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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Maryland Terrapins took down the top seed to reach the Louisville Regional final, then knocked off the home team in its own arena before the sixth-largest crowd ever at this point of the NCAA tournament.
Now they want more.
"We'll just try to fly under the radar and just be who we are," coach Brenda Frese said after Maryland held off Louisville 76-73 Tuesday night. The Terps' latest upset sent them to their first Final Four since they won the national championship in 2006.
"Nobody expected us to be able to walk in here in front of 15,000-plus fans to be able to pull off this upset. It's easy to say that a team should win on their home court, but this team just keeps believing and they just keep staying grounded and we'll just continue to be true to ourselves."
All-American Alyssa Thomas scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Maryland (28-6), which reached the school's fourth Final Four. The Terrapins' second straight upset in Louisville was essentially a home game for the third-seeded Cardinals, and the crowd, which actually numbered 14,002, was mostly in Louisville red.
Though Frese said she pictured all the red inside the KFC Yum! Center as Maryland faithful no matter how loud they screamed, the Terrapins moved their bench onto the floor during timeouts.
The Cardinals' fans really turned up the volume with 2:03 left when Louisville went on a furious rally after Maryland had been up 12.
Frese even took a timeout after Thomas, her All-American, hit only one of two free throws with 3.5 seconds left. Given the choice by Frese whether to foul or play defense, the Terrapins chose to double-team Shoni Schimmel and it paid off when the final shot of the Louisville star's career clanged off the back rim.
The fourth-seeded Terrapins will play undefeated Notre Dame on Sunday in Nashville in a national semifinal.
"Oh man, something that I've been wanting for four years, but we're not done yet," Thomas said. "We still got two more games and hopefully get this national championship."
Schimmel finished with 31 points.
"I was actually kind of open for me to take that shot," Schimmel said. "We perfected it, the ball just didn't go in. The one that didn't go in was the last shot I wanted. But it just didn't fall. Nothing much you can do about that."
Louisville (33-5) missed a chance for a second straight Final Four with the Cardinals' season ending shy of the national championship game they lost a year ago.
"It's no question, our goal was to get to Nashville, and unfortunately we fell a game short," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
Lexie Brown added 20 points for Maryland with her dad, former NBA player Dee Brown, in the stands. Now an assistant coach with the NBA's Sacramento Kings, he got the night off to watch his daughter play. Katie Rutan had 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
Antonita Slaughter added 16 points for Louisville and Asia Taylor had 12.
Schimmel went cold, missing seven straight shots at one point in the second half. Then the senior nearly brought Louisville back from the 12-point deficit, scoring eight points within the final 18 seconds. Walz noted the Cardinals missed at least six layups and had several shots go in and out. But he said they didn't quit, executing the final play to perfection except for the ball going through the net.
"Unfortunately, for us it wasn't our night," he said.
Maryland outshot Louisville 45.8 percent to 34.3 percent and had a 38-36 edge on the boards. The Terrapins really took control at the free throw line, offsetting a season-high 25 turnovers by going 25 of 28 while Louisville was 11 of 13.
The game featured five ties and 12 lead changes, and Maryland took control by opening the second half with a 22-9 spurt, and the Terrapins capped that with 12 straight points to go up 54-45 midway through the half. Thomas' jumper with 13:47 put Maryland ahead to stay.
Louisville led 36-32 at halftime and used an 11-2 run that spanned the end of the first half and the opening minute of the second to take its biggest lead at 41-34 on a 3-pointer by Slaughter. Then the Cardinals went cold for more than 7 minutes, missing nine straight shots with four turnovers.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker