PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Jeff Walz and Louisville are one of those circled dates for almost all their opponents this season.
That's what happens when you reach the national championship game. So far, the Cardinals are embracing the challenge.
Shoni Schimmel scored 24 points, Asia Taylor added 19 and No. 5 Louisville rallied to beat Rutgers 80-71 on Tuesday night for its 14th straight victory.
"We're the Super Bowl game for most teams because they know beating us will help them get in the NCAA tournament," Walz said.
While most of the victories during their current winning streak came by double-digits, Louisville (21-1, 9-0 American Athletic Conference) had to rally for this win.
The Cardinals trailed 48-42 only 5 minutes into the second half before Schimmel and Sara Hammond took over. There was never any panic.
"We definitely have matured as a team going through our run last year," Schimmel said. "We learned a lot from it. For us, take it a basket at a time instead of trying to hit a home run shot."
Schimmel's 3-pointer started a 22-9 run over the next 8 minutes. Hammond followed with eight straight points, hitting a 3-pointer from the wing and then a three-point play. Bria Smith's three-point play with 9:21 left gave the Cardinals their first lead of the second half.
"We're definitely an inside-out team," Hammond said. "Shoni's been carrying us lately and it makes her life so much easier when we're scoring inside."
Schimmel's 3-pointer from the corner made it 64-57. Rutgers (15-5, 6-3) closed to 66-63 on Tyler Scaife's jumper with 4:53 left, but could get no closer.
"We're ranked fifth in the country and everyone is trying to beat us," Schimmel said. "Rutgers has to beat us once and we take that to heart."
Scaife, a freshman guard, led the Scarlet Knights with a season-high 25 points. Her previous best of 22 came against top-ranked Connecticut.
"She always seems to play well in the big games," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "She's definitely never afraid."
Rutgers was looking for its first victory over a top-five team since beating No. 1 UConn on Feb. 5, 2008. The Scarlet Knights have lost their last 20 games against top-five teams.
Schimmel had been on a roll from long range, making 16 of her last 23 3-pointers coming into the night -- including a school-record nine in a win over Memphis on Sunday. But she didn't have a great shooting game against the Scarlet Knights, going 4 for 13 from behind the arc.
Still she's hit 20 3s in her last three games, matching Iowa's Melissa Dixon for the most by any player over a three-game span this season, according to STATS.
Louisville jumped to a quick lead behind its senior guard, who scored the team's first eight points. Her first 3-pointer moved her into second place in the school's career scoring list behind Angel McCoughtry. Her 3-pointer with 11:23 left in the first half made it 21-15.
Then Scaife rallied the Scarlet Knights, scoring nine straight to bring Rutgers to 25-24 with 8 minutes left.
Alexis Burke's layup with 2:59 left in the half gave the Scarlet Knights their first lead since the opening basket of the game. They led 38-36 at the break.
Rutgers extended the advantage to 48-42 early in the second half before Louisville rallied.
"We just didn't execute when we needed to in the second half," Stringer said. "We had it right there and let it go."
The teams play again in Kentucky in late February. Both schools will be leaving the conference after this season with the Cardinals headed to the ACC while the Scarlet Knights are off to the Big Ten.
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