No. 4 Notre Dame 79, No. 21 St. Bonaventure 35

Someday, St. Bonaventure will look back fondly on the best

women’s basketball season in school history.

Just not yet. Not after the Bonnies’ first NCAA tournament

appearance ended with them making an unwanted kind of history.

Notre Dame routed St. Bonaventure 79-35 on Sunday in the Raleigh

Regional semifinals, with that 44-point romp matching the

22-year-old record for scoring margin at the regional stage of the

tournament.

A memorable season that included the school records for most

wins and most in a row (18) ended with a thud against the region’s

top-seeded team after the Bonnies couldn’t recover from an awful

start in which they went scoreless for more than 10 minutes.

”Forty minutes isn’t going to define our season,” coach Joe

Crowley said. ”It didn’t earlier in the year. It doesn’t right

now.”

CeCe Dixon had 13 points and Doris Ortega added 11 for the

fifth-seeded Bonnies (31-4), who shot a season-low 19 percent,

allowed a season-high point total and finished with a season-worst

21 turnovers. They missed 11 of 12 attempts from 3-point range and

had just two assists on their nine field goals.

Leading scorer Jessica Jenkins was scoreless – she entered

averaging 14 points – and missed all six of her shots, with Notre

Dame’s Brittany Mallory leading the defensive effort that blanketed

her.

”They’re really physical with you on cuts,” Jenkins said.

”They don’t even let you set them up or anything. … They’re just

really physical and they’re really, really good at blowing up

screens and running you off the 3-point line.”

Natalie Novosel scored 16 points, Kalia Turner had 14, Kayla

McBride added 10 and Devereaux Peters grabbed 10 rebounds for the

Irish (33-3).

They shot 52.5 percent, never trailed and led by 45 in advancing

to face second-seeded Maryland (31-4) on Tuesday night with a spot

in the Final Four on the line.

”They’re a strong, strong rebounding team,” coach Muffet

McGraw said of the Terrapins. ”They have great size. We’re a team

that plays four guards. We don’t match up well. They’re much more

physical and so much bigger inside than we are.”

The Irish have won all three games in this tournament by double

figures. This one equaled the 91-47 beating Louisiana Tech gave

Purdue in the 1990 Midwest semifinals, and it was another

convincing step toward the national championship that slipped away

a year ago.

Calling it unfinished business, they’ve drawn motivation from

their loss in the 2011 title game to Texas A&M – and they

would’ve had another crack at the Aggies in the regional final, but

the Terrapins rallied to beat them 81-74 in the first

semifinal.

”This is a really competitive group,” McGraw said. ”When you

go down through the team, you kind of realize that they’re all the

type of player that just hates to lose. So when we lost the last

game last year, I think the whole summer workout for them was about

getting back, and kind of had that motivation, that extra

motivation, to try to get back to that.”

Notre Dame made it to a regional final for the fourth time – the

Irish have advanced to the Final Four in each of the previous three

– and did it by bringing a quick end to St. Bonaventure’s dream

season.

The Bonnies simply couldn’t have started much worse: After

Ortega’s layup 30 seconds in, they didn’t score again until

Ortega’s three-point play pulled them within 16-5 with 9:32 left in

the half. At its nadir, St. Bonaventure missed 20 of its first 23

shots and didn’t get into double figures until the final minute of

the half when Jennie Ashton’s free throw with 52.2 seconds left

made it 33-10.

The Irish pushed their lead into the 30s when Novosel’s layup

with 17 minutes remaining made it 43-13 – and it only got worse

from there.

”My biggest worry the whole time was if we could score,”

Crowley said. ”And, obviously, that came to fruition.”