Maryland will keep dancing through the women’s NCAA Tournament after sneaking away with a 76-73 win over Louisville in the Elite Eight in front of the Cardinals’ home crowd.
Louisville’s head coach, Jeff Walz, a former assistant to Brenda Frese at Minnesota and then at Maryland, had not faced the Terps since their 2012 meeting in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland won that nail-biter 72-68 on their home floor. Louisville, the NCAA Tournament runner-up in 2013, hoped to return the favor on Tuesday night in front of their fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
Shoni Schimmel, a second team All-American guard this year, lived up to all the hype surrounding her final college game in front of her home fans. She led all players in scoring by a wide margin with 31 points.
Maryland’s senior guard Katie Rutan was instrumental in keeping Maryland in the game during the first half. She averaged only 7 points per game this season but scored 12 points in the game’s first 20 minutes on the strength of 4-6 shooting from three.
Alyssa Thomas and freshman point guard Lexie Brown took over the second half, though, and led the Terps to a lead that wound up being just a little too much for Louisville to overcome.
Schimmel’s scored her 31 points despite weathering a cold spell of more than seven minutes in the second half where she missed five straight shots and turned the ball over twice.
Unfortunately for Louisville, Thomas and Brown took advantage to outscore Louisville 22-9 in the first 12 minutes of the second half after Maryland faced a 4-point deficit at the break.
Not many freshmen are able to maintain their composure for 40 minutes in an NCAA Tournament game, and even fewer could do it while facing their opponents’ home crowd. Lexie Brown did.
Brown had trouble getting open looks at the basket, but she made up for that by getting to the foul line often, knocking down 9 of 10 free throws and scoring 20 points in the game.
Maryland (28-6) will face new ACC member Notre Dame (35-0) in the Final Four on Sunday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Notre Dame edged the Terps at Comcast Center in January in the two teams’ only meeting of the season. Maryland battled back from a 12-point halftime deficit to lose by just four points in that contest.
The Fighting Irish will be without starting forward Natalie Achonwa, who tore her left ACL in Monday night’s win over Baylor.
Achonwa had not been a huge factor for the team during the regular season or in the ACC Tournament, but she scored 20.5 points per game in the first four games of the NCAA Tournament, including 19 points against Baylor before she injured her knee.
In their first exhibition, Maryland held a 30-0 lead over Catholic. Holy Family came out shooting on Saturday and kept the game close for a while, making their first two attempts from beyond the arc and several circus shots in the paint.
But the Tigers from Holy Family never led. They trailed just 17-14 at the second media timeout, but Maryland extended that lead to 11 points at the next break, 17 at the Under-4 timeout, and 22 at halftime. A swarming defensive effort in the second half, mixed with Holy Family’s shots no longer finding their mark, allowed the No. 6 ranked Lady Terps to run away with a 99-44 victory.
Maryland’s regular season will begin on Friday when they go on the road to face South Florida.
Freshman Shatori Walker-Kimbrough played 16 minutes and proved to be one of the most athletic players Maryland has. She recorded two steals for herself in addition to helping force several others, grabbed five rebounds and trailed only Alyssa Thomas with 14 points.
After the game, Walker-Kimbrough spoke about the impact she had on the contest. “I just try to make an impact as soon as possible,” she said. Like coach said, make them feel uncomfortable and if they feel comfortable then we’re doing something wrong.”
Thomas recorded a double double in the exhibition with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
The only other Terp to score in double figures was freshman Lexie Brown; the No. 3 point guard recruit from this year’s freshman class according to ESPN HoopGurlz’s rankings. She scored 10 points and, along with Walker Kimbrough, drew high praise from head coach Brenda Frese after the game.
“We’re really active with our hands,” Frese said. “Especially when Shatori and Lexie are in, we get even more tips on balls in terms of how active they are with ball pressure.”
The Maryland women’s next game in Comcast will be on Sunday, November 10 at 2:00 p.m. against Loyola (MD).
The Terps would love to count their 110-34 victory over the Catholic Cardinals toward their final record. The team opened the game with a 30-0 run, then opened the second half with a nearly-as-impressive 19-0 run.
Catholic managed just 10 points in the first half as Maryland used a lot of full-court press during the early stages of the exhibition. Quick hands helped Maryland force a lot of turnovers throughout the game. The only complaint for the Terps is that they did get a little sloppy with the ball once the game was in hand. Still, they scored consistently throughout, 54 points in the first half and 56 in the second.
Redshirt Junior guard Laurin Mincy led the #5 ranked Terps with 15 points. Four other players scored double figures, including freshman center Brionna Jones and freshman guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
Jones, a local player, was named All-Met Player of the Year by the Baltimore Sun during her junior year at Aberdeen High School. She averaged a double-double that season. Despite tearing her right ACL during her senior year, she was still named the No. 55 overall recruit by ESPN in their HoopGurlz rankings.
Walker-Kimbrough is from Pennsylvania and played at Hopewell High School. ESPN’s No. 43 overall recruit, she was named Player of the Year after both her junior and senior seasons by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After her senior year, she was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the entire state of Pennsylvania.
Freshman forward A’Lexus Harrison got plenty of playing time in the second half against Catholic. Harrison started all four years at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore. She received All-Met recognition from the Baltimore Sun for three years, making their second team as a sophomore and first team in her final two seasons.
Guard Lexie Brown, the fourth and final freshman on this year’s squad, didn’t even seriously consider any other schools before committing to Maryland. She attended North Gwinnett High School roughly 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, GA. The No. 3 point guard and No. 15 overall recruit as ranked by ESPN, Brown was a McDonald’s All-American her senior year and will be a big part of the team’s future as two out of five seniors on the squad are guards.
The Lady Terps will play another exhibition on Saturday, November 2 against Holy Family at 2:00 p.m. at Comcast. Their regular season will open on the road at South Florida on Friday, November 8.