No. 3 Notre Dame 73, No. 25 West Virginia 45

West Virginia coach Mike Carey had a feeling Notre Dame would

try for an early knockout blow. He was just surprised by how little

fight his team was able to put up in its final Big East game.

Natalie Novosel scored 18 points and Kayla McBride added 15 to

help third-ranked Notre Dame beat No. 25 West Virginia 73-45 on

Monday night in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

Carey knew that the Irish were looking to avenge a 65-62 loss to

the Mountaineers in South Bend on Feb. 12 that ended Notre Dame’s

21-game winning streak and was the lone blemish on its Big East

slate.

”There was a lot of talk and stuff,” Carey said. ”We knew

they were going to come out the first 8 minutes and try to bury us.

I don’t know how we weren’t excited about playing this game.”

The Mountaineers are headed off to the Big 12 next season and

Carey admitted he was sad to leave the Big East which the school

joined in 1995-96.

”I mentioned it to the players, this wasn’t the way you wanted

to go out,” Carey said. ”I love coaching in the Big East. I love

the friendships I made in the Big East. Now we’re moving to the Big

12. That’s a big challenge also. That’s a great league and another

challenge for us. we’ll move forward.”

Notre Dame (30-2) got a measure of revenge on the Mountaineers

(23-9), who ended the Irish’s 21-game winning streak on Feb. 12

with 65-63 win in South Bend, Ind. It was Notre Dame’s only Big

East loss.

”We’re happy to be able to avenge our loss,” Notre Dame coach

Muffet McGraw said. ”We played well right from the start and got

out of the gate offensively. Shot the ball extremely well. We did a

great job on their guards, had good balance today which we didn’t

have last time.”

On Monday night, the Irish scored the first seven points and had

built a 20-4 lead 8 1/2 minutes in as five different players

scored. Devereaux Peters, who had four points and missed seven of

her eight shots in the loss, had seven by the half as Notre Dame

led 37-19.

”I think we came out here with a little fire in us,” Novosel

said. ”We were excited when we saw we were playing West Virginia.

We started out really well tonight.”

West Virginia couldn’t get within 16 in the second half closing

to 51-35 midway through the period, but Notre Dame scored 18 of the

next 22 points to end any hope of a comeback.

”We knew they were going to come out with a chip on their

shoulder,” Ayana Dunning said. ”Coach said the first eight

minutes they’d try to get a lead on us and we didn’t come out ready

to play. We got ourselves down so much in the beginning of the game

we were trying to fight back the entire time.”

The Mountaineers advanced to the semis with a 39-32 win over

then-No. 12 Georgetown on Sunday. That was the lowest scoring game

in the history of the Big East tournament, easily surpassing the

previous record of 78 set in 2005 by Boston College and

Villanova.

Buoyed by that victory, West Virginia entered the Top 25 for the

first time this season.

Asya Bussie scored 15 points and Dunning added 12 to lead the

Mountaineers. The pair was 12 for 16, but got little help from the

rest of the team which missed 31 of its 38 shots.