No. 2 Notre Dame women beat FSU 83-57 in ACCs
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Notre Dame made its Atlantic Coast Conference tournament debut look a lot like nearly every other game it played in the league this season.
Jewell Loyd scored 17 points to lead the No. 2 Fighting Irish past Florida State 83-57 in the quarterfinals Friday, keeping them unbeaten with yet another lopsided win in their new league.
Notre Dame (30-0) ran off 21 straight points in the first half, led by 22 at halftime and never let the Seminoles flirt with any sort of a comeback.
The closest thing to a hiccup? Missing their first six shots and falling behind 6-0 shortly before that 21-0 burst.
”I thought we looked a little rusty at the beginning of the game,” coach Muffet McGraw said. ”But I thought we pulled ourselves together pretty quickly, had a nice run at the end of the half.”
It marked the 13th time in 17 games that the Irish have beaten an ACC opponent by at least 20 points this season, according to STATS LLC. The Irish beat league opponents by an average of 23 points in the regular season.
Next up is No. 14 North Carolina State, which lost by 24 points at home to the Fighting Irish less than a week ago and could be without top player Markeisha Gatling due to a knee injury suffered in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Syracuse.
The Fighting Irish are the first team since North Carolina in 2007-08 to go unbeaten in the ACC regular season. Notre Dame was so dominant that it also became the first team to win the league race by at least four games since Duke did it in 2001-02.
Senior Natalie Achonwa said her team doesn’t feel pressure to keep the unbeaten streak going.
”I think we took that accomplishment of being undefeated in the regular season and we put it on the backburner, celebrated for a little bit,” she said. ”But we have further goals to accomplish so that’s what we’re looking at, and we’re looking forward.”
Kayla McBride added 13 for the top-seeded Fighting Irish, who shot 65 percent before halftime and finished at 60 percent. Notre Dame also had 24 assists on 32 baskets while getting the chance to rest its starters, none of whom played more than 30 minutes.
FSU coach Sue Semrau, now in her 17th season, has been in the league long enough to see those ACC squads that last accomplished what the Fighting Irish are doing.
”They’re, I would say, up there,” Semrau said. ”The thing great ACC teams of the past have been able to do was to pass the ball. When you have 24 assists, that’s pretty incredible. Then you’ve got some great scorers on the other side that can knock it down. And then they don’t want to just play up and down, … they want to defend, too.”
Natasha Howard followed up her big second-round performance with 29 points to lead ninth-seeded Florida State (20-11), which led 12-11 before Notre Dame took over.
Howard went for 30 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday’s overtime win against Miami, then made 14 of 22 shots with five rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes. No other Seminoles player reached double figures, with Cheetah Delgado – who scored 20 against the Hurricanes – going scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting with six turnovers.
The Fighting Irish didn’t need long to put their dominant form on display. After missing their first six shots, Notre Dame made 17 of 20 shots for the rest of the first half, with Loyd going 5 for 6.
Michaela Mabrey (12 points) hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the 21-0 run, while Achonwa followed a short time later with a three-point play.
The Seminoles got as close as 15 four times in the second half, the last coming at 66-51 on Howard’s layup with 6:18 left. But Achonwa answered with a score, McBride hit two free throws and Ariel Braker followed with a layup to push the lead back up to 72-51 with 4:07 to go.
Notre Dame scored 23 points off turnovers and made 7 of 14 3-pointers.
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