No. 4 Irish beat No. 18 Orange 91-66 to reach ACC final
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — The Atlantic Coast Conference hasn’t been able to hold a championship game lately without Notre Dame. Now the Fighting Irish want to get back to winning them again.
Jackie Young had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 4 Notre Dame advanced to the ACC title game by routing No. 18 Syracuse 91-66 on Saturday in a semifinal.
Jessica Shepard added 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Marina Mabrey finished with 16 points to help the top-seeded Fighting Irish (29-3) reach their ninth straight conference final — a run that includes all six years they have been in the ACC.
Notre Dame lost to Louisville in last year’s title game, and Young says that defeat still stings — even after the Irish regrouped to win the national championship.
“This is what we’ve been looking for,” Young said. “We all know what happened last year.”
Tiana Mangakahia scored 14 points and Gabrielle Cooper added 12 to lead fifth-seeded Syracuse (24-8). A day after making an ACC Tournament-record 14 3-pointers in a quarterfinal upset of No. 15 Miami, the live-by-the-3 Orange were 8 of 23 from long range against the ACC’s best 3-point defense.
Mangakahia pulled Syracuse to 55-44 with a layup with 4½ minutes left in the third, but the Irish put the game away by scoring 13 straight points, with Young’s three-point play with 1:59 left in the period stretching the lead into the 20s for good.
Brianna Turner had 14 points for Notre Dame while Arike Ogunbowale, the ACC’s leading scorer, added 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
Syracuse: No ACC team lets it fly from 3-point range quite like the Orange, who entered having attempted a league-most 867 3s — nearly 100 more than any other team. They started hot but needed more of them to fall to keep up with the Fighting Irish, whom they haven’t beaten since both teams joined the ACC earlier this decade. The Orange missed 13 of their final 16 3s.
“We missed a lot of shots,” coach Quentin Hillsman said. “You can’t miss shots against a team like Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame: The last time the Irish didn’t reach a conference final was in 2010 when they were knocked out of the Big East Tournament in the quarterfinals. They improved to 16-1 all-time in the ACC Tournament and won their 21st in a row in the series.
The prettiest play of the day came during another big run by the Irish. Young — who ranks second in the ACC with an average of 5.3 assists — didn’t have one in this game until midway through the third quarter. Her first one was a gem: Turner took her slick alley-oop pass and finger-tipped it off the glass for the layup that gave Notre Dame its first 20-point lead.
Notre Dame again looked every bit the part of a No. 1 seed, and the Orange hope they did enough to earn a top-four seed and the right to host a four-team subregional. Syracuse was 10th in the most recent RPI and was 15th on the NCAA’s most recent reveal of its top 16 seeds. Hillsman says he believes his team deserves to play its first couple of postseason games at home. “If we don’t (host), I mean, they’re going to change the whole criteria, right?” Hillsman asked.
Mabrey became the school’s career leader in 3-pointers with 263 — one more than Alicia Ratay, who set the record in 2003. Mabrey hit four 3s in this one.
Syracuse: Awaits Selection Monday to learn its NCAA Tournament opponent.
Notre Dame: Returns to the ACC championship game Sunday.