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Warren lifts No. 9 Louisville over EKU 77-53

Louisville's Shoni Schimmel, right, shoots under pressure from Eastern Kentucky's Alex Jones during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Richmond, Ky., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. Louisville's Shoni Schimmel, right, shoots under pressure from Eastern Kentucky's Alex Jones during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Richmond, Ky., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
By Colin Fly
AP Sports Writer / November 17, 2011

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RICHMOND, Ky.—Cierra Warren scored 15 points to overcome Shoni Schimmel's tough shooting night in her debut to lead No. 9 Louisville to a 77-53 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Thursday night.

Schimmel finished with 12 points after going 5 of 20 from the field following a two-game suspension by the NCAA after she participated in a non-sanctioned three-on-three tournament this summer.

After struggling most of the first half, the sophomore point guard began distributing the ball to teammates and the Cardinals (2-1) finally found their stride despite also missing regulars Monique Reid (shoulder) and Tia Gibbs (back, foot).

Eastern Kentucky (0-2) hosted a top 10 team for the first time since No. 1 Tennessee in 1993. Carla Booth scored 14 points as the Lady Colonels fell to 0-31 when facing a top 25 opponent.

Louisville trailed for 14 minutes spanning the half before taking the lead for good when Schimmel hit a jumper to give Louisville a 42-41 lead.

Becky Burke's 3-pointer a little over two minute later gave the Cardinals their biggest lead to that point, 49-43, as the senior guard looked up and shrieked after her big basket.

The run was just getting started.

Booth committed a turnover on the other end, Bria Smith took a sharp pass from Schimmel and sliced in for a three-point play to put the Cardinals ahead 52-43 with 11:30 left and Louisville rolled from there.

Burke finished with 12 points.

Louisville has won four straight over Eastern Kentucky, which last beat the Cardinals in 1990 and haven't even faced a top 25 opponent in McBrayer Arena since hosting Georgia eight years ago.

Eastern Kentucky, which played an exhibition on Tuesday following its 66-61 season opening loss at Xavier on Saturday, led the Musketeers with under five minutes to play.

The Lady Colonels appeared poised for even bigger things early in this one, taking control and forcing the Cardinals into 12 first-half turnovers even with their floor leader back.

Louisville split its first two games without Schimmel, winning at Missouri State before losing to defending national champion No. 6 Texas A&M 76-58 in College Station on Tuesday.

Schimmel, who averaged 15.1 points a game as a freshman, scored her first basket just over two minutes in after a steal by Sara Hammond and hit a 3-pointer on her next attempt to give Louisville an early advantage, but the Lady Colonels took control when Marie Carpenter and Booth hit consecutive 3s as Schimmel went cold.

That's the way it would stay until her second-half jumper changed the momentum.