There would be no comeback for Maryland this time and Alyssa Thomas' stellar career came to an end.
The Terrapins, who were back in the Final Four for the first time since winning the national championship in 2006, had an early exit — falling to Notre Dame 87-61 on Sunday night.
The Irish beat the Terrapins playing Maryland's brand of basketball, outrebounding them in record fashion.
"They wanted it more," said Thomas, a two-time first team All-American. "They beat us at our own game."
Notre Dame contained Thomas, who scored 14 points and finished her career as the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
She had waited four years to make the Final Four and her only trip was a short one. Coach Brenda Frese took her out with 1:33 left and gave her star a long hug as she headed to the bench for the final time.
"I thanked her," Frese said. "It's a dream come true and she left every single thing she could on the floor. It's too early to think about life after her."
The two teams met in January and Maryland was able to rally from a 22-point first half deficit before falling by four points to the Irish. This time they trailed by 17 points at the break. Notre Dame wouldn't let them rally.
"They remembered what we did to them last time," freshman guard Lexie Brown said. "They were not going to take us lightly in the second half. We were a second half team and they know that. They just played harder than us."
Despite the disappointing loss, Frese said it was still a special season for the program.
"We're one of the last four teams to be able to play," she said. "When this tournament started nobody counted on us to make it to the Final Four."
The Terps upset top-seeded Tennessee and then beat Louisville on its home court in front of 14,000 fans. They just couldn't pull off another upset, not with the play of Kayla McBride and her Irish's determination on the glass.
McBride scored 28 points to lead Notre Dame, which outrebounded Maryland 50-21, including a 19-4 on the offensive end. It was the widest rebounding margin ever in a Final Four game shattering the previous mark of 19 set by Louisiana Tech in 1989. Maryland broke the national semifinals record for fewest rebounds in a game of 25 set by Minnesota in 2004.
"We thought the game would be won on the boards and I think it was," McGraw said. "To hold them to four offensive rebounds for the game was amazing. We did a great job boxing out and really limited their rebounds. Kayla McBride got us off to a phenomenal start."
She seemingly did whatever she wanted, shedding defenders with behind-the-back dribbles and quick cross-overs before scoring. She set the tone for Notre Dame and her Irish teammates followed her lead into Tuesday night's championship game.
"She was truly special," McGraw said. "She was having fun out there and that was the key. She was hitting shots from all over."
For the first 12 minutes Maryland was able to keep the game close with some hot shooting. They only trailed 23-21 before McBride and Notre Dame took control with a 10-0 run. McBride had the first five points hitting a layup and converting a nifty three-point play.
The Irish led by 17 at the half and wouldn't let Maryland rally. McBride made sure of it, scoring from all over the court. She had five straight points, including a 3-pointer and a pullup jumper that made it 59-37 with 15:46 left. The Terrapins couldn't get really any closer the rest of the way.
Frese was impressed by McBride.
"Her IQ, she can score the basketball. When she gets a clean look it's going in," Maryland's coach said. "I probably didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. She's at a really high level in terms of understanding the game."
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