Sweet 16: Notre Dame advances to Lexington
NOTRE DAME — The difference between winning and losing in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament can be measured in the smallest of increments.
Visiting Indiana found that out the hard way in an 87-70 loss to No. 1 seed Notre Dame at the Purcell Pavilion Monday night.
Trailing the Fighting Irish just 56-54 with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter, back-to-back turnovers by the Hoosiers sparked a 24-6 run that put Indiana away.
“There’s no question that we got a taste of what the NCAA tournament is all about,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “And we want more. We want to advance. This was a great starting point for our program. I’m disappointed and I hurt for our players, but I’m really proud of them.”
That 24-6 run turned a two-point deficit into an 80-60 lead for the Fighting Irish and another trip to the “Sweet 16” for Notre Dame this weekend in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Fighting Irish (33-1) will face the No. 4 seed Stanford (27-6) at 9 p.m. Friday night.
The winner advances to face either Kentucky (24-7) or Washington (23-10) in the regional final Sunday.
“We didn’t give up a three in the second half until that shot (by Tyra Buss) at the buzzer,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of her club’s defense. “Our goal was to keep her off the free throw line and we did that.”
The Fighting Irish held Indiana’s leading scorer nine points below her season average of 19 points per game. Buss was just 3-of-16 from the field.
The Hoosiers, the No. 9 seed, gave Notre Dame all it wanted for two and a half quarters.
Indiana rode the outside shooting of Karlee McBride, who is the sister of former Notre Dame All-American Kayla McBride. McBride finished with 17 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
As good as McBride was for the Hoosiers early on, her hard foul against Notre Dame’s Madison Cable helped swing the tide in the third quarter.
While no intentional or flagrant foul was called on McBride, Cable stepped to the line, hit the two free throws and then followed that up with back-to-back 3-pointers with Notre Dame up just six points late in the third quarter.
That was part of the 24-6 run that ended any chance of an Indiana upset.
“I thought the foul on Madison Cable by McBride was key,” McGraw said. “When Maddie got fouled, the crowd really got into it. I thought she got a little chip on her shoulder and from that point on she really wanted the ball. She hit back to back threes shortly after that and I thought it was the game.”
Cable finished with 16 points, while Lindsey Allen, who scored the final 10 points of the first half for the Fighting Irish, ended up with a game-high 22 points. Brianna Turner added 18 and Michaela Mabrey 15.
“I was able to get the mid-range jumper,” Allen said. “Bri (Brianna Turner) gave me some good screens and I was able to get open.”
Indiana also got 17 points from Alexis Gassion.
Playing a close game early in the tournament was something McGraw did not mind.
“It’s important for us to play in a close game. We haven’t had a lot of them. We’ve had plenty of ACC games where we were down in the second half. We need to work a little more on late-game situations. I think the league really prepared us for having close games.”
The win allows Notre Dame to play in its seventh straight “Sweet 16” and the 14th trip overall.