Cards headed to first Final Four

No. 3 Louisville (33-4) is headed to the Final Four in St. Louis after downing No. 1 seed Maryland 77-60 in the Raleigh Regional finals Monday night.

In Jeff Walz' second season as the head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals are headed to their first Final Four.

Walz, a former assistant at Maryland, led his team to a commanding 77-60 win over the No. 1 seeded Terps Monday night in the Raleigh Regional finals.

Louisville led from start to finish, then pulled away late in the second half for an easy win on their way to St. Louis. The Cardinals did it with suffocating defense, holding the high-scoring Terrapins to just 38 percent shooting, while forcing 21 turnovers.

The Cardinals held Marissa Coleman in check – clearly the key of Walz' defensive game-plan. Coleman scored 42 points in Maryland's Regional Semifinal victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday but managed only 18 against McCoughtry and the Cardinals. Coleman managed only 12 shots against the Cardinals. Louisville also held high scoring guard Kristi Toliver to 14 points – four below her season's average.

"We guarded Maryland as well as anybody has guarded Maryland," Walz said. "We came out and defended the way we had to defend."

Louisville won with defense against
high-scoring Maryland.

As she has most of her career, Angel McCoughtry led Louisville with 21 points and 14 rebounds. The Cards All-American forward struggled with her shooting, hitting just 9 of 24 shots, including only 1 of 5 from long range but played a big role defending Coleman.

McCoughtry had plenty of help from her teammates. Candyce Bingham fought through foul trouble to score 15 points. She also had six rebounds and three assists. Sophomore point guard Deseree Byrd finished with 17 points and 9 assists, while hitting 7 of 8 free throws. And freshman guard Becky Burke added two three's to finish with 10 points.

"We did it," McCoughtry said. "We didn't get any respect but we believed in this coaching staff."

Louisville didn't seem to have problems getting open shots, including several point blank layups, against Maryland. The Cardinals took advantage of their open looks, making 29 of 65 (44.6 percent). Louisville also made 15 of 19 free throws.

The Cardinals started strong, jumping out to an early 9-2 lead. Though Maryland rallied to tie the game at 11 with 13 minutes left in the first half, the Cardinals never trailed in the game.

Ahead 30-25 at the break, Louisville extended their lead to 44-31 five minutes into the final period. That 14-6 run out of the locker room was fueled by Byrd and freshman Monique Reid. Byrd hit three jump shots and added a pair of free throws and Reid connected on two layups.

Maryland cut Louisville's lead to eight at 60-52 with five minutes remaining but couldn't get any closer as the Cardinals two seniors – Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham – extended the lead to 67-52 over the next two mintues.

Bingham connected on a layup to put Louisville ahead 62-52 at 4:40 before McCoughtry connected on her only three-pointer of the game for a 65-52 lead with 3:29. Bingham added another chip shot to give Louisville a 67-52 advantage with 3:04.

That was game, set, match. Louisville made all eight of its free throws in the final two minutes to ice the game. Becky Burke made four free throws, while Bryd and McCoughtry each made two.

The Cardinals are the only the fourth Big East team to reach a Final Four, joining UConn, Rutgers and Notre Dame.

Louisville will face either Oklahoma or Purdue in the national semifinals Sunday night in St. Louis.

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