NCAA Elite Eight: Cards Fly into Final Four
Louisville's Desiree' Byrd had big role in upset
Louisville's Desiree' Byrd had big role in upset
Posted Mar 30, 2009

To paraphrase Charles Barkley, the Maryland Terrapins won't die--you have to kill them. That's just what the Louisville Cardinals did in bruising their way to their first-ever Final Four appearance.

The key for the Cards was not that their Big Two of Candyce Bingham and Angel McCoughtry was measurably better than Maryland's Big Two of Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman. Rather, Louisville got significant contributions from its bench role players and Maryland did not.

The Cards never got complacent despite significant leads through much of the game, but also never panicked when Maryland blitzed them with a scoring run. The Cards hit their free throws, hit momentum-altering shots when they needed to, and forced key turnovers to finally force Maryland into panic mode.

The first key to the win for Louisville is that they controlled the boards in the first half, in particular hurting the Terps on the offensive glass. Getting second and third attempts enabled them to get just a tiny bit of breathing room.

The second key was the way coach Jeff Walz defended Coleman. He wisely used his press on a very selective basis, instead dropping most of his defenders into the lane to stop Maryland's penetration. This meant that Coleman got few easy looks and was stopped in her tracks more than once by physical defense. She twice tried to buy fouls on drives and got no sale from the officials.

The third key was that Louisville hit just enough perimeter shots to force Maryland to guard them, opening up the middle to penetration. Even when the jumpers stopped falling and Maryland made a run, Louisville stayed ahead thanks to their hustle.

Maryland's casual approach to handling the ball really came back to haunt them. Though they turned the ball over 21 times, most of them were either unforced errors or lazy passes thrown into the teeth of the defense.

Despite all that, Maryland was within three points with seconds left in the first half, thanks to a ridiculously tough three that Toliver sank in the corner. McCoughtry hit a jumper off the dribble as the buzzer sounded to make the half-time margin five and give the Cardinals a bit more momentum.

It didn't help Maryland's cause that they missed five of their seven free-throw attempts in the half. Of course, Louisville fouled Maryland's poorest shooters in Lynetta Kizer and Dee Liles.

Up to the point where McCoughtry hit buzzer beater at the end of the first half, she had struggled from the field, missing nine of her first 13 shots. Apparently, she found her stroke in the locker room, as she kept Maryland at bay in the second half by nailing shot after shot off the dribble as the Terps kept pushing her out of the lane.

That nullified Coleman's inspired comeback. Coleman had been held to just two points in the first half, but when she launched a run in the second, McCoughtry quickly pushed Louisville's lead back up to 10.

Louisville's Deseree' Byrd and Candyce Bingham defend Maryland's Marissa Coleman.
Louisville's Deseree' Byrd (50) and Candyce Bingham (13) defend as Maryland's Marissa Coleman (25) shoots during the first half of a women's NCAA college basketball tournament regional championship game in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, March 30, 2009. Tough Louisville team defense held Coleman, who set a tournament record for points scored in a game two nights ago, to just two points in the opening half. Though she came back to score 16 in the second stanza, the Cardinals were able to quash each Terps' rally.

The Terps had their chances to get back into the game as the Cards went cold for a couple of minutes, but gaffes like Toliver fumbling the ball out of bounds and an out-of-control charge by Kizer short-circuited each attempt to get something going.

Toliver stuck a three to cut the lead to nine, but key baskets from Louisville reserve Keshia Hines kept the pressure on Maryland. With under eight minutes to go, the Terps had a chance to cut into an 11-point lead. Anjale Barrett missed a shot, Louisville's Monique Reid grabbed an offensive rebound off a McCoughtry miss, and reserve Becky Burke drained a huge three to give Louisville a 58-44 lead with seven minutes to go.

That gave Maryland a huge mountain to climb, though they did manage to cut the lead to 60-52 with five minutes left. Once again, Louisville stalled the Terps' comeback attempt, as Bingham scored inside, and then Burke came up with an offensive rebound and Deseree' Byrd hit McCoughtry for the latter's only trey of the game.

Maryland had one last chance. Down 67-54, Kizer came up with a huge block and rebound. She then threw a pass way over the head of Toliver, and it was all over.

Byrd, playing out of position at the point, was brilliant, taking advantage of the Terps' efforts to constrain McCoughtry, by putting up 17 points and dishing out nine assists, outplaying the more hyped Toliver.

The Cards held a 24-0 edge in bench points, making it much easier for Louisville to key in on Toliver and Coleman. Louisville scored off of hustle plays all night, holding a 28-9 edge in points off turnovers and 14-8 advantage in second-chance points.

Regional MVP McCoughtry had 21 points (on 25 shots!) and 13 rebounds, while Bingham had 15 points and six boards.

Maryland's Marissa Coleman and Demauria Liles attempt to defend Louisville's Angel McCoughtry.
Louisville's Angel McCoughtry, right, is pressured by Maryland's Marissa Coleman (25) and Demauria Liles (13) during the second half of a women's NCAA college basketball tournament regional championship game in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, March 30, 2009. McCoughtry struggled from the field in the opening half, but found her stroke in the second stanza to finish with 21 points and 13 boards.

Simply put, Louisville had the mental toughness not only to withstand but to dominate a team with some lethal scorers--the Cards only got stronger as the game went on. It would not be the least bit surprising to see them march into the finals.

For the Terps, it's the end of an era, as the last of their players who won the national title in 2006 are now gone, and the remaining talent is certainly not up to the level of Coleman and Toliver.

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