, who improved to a team-record 20-1.
If Angel McCoughtry sands at the center of women's basketball history in Louisville, Schimmel isn't far away. Her national profile preceded her here, through the "Off the Rez" documentary about her sports journey and that of her parents and sister, Jude, who also has become a pivotal player for the program and whose return from an ankle injury Sunday further bolstered the Cardinals. She has represented the program in international play and at a White House forum, and for countless fans at nearly every road venue the Cardinals visit.
And in her senior season, she is playing the best basketball of her career. She's averaging 18.1 points per game, shooting 41 percent from three-point range (75 of 183) and leads the team in assists with 79. On Sunday, she had 29 points on 10 of 16 shooting.
"I have been very impressed with how she has handled herself this entire year and how she has handled the basketball and her shot selection," U of L coach Jeff Walz said. "If she's not an All-American, I will be shocked. If you can tell me there are 10 better players then her in the country right now, I would like to see them."
Schimmel has always been an exciting player, but for every highlight-reel pass, there seemed to be one that a teammate didn't expect, or one that didn't work out. As a senior, she's still flashy, but she's much more efficient. Her shooting percentage is up. Her turnovers are down. She's gambling less, but scoring more.
"I think what excites me for her is she's scored this much before in the past but it's normally taken her 24 or 25 shots," Walz said. "She took 16 shots tonight. And I know she shot it extremely well, but there weren't many that were forced, that weren't in rhythm, and that she had to try and create. That was the same way at Houston and SMU. She's starting to let the game come to her."
She was 7-of-11 from three-point range two games ago at Houston. She followed that with a 9-for-12 performance from three on Sunday. She now is eight points away from becoming the school's No. 2 career scorer. She already holds the school record for three-point field goals. She's in the top five in steals, field goals made and should finish second on the school's all-time list for assists.
"It's a normal day for Shoni Schimmel," teammate Sara Hammond said. "We joke all the time, she's a big Steph Curry fan, and we call her Steph Curry all the time. That's what she does. Showtime Schimmel, she shows up and puts on a show for everybody. Watching her smile and making those shots. It is like being a fan, you're just out there thinking man how does she make those? I was joking with her saying I give her the ball I get an assist, she gives me the ball she gets an assist. It's give and take and it's helping us both. To be on this team with a person like her and her skill level and the way she shoots the ball I'm glad to be on this team and not on the other side. . . . I was hoping she would pull a Carmelo."
Schimmel couldn't help but smile when asked about her night, but she also had no good way of explaining it. Sometimes you get hot. It happened at Houston. It happened again against Memphis. Part of it is the team's ball movement is improving. She's getting the ball off passes in position to shoot, rather than having to put it on the ground to create her own shot.
She shrugged her shoulders more than once talking about it, though she did laugh when reminded that a time or two she put both hands up and screamed for someone to throw her the ball.
"Being wide open, I was like hey I'm open get me the ball. For them to get me the ball when I was open it just shows how much our team works together as a team, we aren't just individuals," she said. ". . . My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball so for me to do the easy part and just shoot, it felt pretty awesome. I was smiling a lot. . . . they just felt like they were going in. I knew in my mind, `That's a good shot.' So for me, I just tried to just keep that mindset throughout that time frame — they just kept going in."
It won't be so easy going forward. Walz knows that. He told Schimmel that at halftime Sunday.
"If told her, you wouldn't have gotten to seven if I were out there (playing), because I would have tackled you," Walz said.
The better teams on U of L's schedule will have Schimmel covered, will make her work harder. It's why Walz had his team play the final eight minutes of Sunday's game without her. He also was pleased with the way the rest of his team reacted to her hot streak, making sure it got her the ball.
U of L made 28 shots on Sunday. Of those, 21 came off an assist. He's been asking his team for better ball movement, and says he is getting it. He's been asking for better rebounding on the defensive end, and got it on Sunday, but in part because Memphis didn't miss many shots — shooting better than 50 percent. There are issues. And the American Athletic Conference isn't as tough as the old Big East was, though a trip to Rutgers is waiting for the next game, and two games against Connecticut still loom ahead.
"Coach is challenging us right now. Physically we're giving all the effort, but mentally we have to get there," said Hammond, who finished with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds Sunday. "Like if Shoni scores two times in a row, let's recognize that and make the effort to get her the ball again because obviously it's working. Let's not get away from what's successful. So it's starting to click with us. We're not where we need to be, but we're getting there. For me, personally, I'm so confident in Shoni the way she shoots the ball and gets to the rim, I'm looking for her every time, whether she's making her shots or not. But she was in the right spots at the right time for me tonight, and I'm glad she was."
Five games left at home. Probably a good idea to catch her before she's gone.
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