LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The final three seconds felt like forever for the Maryland Terrapins.
Alyssa Thomas could only watch from her back as Shoni Schimmel’s potential game-tying three-pointer flew to the basket before clanging off the back rim, setting off a celebration by the Terrapins.
Maryland is headed back to the Women’s Final Four for the first time since it won the NCAA title in 2006. The Terrapins held off Louisville 76-73 Tuesday night before 14,002 at the Cardinals’ home arena.
“She had hit back-to-back, crazy, wild clutch shots,” Lexie Brown said of Schimmel, Louisville’s standout senior. “So for her, it was a great look and all I could do was pray that it didn’t go in.”
Thomas scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Maryland (28-6), which will play Notre Dame (36-0) in a national-semifinal game Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
Notre Dame will be without forward Natalie Achonwa, who injured her left knee in Monday’s regional-semifinal game, in the Final Four. She is third on the Fighting Irish in scoring at 14.9 points per game and first in rebounding at 7.7 per game.
Maryland had been ahead by 12 points with 2:03 left when Louisville went on a scoring binge. Terrapins coach Brenda Frese took a timeout after Thomas, her All-American, made one of two free throws with 3.5 seconds left. Frese let her players decide whether to foul or play defense.
The Terrapins chose to double-team Schimmel and tried to get a hand up.
“Obviously, it paid off for us,” Frese said.
Schimmel finished with 31 points, with the final shot of her college career a miss.
“It 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 consecutive Final Four, with the Cardinals’ season ending shy of the national-championship game they lost a year ago to Connecticut.
“It’s no question our goal was to get to Nashville, and unfortunately we fell a game short,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
Brown added 20 points for Maryland with her father, former NBA player Dee, in the stands.
An assistant coach with the NBA Sacramento Kings, Brown got the night off to watch his daughter play.
Katie Rutan added 12 points, all on three-pointers.
As for the Final Four, Thomas said, “Oh, man, something that I’ve been wanting for four years, but we’re not done yet. We still got two more games and hopefully get this national championship.”