ST. LOUIS (AP)—Angel McCoughtry and Louisville played the second half as if they belonged in their first Final Four.
McCoughtry scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds, helping Louisville crawl out of an early hole to beat Oklahoma 61-59 in the national semifinals Sunday night and end Courtney Paris’ stellar career.
Down 12 points at halftime, Louisville got back into the game with a 15-1 run while the Sooners’ shooting went south—just 26.9 percent in the second half. Still, Oklahoma had a chance to win it in the final seconds with Nyeshia Stevenson’s good look on a 3-point attempt, but it rattled out.
“We have not one high school All-American on this team, but these guys have worked so hard,” McCoughtry said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Keshia Hines added 10 rebounds and nine points for the Cardinals (34-4), who’ll face unbeaten and top-ranked Connecticut or Stanford in Tuesday’s final.
The four-time All-American Paris had promised to pay back the cost of her four-year scholarship if the Sooners failed to win the title. She had 14 points and 16 rebounds, and left the court in tears after exchanging hugs with McCoughtry and huddling with her team for a final time.
Ashley Paris, Courtney’s twin sister, had 16 points and seven rebounds for Oklahoma.
Louisville looked nervous while enduring an awful first half. The Cardinals fell behind 16-2 after 7 1/2 minutes and finished the half down by 12 after season-worst 22-percent field-goal shooting.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz challenged McCoughtry at halftime.
“I told her she was awful,” Walz said. “She came out in the second half and played like an All-American.”
The Cardinals took their first lead on a drive by McCoughtry with about 15 minutes to go. Oklahoma missed nine of its first 10 shots, and never was able to regain control.
“We came out too relaxed, and Louisville did a good job taking advantage of that,” Courtney Paris said.
McCoughtry, who averages 23.2 points, missed all seven of her first-half shots, including an air ball, and went without a point for more than 16 minutes.
“No one expected us to be here,” Walz said. “Now we’re playing on Tuesday.”