Less than 12 hours after getting back to College Park following a 76-73 victory over Louisville to advance to the Final Four, Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese participated in a teleconference with the three other coaches left in NCAA tournament and said for her that triumph ranks among the most satisfying of her career.
The fourth-seeded Terrapins won the Louisville Region championship by opening a double-digit lead with two minutes to play and then holding off a furious rally in front of 14,002 at KFC Yum! Center, where the Cardinals have lost just one other time this season. That was to undefeated Connecticut, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament an eight-time national champion.
“We still haven’t come down from last night’s high,” Frese said. “Just an incredible resiliency, toughness from our team to be able to go into Louisville’s home court and be able to get a win and just an incredible environment. The game for me personally ranks right up there all time as probably one of my favorite to be able to coach in in my career.”
Maryland (28-6) advances to its fifth national semifinals and second under Frese to play undefeated Notre Dame, which is the No. 1 seed out of the South Bend Region, Sunday in Nashville. The Terrapins lost to Notre Dame, 87-83, earlier this season at Comcast Center in a game in which they erased a 22-point deficit to take a 46-45 lead before falling short.
Senior forward Alyssa Thomas had 29 points and 12 rebounds against the Fighting Irish, who will be without third leading scorer Natalie Achonwa for the Final Four. The senior forward tore the ACL in her left knee in Notre Dame’s 88-69 victory over Baylor in the round of eight.
Thomas was named to the Wooden all-American team this afternoon after being named first-team Associated Press all-American and USBWA all-American. Thomas is Maryland’s career scoring leader, men or women, and needs one rebound to pass Crystal Langhorne for first all-time in that category.
Maryland is the lowest remaining seed left in the NCAA tournament. No. 2 seed Stanford plays the Huskies in the second national semifinal.
“Expectations are high with Notre Dame and U-Conn. for a reason,” Frese said. “They’ve backed it up all season long with their undefeated record. But we just want to be true to who we are and continue to keep fighting and battling and scrapping and see where it takes us.”