LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Shoni Schimmel scored 27 points and Sara Hammond added 22 as No. 5 Louisville beat Central Florida 75-56 on Wednesday night for its 10th straight victory.
Bria Smith added 10 points as the Cardinals (17-1, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) matched their best 18-game start since the 2008-09 season. This victory took work throughout as Louisville overcame a slow start to build a 23-point lead early in the second half, a cushion that came in handy after the determined Knights (8-8, 1-4) rallied to within 66-55 with 2½ minutes remaining.
Schimmel was just 8 of 22 from the field and 5 of 14 from 3-point range, but made several baskets including one from long range with 40 seconds left to seal the game. The senior guard overtook Jazz Covington for third place on the Cardinals' career scoring list.
Sara Djassi scored 28 points for the Knights, who shot 35 percent (19 of 55).
Louisville shot slightly better at 25 of 60 (42 percent), but a series of missed shots in the second half allowed UCF to get back in the game. But the Knights couldn't get closer than 11 and only got a Djassi free throw over the final 2:43.
The Cardinals outrebounded the Knights 46-34 and outscored them 32-20 in the paint to keep their hot streak alive.
Uneven as it looked in stretches, Louisville did enough good things at other times to extend its roll since losing to then-No. 7 Kentucky on Dec. 1.
Schimmel helped set the tone by continuing her recent offensive tear. Entering the game with a scoring average of nearly 22 points over her past five contests, she added her third straight 20-point effort.
Hammond contributed 9-of-13 shooting, while Asia Taylor grabbed nine rebounds as Louisville remained unbeaten in league play and has won by an average victory margin of 15 points.
The new year hasn't been as kind for UCF, which entered on a three-game slide and was playing its second contest without leading scorer Briahanna Jackson. On Friday morning the team announced that she had left the Knights for personal reasons, taking averages of 17.8 points and 3.14 steals with her.
Djassi eagerly picked up the slack against Louisville, scoring 12 of UCF's first 16 points to provide the last of several small leads before the Cardinals closed the half on a 27-10 run for a 42-26 advantage at the break.
After struggling to create inside scoring against UCF's quick, disruptive zone, Louisville worked the boards and started getting second-chance baskets with Hammond benefiting the most en route to 13 first-half points.
The Cardinals also grabbed the fast tempo away from the Knights thanks to reserve guard Monny Niamke, whose quickness and energy created more offensive movement. Her pinpoint backdoor passes were also key in a 10-0 run over the final 2:23 of the half as Louisville shot 15 of 30 from the field.
The Cardinals eventually stretched their lead to 57-34 midway through the second half before the Knights got within 59-46 thanks to a 12-2 run.