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Maryland reaches Final Four, tops Louisville 76-73

Louisville, Ky. (ap) — The Maryland Terrapins are headed back to the Final Four for the first time since they won it all back in 2006.

All-American Alyssa Thomas scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Maryland advanced to the Terrapins’ first Final Four since winning the 2006 national championship, holding off Louisville 76-73 Tuesday night in the Cardinals’ home arena.

The Terrapins (28-6) reached their fourth Final Four all-time. They pulled off their second straight upset in Louisville with this victory much harder in essentially a home game for the third-seeded Cardinals, with a crowd of 14,002 mostly in Louisville red.

Shoni Schimmel scored 31 points, missing a tying 3-pointer off the back rim just before the buzzer. 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.

Lexie Brown added 20 points for Maryland with her dad, former NBA player Dee, 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.

The fourth-seeded Terrapins will play undefeated Notre Dame on Sunday in Nashville in a national semifinal.

Even though Brenda Frese said she’d just picture 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 almost into the paint during timeouts.

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 a 12-point deficit, scoring eight points within the final 18 seconds. After Thomas hit one free throw with 3.5 seconds left, the Cardinals got the ball down the court and into Schimmel’s hands for an open look at the basket.

But her would-be tying 3 clanked off the back rim, and the Terrapins piled on top of each other on the court celebrating.

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 where they went 25 of 28 compared to Louisville (11 of 13) to offset a season high 25 turnovers.

This 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 going 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. They missed nine consecutive shots with four turnovers during the drought.

When the Cardinals got going, it was too late and not even Schimmel’s frenzied finish was enough.