LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It took Sheryl Swoopes only 36 seconds to make her first decision as a head coach.
Swoopes, one of best players in the history of women's basketball, called timeout down 4-0 in her coaching debut after No. 5 Louisville turned steals on Loyola of Chicago's first two possessions into easy layups.
"This was a big environment, a big atmosphere," Swoopes said of the 7,511-person crowd, noting her players usually play in front of a few hundred. "The first thing I said to them was, `Just relax. We knew this was coming. They're not throwing anything at us we didn't expect."
The Ramblers regrouped out of the timeout, scoring on their next two possessions, and trailed just 15-9 after five minutes. But the pressure from last year's national title runner-up didn't let up as Loyola (0-1) fell 101-54 in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament on Saturday night.
Louisville (1-0) outscored Loyola 21-5 during a 7:40 stretch midway through the first half that gave the Cardinals a 36-14 advantage with 7:06 remaining in the half. Loyola trailed 54-23 at halftime.
Sophomore guard Taylor Johnson led the Ramblers with 18 points. Katie Faught added 11 points and Troy Hambric had seven points and 12 rebounds.
Coaching until the end, Swoopes rubbed the head of Tiana Karoulus, consoling her freshman after she fouled out in with 1:57 remaining.
"It's a learning experience," Swoopes said. "A game like this, it would be real easy not only for our players to quit and give up, but it would have been real easy for me to sit down and say this game is over with. But that's not the type of player I was."
Loyola missed five players due to injury, including junior forward Simone Law, a first team All-Horizon League selection last season who averaged 17.8 points a game last year.
Swoopes scored a Final Four record 47 points in 1993 NCAA championship game to lead Texas Tech to an 84-82 victory over Ohio State. A three-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time WNBA champion, she ended her playing career in 2011, and spent last season as a TV analyst for Texas Tech women's games. She was hired in April with no coaching experience.
Swoopes said the biggest challenge in her transition from player to coach is learning to be patient, knowing her players won't always see a play develop the same way she did on the court.
Showing she's still a fan favorite, Swoopes signed an autograph on the hat of a 7-year-old Louisville fan while walking to the locker room after the game.
In addition to having a new coach, Loyola also enters a new league. After 27 seasons as a charter member of the Horizon League, the Ramblers move to the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Swoopes inherits four starters and nine letterwinners from last year's 17-15 squad, Loyola's winningest season season since 1988-89.
"She's having fun doing what she's doing," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of Swoopes. "I was very impressed with how hard her girls played."
Bria Smith led Louisville with 16 points. Sara Hammond, one of six Louisville players to score in double figures, had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the season opener for both teams.
Shoni Schimmel, who scored 11 points, became Louisville's all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 272.
Associated Press freelance writer J.J. Hysell contributed to this report.