The Terps survived a scare against the Louisville Cardinals, winning their match-up 76-73 to advance to the final four.
Alyssa Thomas followed up her 33 point performance hitting her first shot of the game to put the Terps up 2-0 right out of the gate, followed by a three by Katie Rutan to extend the lead to five early on. The Terps looked poised early on while the Cardinals looked a bit rattled, much like the start of their sweet sixteen match-up against Tennessee.
Rutan would prove to be the hot hand in the first four minutes with two three-points baskets to pace the way for an early 9-4 lead, but the Cards responded with a big three of their own closing the gap to two. The pace of play was high-flying with the teams combining for 16 points in the first four minutes of the game, providing for exciting action.
The Cards didn't back down early, however, firing a mid-range and two three-point shots through the hoop to take a 15-11 lead, forcing a Brenda Freese timeout. The Schimmel sisters for the Cardinals got hot early, and the Terps had a tough time stopping them from the floor. The Terps responded with a bucket from Thomas on an offensive rebound and a big three from Lexi Brown, retaking the lead 16-15 heading into the final ten minutes of the first half.
The play got a little sloppy from there with missed baskets underneath for both teams and a technical foul on Louisville, allowing Maryland to retake the lead on a pair of Lexi Brown free throws. From there, the Terps rattled off a couple of buckets, including a not-so-surprising Alyssa Thomas drive and score, giving her seven points and five rebounds with a lot of time remaining in the game to accomplish yet another double-double.
The Cards proved again why they are in this position, battling back to trim the deficit to one with two transition buckets and would take the lead on yet another long three-pointer. The Terps set up the 7-0 run with six turnovers in seven possessions. Rutan hit her third three of the game to retake the lead 25-24 with just over four minutes left and with the shot clock running down, Lexi Brown committed a foul giving the Cards another fresh shot clock to work with heading into the under-4 media timeout.
The Cards came out of the timeout with a long two to take the lead again but Alyssa Thomas would not be denied and hit her runner to retake the lead. A pair of free throws ave the Cards another lead but Rutan couldn't miss and hit yet another three for a 30-28 lead, followed with a bucket to tie it for the Cards.
The Terps ended the half on a very sloppy note with turnovers galore, leading to two Cards buckets to take a 36-32 lead into the halftime break. On their home court, the Cards were halfway to advancing to the final four.
Out of the halftime break, Alyssa Thomas talked saying that the team had to limit their turnovers. The team committed 15 in the first half. Louisville hit their first shot of the half to extend the lead to six but Brown followed it up with a lay-in to cut the deficit back to four. The teams would each of their first two shots of the half, making it a 41-36 game after a minute.
After a barrage of shots from the Cards, the Terps responded to cut the deficit to one following a pair of free throws from Laurin Mincy, making the score 41-40. Frese drew up a full-court press to disrupt the Cards and it worked to perfection, forcing a turnover but Lexi Brown would give it back on a botched lay-up.
Back-and-forth could be the label of the first portion of the second half as both team traded baskets, resulting in a 43-42 Louisville lead at the under-16 media timeout. Alyssa Thomas came out of that timeout and did what she has done time and time again, hitting a big shot to retake the lead for the Terps. The Terps began to go into attack mode from there and Lexi Brown followed through, drawing a foul to head to the line, hitting borth shots to extend the lead to three.
The usual duo of Alyssa Thomas and Lexi Brown stepped up when needed in this game, but the play of Katie Rutan and her four threes in the first half helped keep the Terps in it so they could make a run to take their five point lead with just under 12 minutes remaining.
After a bucket by DeVaughn, the Cards called a timeout as they watched their four point halftime lead turn into a seven point deficit, trailing 52-45. Both teams were turnover prone throughout the entire game, with 17 for the Terps and 15 for the Cards in 30 minutes of action. After a bucket from Thomas, the Terps were then on a 20-4 run since being down 41-34.
Once again, sloppy play plagued both squads for a portion in the waning minutes, but Maryland still held a nine point lead, 58-49, with five minutes remaining. After a bucket by the Cards, Frese called a timeout to settle the team down with 4:50 separating them from a final four trip.
With the Cards gaining a little bit of momentum, Alyssa Thomas forced a turnover and turned that into points, giving the Terps a 62-54 lead with under three minutes remaining. With the Cards in full-court press mode, Frese called a timeout to ensure a turnover would not occur. The Terps hit two free throws to extend the lead to 10 and forced another turnover by the Cards to get the ball back with two minutes remaining. Mincy was fouled underneath and hit both free throws to give the Terps a 66-54 lead. The Cards would trim that lead to eight soon thereafter, however. The Terps would turn it over on the ensuing possession, giving hope to the Cards in a time they needed it.
With 1:20 left in the game, the Cards scored yet again, trimming what was a 12 point lead to just six. The Terps avoided disaster after turning the ball over yet again, but the Cards settled for a long three and the Terps got the rebound. Lexi Brown went to the line with 1:06 remaining and hit both to make it a 68-60 lead. The Cards couldn't respond and Alyssa Thomas went to the line yet again to ice the game. Thomas hit both, and the lead was 10.
The Cards would not go down without a fight, scoring five quick points to trim the deficit to five with 30 seconds left. The Cards would get within three, 76-73, but their final shot would fall just short, and the Terps survived to advance to the final four.
Alyssa Thomas was the true catalyst for the Terps in this tournament, and she proved valuable once again with yet another double-double.
The Terps will play Notre Dame in the final four, providing their stiffest test of the entire tournament.