Notre Dame storms into ACC women's basketball title game

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Different conference and venue, same passion to hoist a trophy.

No. 1 seed Notre Dame moved to the brink of an Atlantic Coast Conference championship as it blasted No. 4 seed North Carolina State, 83-48, Sat-urday night in the semifinals of the ACC Tourna-ment at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Notre Dame (31-0), champions of last season’s Big East Tournament, advances to Sunday’s championship game in its first season in the ACC. The title game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (EDT) tip-off. ESPN has the telecast. The victory set a pro-gram record for most consecutive wins. The Irish play No. 2 seed Duke (27-5) for the title. Duke beat No. 6 seed North Carolina (24-9), 66-61, Saturday.

North Carolina State was held to a season low in points. The previous low came in last Sunday’s 84-60 loss to Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. The Wolfpack (25-7) now await an expected NCAA bid.

“I thought we played really well,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we did a lot of good things defensively. I was happy with the transition game and the rebounding.”

Jewell Loyd scored 16 points and is at 998 points for her career. She would be only the third sophomore in program history to hit 1,000 points, joining Beth Morgan Cunningham and Skylar Dig-gins. If Loyd accomplishes the feat on Sunday, she would hit the 1,000-point mark in 67 games, trailing only Cunningham for quickest to 1,000. Cunning-ham reached the mark in 56 games.

“We were just making sure we got the rebound first,” Loyd said about her 16-point, six-rebound ef-fort. Loyd’s day included 8-of-8 free-throw shooting. “(Point guard Lindsay Allen) did a good job of looking ahead. Personally, I was just taking what the defense gave me, not trying to force anything, and just trying to follow up on it.”

Kayla McBride, Michaela Mabrey and Madison Cable scored 10 points each for Notre Dame.

North Carolina State played without 6-foot-5 Markeisha Gatling, who leads the Wolfpack with 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. Gatling suf-fered a bruised knee in North Carolina State’s 79-63 victory against Syracuse in the quarterfinals on Fri-day. She is expected to be ready for the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame raced to a 12-0 start. The Irish held North Carolina State to a season-low point total for a half, and led 46-18 at the break. The Irish hit 14-of-27 shots (52 percent) in the first half, while limiting North Carolina State to 8-of-32 (25 percent).

“I thought we had a slow start, missed a couple of shots early, but I thought we really got comfort-able,” McGraw said. “I thought we made some nice plays. Jewell made big plays. (Mabrey) comes in and gets a 3 right away. I think that makes everybody feel comfortable.”

Eleven different players scored for the Irish, as McGraw substituted liberally in the first half and had all of her starters out midway through the sec-ond half. Loyd was out of the game with 15:50 re-maining. McBride left at the 14:02 mark, and freshman point guard Lindsay Allen, who was the only Irish starter in after the 10:15 mark, was on the bench with 9:07 left. Reserves then took the Irish the rest of the way.

Notre Dame took advantage of Gatling’s ab-sence for a 47-30 rebounding edge. The Irish turned 19 offensive rebounds into a 21-5 advan-tage in second chance points.

“We really wanted to go inside and score inside a little bit more,” McGraw said. “But for the re-bounding that the minutes everybody played, I thought the rebounds were well distributed. Madi-son Cable, leading rebounding with seven … eve-rybody had five or six. I thought we did a great job on the boards, both ends, 19 offensive rebounds. We missed a lot more shots that we normally do, but made up for it getting the rebound.”

“Rough day … obviously very humbling day …,” North Carolina State Wes Moore said. “Obviously, (Notre Dame is) well coached. They pretty much always have five players on the court that, A., have very high basketball IQs, and, B., can shoot the lights out. They run their stuff extremely well. They read and react to how you defend. It’s not so much a set play or anything like that. It’s more once you make a decision how you want to defend, they’ve got a counter to it.”

NC STATE (25-7): Jennifer Mathurin 1-3 1-4 3, Kody Burke 1-8 2-2 4, Len’Nique Brown 3-11 2-3 8, Miah Spencer 5-14 1-3 11, Krystal Bar-rett 2-5 0-0 6, Ashley Williams 3-5 0-0 7, N. Williams 2-8 2-2 6, Ashley Eli 1-4 0-0 3, Kaley Moser 0-0 0-0 0, Julianna Prim 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-58 8-14 48.

NOTRE DAME (31-0): Natalie Achonwa 4-7 0-1 8, Ariel Braker 1-2 4-4 6, Lindsay Allen 1-3 0-0 2, Kayla McBride 4-11 2-2 10, Jewell Loyd 4-10 8-8 16, Whitney Holloway 0-2 4-4 4, Kristina Nelson 0-3 0-0 0, Taya Reimer 3-5 1-3 7, Madison Cable 2-6 5-6 10, Michaela Mabrey 4-6 0-0 10, Hannah Huffman 0-2 0-2 0, Markisha Wright 2-4 2-2 6, Diamond Thompson 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 27-63 26-32 83.

Halftime — Notre Dame 46-18. 3-Point Goals — NC State 4-20 (Barrett 2-4, Eli 1-2, A. Williams 1-3, Mathurin 0-1, Burke 0-2, Spencer 0-2, Brown 0-3, N. Williams 0-3), Notre Dame 3-9 (Mabrey 2-3, Cable 1-2, McBride 0-1, Allen 0-1, Loyd 0-2). Fouled Out — A. Williams. Re-bounds — NC State 30 (Burke, Mathurin, Spencer, N. Williams 4), No-tre Dame 47 (Cable 7). Assists — NC State 6 (Brown, Spencer 2), No-tre Dame 13 (Allen, Huffman, McBride, Wright 2). Total Fouls — NC State 25, Notre Dame 19. A — NA.

Notre Dame's Taya Reimer, right, grabs a rebound next to N.C. State's Ashley Eli during ND's 83-48 ACC tourney semifinal rout of the Wolfpack, Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)