NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Coach Brenda Frese and her Maryland Terrapins have had the toughest road to the Final Four, knocking off a No. 1 seed and then beating Louisville on its home court in a regional final.
Now the Terps can derail the highly anticipated showdown of unbeatens in the national title game.
Fourth-seeded Maryland plays Notre Dame on Sunday with both national semifinals featuring rematches. UConn beat Stanford in November, while Maryland let Notre Dame escape 87-83 on Jan. 27 in College Park.
The Terrapins are led by All-American Alyssa Thomas and reviving memories of their lone title in 2006 in their first Final Four since that year after beating Tennessee and Louisville. Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw said Wednesday winning in front of a crowd of 14,000 was impressive.
"They're very dangerous," McGraw said of the Terps. "I think they're a great team. They're a team that has really, really kind of hit their stride lately. I think they're playing great basketball, and when you have a great player like Alyssa Thomas who just really continues to lead them in so many areas, they're a tough match-up."
Notre Dame had Natalie Achonwa in the first game, but foul trouble limited the forward to 21 minutes and seven points. That might ease the Irish's concern after losing their top rebounder. The Irish shot 58.5 percent that night, but Thomas scored 29 points in helping the Terrapins come back from a 41-19 deficit and even taking a lead before Notre Dame pulled out the win to remain perfect on the season.
McGraw said she would have preferred Maryland didn't come back at all. The Notre Dame coach believes that game might have been a turning point for the Terps, especially for freshman guard Lexie Brown — daughter of former NBA dunk champ Dee Brown.
Frese credits that game, along with a loss to UConn, with giving her Terrapins the confidence they could play with anyone, a process helped by the two-week break after a loss to North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Stanford had to hold off North Carolina 74-65 on Tuesday night at Maples Pavilion to advance to Nashville.