Notre Dame women earn Sweet 16 berth with Indiana win
SOUTH BEND — There was no artificial flavoring needed for this one.
Monday night's second round NCAA women's tourney at Purcell Pavilion had all the emotion, fervor and crowd involvement of a big-time title game before Notre Dame put away a pesky, determined Indiana University team, 87-70, before 5,750 highly-charged fans.
The reward for the 33-1 Irish of coach Muffet McGraw is a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in Lexington, Ky, next weekend where Notre Dame will meet Stanford (9 p.m. Friday) in one regional matchup on Friday. The other game in Lexington will pit Kentucky against Washington. Winners return Sunday to meet in a contest to determine who will reach the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Indiana finishes 21-12 in coach Teri Moren's second season. Indiana gave Notre Dame all it could handle for nearly three quarters.
Surprisingly, the No.1-seeded Irish led by only two points, 56-54, with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter before they turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor and surged with a 24-6 run over the next six minutes to open an 80-60 lead and finally put an end to the No.9-seeded Hoosiers' upset hopes.
“We didn't give up a three in the second half until that shot (by Tyra Buss) at the buzzer,” McGraw said of her club's defense. “Our goal was to keep her off the free throw line and we did that.”
Buss, the Hoosiers' leading scorer at 19 points a game was limited to 10 points on 3-for-16 shooting and a pair of free throws.
“There's no question that we got a taste of what the NCAA tournament is all about,” said Moren. “And we want more. We want to advance. This was a great starting point for our program. I'm disappointed and I hurt for our players, but I'm really proud of them.''
Opposing coaches all year long have wrangled with trying to stop the many offensive weapons the Irish have on their roster. And a bevy of different scorers bothered Indiana all night.
With only four minutes remaining in the second quarter, Notre Dame's two freshmen, Marina Mabrey (11 points) and Arike Ogunbowale (five points) had nearly half of the Irish 33 points, but the Irish held only a three-point lead.
Soon thereafter ND point guard Lindsay Allen took over. Allen in a performance reminiscent of last year's regional round of the NCAA tourney at Oklahoma City, when she was named the most outstanding player, scored 10 consecutive Irish points to boost the Notre Dame lead to 47-37 at halftime.
Allen finished the first half with 18 points — 22 for the game — a season high for the junior. She added seven assists and five steals in a dominating performance.
“I was able to get the mid-range jumper,” Allen said. "Bri (Brianna Turner) gave me some good screens and I was able to get open.”
Allen made eight of 10 shots in the opening two quarters.
The game become increasingly emotional after Karlee McBride, sister of former Irish All-American Kayla McBride, committed a hard foul on Madison Cable, who was driving alone for a layin. At that point, Notre Dame was up six points late in the third quarter. After reviewing the play, no intentional or flagrant foul was called, but that play helped ignite the Irish.
“I thought the foul on Madison Cable by McBride was key,” said McGraw. "When Maddie got fouled, the crowd really got into it. I thought she got a little chip on her shoulder and from that point on she really wanted the ball. She hit back to back threes shortly after that and I thought it was the game.”
Cable did more. She became the weapon of note at that juncture of the game. She hit two free throws and scored 12 points total during that Irish 24-6 run to put the game out of reach. Cable finished with 16 points, Turner added 18 and Mabrey 15 for the Irish.
Even after Turner started slowly, McGraw was impressed with her body of work.
“You think she had a bad game, but she had 18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and one turnover. Not a bad day at the office.”
McBride booed throughout the fourth quarter, took it in stride.
“It's just part of the atmosphere. It's the NCAAs, everyone is fighting for a national championship so I just took it for part of the game.”
McBride and Alexis Gassion led the Hoosiers with 17 points.
McGraw knows being in close games can help as the tourney trail evolves.
“It's important for us to play in a close game. We haven't had a lot of them. We've had plenty of ACC games where we were down in the second half. We need to work a little more on late-game situations. I think the league really prepared us for having close games.”
The victory gives the Irish their seventh straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen round of the tournament and 14th visit in program history. Notre Dame is the only school in the country whose football team played in a New Year's Day bowl game and has both its men's and women's teams in the Sweet Sixteen.