Notre Dame rolls into second round

Notre Dame’s swarming defense helped the Fighting Irish rout North Carolina A&T 95-51 Saturday. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

Notre Dame’s swarming defense helped the Fighting Irish rout North Carolina A&T 95-51 Saturday. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

With the exception of a few hundred people, there were not many fans in the Purcell Pavilion who expected North Carolin A&T to beat No. 1 seed Notre Dame Saturday night.

And within a few minutes, I would guess most of those fans who were holding out, hoping for a miracle, came to their senses.

The Fighting Irish, who I believe are the only threat to beat Connecticut and snap the Huskies three-year stranglehold on the NCAA championship, overwhelmed the Aggies with their size, speed and athletic abilities.

By the end of the opening quarter, Notre Dame (32-1) the lead was 12 points. At halftime the Irish had upped their advantage to 52-24.

The second half was merely a formality.

I have been able to cover Notre Dame for a number of post season runs, including their trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis a few years ago.

I thought when it lost to UConn last year that this would be the year the Fighting Irish finally get that elusive second national title.

But when Jewel Lloyd left for the WNBA, I figured there was no way Notre Dame would be able to compete for a championship.

Boy was I wrong.

This team has everything it needs to make a run at the Huskies and a championship.

Ironically, that championship will be contested in Indianapolis.

The Fighting Irish are solid in all areas of the game.

They have skilled guards and a solid front court.

And, Notre Dame has the experience.

Junior guard Lindsay Allen set a new record for assists in a single game with 10 in just 21 minutes of action against the Aggies Saturday night.

The Fighting Irish, who face Indiana today at 6:30 p.m. in a second round game at Purcell, are now 23-0 in NCAA tournament games when scoring at least 80 points.

The win over North Carolina A&T was also Notre Dame’s 19th first-round win in its last 21 games.

And while the win was impressive, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw was less than impressed with her team’s effort in the final quarter.

“I think it was a couple of things. One, Lindsay Allen was on the bench, and I thought we were just lackadaisical,” she said. “I didn’t think that we were aggressive coming to the ball, I don’t think we were finding the open player. We had some nice spurts where we were able to get it to the middle and the three-point line. But we just got careless. I thought it was really careless. Sloppy and careless.”

I know she will have her team ready to go tonight against the Hoosiers because McGraw knows there are bigger tests down the road, including one possible huge game against Connecticut in Indy.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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