Louisville advances

McCoughtry leads Cardinals over Baylor, 56-39

Iowa State edges Mich. State, 69-68

March 29, 2009|By From Sun news services

Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham remembered the crushing feeling they had in the locker room last year after Louisville blew a huge lead and lost in the NCAA tournament.

This time, the Cardinals gathered at midcourt to celebrate with a few screams of joy after the horn.

McCoughtry (St. Frances) had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Bingham sparked the decisive second-half run to help the Cardinals beat Baylor, 56-39, on Saturday, sending them to the first regional championship game in school history.

Bingham had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Cardinals (32-4), the No. 3 seed in the Raleigh Regional. That included a pair of critical three-pointers during Louisville's 12-0 spurt midway through the half that finally blunted a gritty performance by the second-seeded Bears (29-6).

Louisville, which closed the game on an 18-2 run, advanced to Monday night's regional final to face No. 1 seed Maryland, which beat Vanderbilt later Saturday. It will be an emotional matchup for second-year Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who spent five years as an assistant at Maryland and was part of the Terrapins' 2006 national championship team.

"As excited as I am, I'm even more excited for these kids because we work them hard, I'm telling you," Walz said. "We have got to be the tougher team on the floor. The first six minutes of the second half, we weren't. They got loose balls; they beat us down the floor in transition. After we got that straightened out, I thought we started to play the way we needed to play."

For McCoughtry, who shot just 10-for-28 but had five assists and played all 40 minutes, the motivation was simple.

"We are not going to go back in that locker room and have that feeling again," she said. "Me and Candyce put the team on our backs because we know how it feels."

With the Cardinals leading 38-37, Bingham took a feed from McCoughtry and buried a three-pointer from the left corner with 6:53 to play.

On the next possession, Deseree Byrd drove, and her shot was blocked by Kelli Griffin from behind. But she controlled the rebound and stuck it back in.

Iowa State 69, Michigan State 68:: Alison Lacey capped a furious finish for the Cyclones that sent them into the regional finals for just the second time in school history.

Lacey hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with 23 seconds remaining and fourth seed Iowa State scored the final eight points in a victory over the ninth-seeded Spartans in the Berkeley Regional.

With a comeback for the ages, this season's Cyclones squad joins the 1998-99 version that was honored this year as the only ones to go this far in the women's tournament.

It appeared as if the run were destined to end when Michigan State (22-11) went ahead 68-61 on Aisha Jefferson's jumper with 1:26 left that gave the Spartans a 68-61 lead.

Nicky Wieben started the comeback with her only basket of the game on a put-back, and the Cyclones (27-8) turned up the defensive pressure. A steal by Kelsey Bolte in the backcourt led to Heather Ezell's banked-in three-pointer that cut the lead to 68-66 with a minute to go.

Lykendra Johnson then turned the ball over in the backcourt again for Michigan State, setting up Lacey's heroics.

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