GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Syracuse attacked Louisville from the start, had the composure to make big plays late in a tight game and even got a boost from a senior's career-best performance off the bench.
Now the No. 17 Orange are headed to the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference women's tournament.
Cornelia Fondren matched her career high of 18 points and set a career high with 13 rebounds to help Syracuse beat No. 7 Louisville 80-75 in the semifinals Saturday, earning the program's third ever appearance in a conference tournament championship game.
Alexis Peterson scored 19 points to lead the third-seeded Orange (25-6), who outlasted the second-seeded Cardinals (25-7) to earn a date with No. 2 Notre Dame on Sunday.
''If we play hard, no one can beat us,'' Fondren said. ''Sorry to say, but if we compete at a high level, no one can stop us. You never know who's going to have a big game. You've seen that throughout the year. People dominate games and you never know who might show up at any point.''
She illustrated that point herself. The 5-foot-8 senior and two-year starter came in averaging 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds off the bench and was shooting 60 percent at the foul line, but knocked down two critical free throws with 18.1 seconds left for a 78-75 lead.
''That's one thing I just try to tell her: If you can just play your role and be a star in your role and come off the bench and play any position that I put you in for, we're going to be successful,'' coach Quintin Hillsman said. ''That's what she does. She comes in every night and she plays tough.''
Syracuse's other two appearances in conference tournament finals came when it won the 1985 Big East title, then lost in the 1988 Big East final, according to STATS. The Orange lost in the quarterfinals two years ago in their first ACC tournament, then in last season's second round.
But they got plenty of contributions to get through this one. After Briahanna Jackson missed a tying 3-pointer, senior Brianna Butler - who battled foul trouble but came up with two huge late-game shots - hit clinching free throws with 5.5 seconds left.
ACC player of the year Myisha Hines-Allen had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Louisville, which was in a conference semifinal for the fourth straight season dating to its time in the Big East.
But the Cardinals fell behind by 12 in the first half and spent much of the day trying to catch up, though the teams entered the final quarter tied at 62.
''They attacked us from the get-go,'' Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. ''Unfortunately, we did not come out and play like I thought we would. We did not follow a scouting report, and unfortunately, we're not good enough to just come out and play without following a scout.''
Syracuse: Syracuse scored 21 points off turnovers. . The Orange made just 6 of 27 3-pointers (22 percent). . Syracuse had four players in double figures and 19 second-chance points.
Louisville: Freshman Asia Durr scored a season-high 23 points. . No. 2 scorer Mariya Moore went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting a day after a rough performance against Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals. . Louisville committed 16 turnovers. ... Jackson scored 18.
Butler, Syracuse's No. 2 scorer at 14.5 points, picked up her fourth foul with 6:11 left in the third quarter. But she came up big late, first by hitting a 3-pointer after Louisville had pushed to a 73-69 lead.
Then, after a pair of go-ahead free throws from Fondren, she hit a jumper to push the lead to 76-73 near the 2-minute mark. She finished with 12 points.
Syracuse plays No. 2 Notre Dame in Sunday's final.
Louisville will play in the NCAA Tournament.
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