Notre Dame will ride its premier win of the women’s basketball season into the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament after stunning No. 19 Florida State, 70-67, on the senior-dominated Seminoles’ senior day Sunday at the Tucker Center.
Powered by the sizzling shooting of freshman Sam Brunelle and the take-over, stretch-run performance of grad-student transfer Marta Sniezek, the Irish rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit for the victory.
Notre Dame (13-17, 8-10) matched its season best with its third straight win, all coming against teams that were ahead of the Irish in the ACC standings.
ND enters next week’s 15-school league tourney in Greensboro, N.C., as the No. 10 seed (Virginia took the head-to-head tiebreaker for No. 9) and will face No. 15 seed Pittsburgh (4-25, 1-17) at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Irish would have to win five games in five days — likely four by upset based on the seedings — to capture the title and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that goes with it.
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter against Florida State (22-7, 11-7), Sniezek put ND ahead for good, 68-66, with her driving layup at 45 seconds to go.
It broke the last of four ties to go with five lead changes in a tense-to-the-wire final period.
Brunelle scored 25 points and tied Alicia Ratay’s team record for made 3-pointers by a freshman, converting 7-of-11 to finish one off Sheila McMillen’s standard for triples by a player in any class in February 1998.
A repeatedly clutch Sniezek scored eight of her 10 points over the final 7:46 — each set of two either giving the Irish the lead or tying the game — to go with six assists against two turnovers and her 33rd drawn charge of the season.
Mikki Vaughn netted 12 points, shared game-high rebounding honors with seven and added a game-high three blocked shots in 25 minutes before fouling out at 2:04 to go.
Destinee Walker added 10 points for the Irish and Katlyn Gilbert nine.
Kiah Gillespie scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Seminoles, while fellow senior Nausia Woolfolk tallied 20 points to go with six boards.
After Sniezek’s final go-ahead bucket for the 68-66 count, Sammie Puisis missed a right-corner 3-pointer for FSU with 10 seconds left.
Sniezek snared the rebound.
The Seminoles then had to foul three times to push the Irish into the bonus before Walker made 1-of-2 at the line for a 69-66 score at five ticks remaining.
Gilbert was then whistled for a foul on Nicki Ekhomu’s running 3-point try at 1.5 seconds showing.
The FSU senior, a 74% free throw shooter, missed the first of her three attempts, though, before making the second and intentionally missing the third.
The Seminoles were called for a lane violation on that miss, though.
ND got the ball in the forecourt following a timeout.
Gilbert was fouled with 0.1 of a second remaining and made 1-of-2 tries for the final score.
The Irish — after also trailing by 10 in the second quarter before cutting that deficit to two late in the period — were down 41-30 at 6:50 remaining in the third before mounting another charge.
Brunelle’s right-wing 3-pointer just ahead of the quarter buzzer closed ND to within 52-50 heading into the fourth period.
Sniezek gave the Irish their first lead since early in the second quarter when she went coast-to-coast for a left-hand layup at 7:46 remaining for a 55-54 count.
She also hit 2-of-2 at the line to knot the game at 61-61 with 3:45 to go and added another left-hand layup at 1:41 remaining for a 66-64 ND lead.
The heating Irish hit 15-of-26 shots from the field in the second half for 57.7% on their way to outscoring Florida State 40-32.
The Seminoles were 12-of-31 in each half for 38.7% and ND 13-of-33 in the first for 39.4%.
Notre Dame overcame being outboarded 37-32 by one of the nation’s top rebounding clubs.
FSU lost for just the second time all season, against 20 wins, when winning the glass.
The Irish, after standing 2-7 in the ACC following an 86-54 home loss to No. 5 Louisville, have won six of their last nine games. While the three defeats have included another blowout by the Cardinals, the other two have come by a combined seven points.
Notre Dame did beat Michigan (currently 19-10) and South Florida (18-11) when each of those opponents stood at No. 21 early in the season, but both those teams have long slipped out of the polls, while the Seminoles now own the best record among any Irish victim.
NOTRE DAME (13-17): Brunelle 8-18 2-2 25, Vaughn 6-10 0-0 12, Gilbert 4-11 1-2 9, Sniezek 4-5 2-2 10, Walker 4-11 1-2 10, Cosgrove 1-3 0-0 2, Cole 1-1 0-0 2, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 28-59 6-8 70
FLORIDA ST. (22-7): Gillespie 8-18 5-8 22, Myers 2-3 2-4 6, Ekhomu 1-11 3-4 6, Jones 4-5 0-0 8, Woolfolk 7-17 2-2 20, Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0, Puisis 1-6 0-0 2, Weber 1-2 0-0 3, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 24-62 12-18 67
Notre Dame 14 16 20 20 — 70
Florida St. 13 22 17 15 — 67
3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 8-16 (Brunelle 7-11, Gilbert 0-1, Walker 1-3, Cosgrove 0-1), Florida St. 7-22 (Gillespie 1-5, Ekhomu 1-5, Woolfolk 4-8, Puisis 0-3, Weber 1-1). Assists_Notre Dame 19 (Sniezek 6), Florida St. 12 (Ekhomu 6). Fouled Out_Notre Dame Vaughn. Rebounds_Notre Dame 32 (Vaughn 3-7), Florida St. 37 (Woolfolk 4-6). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 13, Florida St. 12. Technical Fouls_None. A_4,360.