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.