LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Shoni Schimmel did her best to will Louisville into its second straight Final Four.
Louisville's senior leader shook off a frustrating second half to make three shots in the final 30 seconds to give the Cardinals a chance to force overtime in a game they seemed out of with 2 minutes left.
With her team trailing by 3, there was no doubt who would take the game-tying attempt with 3.5 seconds left, and Schimmel had a wide-open look from the right side. Her attempt was on line but bounced off the back of the rim as time expired, leaving the Cardinals with a 76-73 loss Tuesday night in the Louisville Regional final.
"We executed it perfectly," Schimmel said, choking up after scoring 31 points in her final collegiate game.
"Asia (Taylor) was going to get the ball and she got it. All she had to do was throw it to me, and I was actually kind of open. ... The ball just didn't go in. The one that didn't go in was the last shot that I wanted it, but it just didn't fall. Nothing you can do about that."
Schimmel's miss capped a 12-of-35 (34 percent) second half for Louisville, which shot 27 of 69 overall. Antonita Slaughter had 16 points and Taylor 12 for the Cardinals, who were cheered on by 14,002 enthusiastic fans as they hosted their first regional final.
"For our fans to come out like they did tonight was just absolutely amazing," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
Louisville (33-5) and Schimmel fed off that energy to rally from a 12-point deficit with 2:03 left.
The guard snapped an 0-for-7 stretch with a quick layup, Taylor followed with two free throws and a layup and Slaughter added two more from the line. Schimmel then let two fly from behind the arc 12 seconds apart to bring the Cardinals within 73-68.
"I had that mentality like I wasn't going to quit and I knew my teammates weren't going to quit," Schimmel said, "so we just did a great job of fighting back."
Jude Schimmel's steal led to two more free throws by Tia Gibbs before Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough made two from the line. Schimmel then delivered another 3-pointer, this one from NBA range, to bring the Cardinals within two.
All-American Alyssa Thomas made one of two from the line to put the Terrapins up by three and set the stage for Schimmel's final shot that just missed. It closed a memorable era for Louisville, which overcame injuries to make an amazing run to last spring's NCAA championship game before losing to Connecticut.
Thomas scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Maryland (28-6) advanced to the Terrapins' first Final Four since winning the 2006 national championship.
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.
Everything seemed to click in the first half for the Cardinals, who led 36-32 at the break behind fierce defense that forced Maryland into 15 of its season-high 25 turnovers. Louisville converted those mistakes into 14 points and a huge dose of momentum entering the break.
Slaughter's 3-pointer put Louisville up by seven before the Terrapins rallied with an 18-4 run including 10 straight points for a 52-45 lead. Slaughter's basket with 7:34 left snapped a seven-minute scoreless stretch featuring nine straight misses and four turnovers.
"We got stuck there on 45 (points) for about five or six minutes and just could not get a shot to go," Walz said.
When the Cardinals got going, it was too late and not even Schimmel's frenzied finish was enough.
"I can't hang my head on that," Schimmel said. "I don't think any of us should because we fought, we were down 12 with two minutes to go. Who comes back from that?
"We almost did, and I'm proud of my teammates and I'm thankful for them."