Novosel leads No. 1 Notre Dame by California

Posted March 20, 2012, at 10:34 p.m.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Natalie Novosel was aggressive from the outset, taking the ball to the basket and her reward was a long and successful night at the free throw line that helped top-seeded Notre Dame beat California to earn a spot in the NCAA round of 16.

Novosel scored 28 points, hitting 18-of-20 from the line, as the Irish pulled away in the second half and beat the Golden Bears 73-62 on Tuesday night.

Skylar Diggins added 21 points — 15 in the second half — and Devereaux Peters had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Irish (32-3).

Tied at the half with the determined Golden Bears, the Irish started the second half with a 10-2 run and came up with five early steals, setting off the partisan crowd at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish built the lead to 17 and held on after Cal cut it to nine as Novosel made six straight free throws in the final minute.

Cal (25-10) got 17 points from Layshia Clarendon and 15 from Reshanda Gray. But the Golden Bears were hurt by 19 turnovers, 12 in the second half.

Novosel, who had 17 points by half, shot just 5-for-18 from the field but made the most of her frequent trips to the line. Notre Dame finished 26-for-33 from the line to only 7-for-14 for Cal in the rough and physical game.

It is Notre Dame’s 10th trip to the round of 16 in the last 16 seasons under coach Muffet McGraw.

Notre Dame came out with a quick 8-2 run in the first two minutes of the second half as Diggins scored four points and Kayla McBride hit a layup after making a steal. After a timeout, McBride made another steal and Brittany Mallory drove for a lefty layup and a 41-33 lead.

The Irish came up with five steals in the first four minutes of the second half as Cal suddenly had trouble handling the ball and the crowd at the Purcell Pavilion erupted.

Peters made two free throws for a 10-point lead and the Golden Bears stayed close because of two clutch jumpers by Clarendon.

Diggins then went high to tip a Cal inbounds pass and drove for a layup make it a 12-point. And when theNotre Dame star went hard to the basket on another break attempt, she got knocked to the floor by Clarendon.

And after officials reviewed the video it was ruled a flagrant. Diggins hit one of two free throws, Notre Dame retained possession and McBride hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 54-37 with 12:17 left.

BAYLOR 76, FLORIDA 57: Brittney Griner became the second woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game Tuesday night, slamming one down with her right hand early in the second half of top-seeded Baylor’s 76-57 win over ninth-seeded Florida at Bowling Green, Ohio.

Griner went nearly 12 minutes without scoring at the beginning of the game but finished with 25 points, including the night’s biggest highlight.

Odyssey Sims added 14 points for Baylor (36-0). Azania Stewart led Florida (20-13) with 14.

Candace Parker of Tennessee dunked twice in an NCAA tournament game in 2006 against Army. Griner’s dunk was her first of the season and sixth of her career. Parker holds the career record with seven.

The Lady Bears will play Georgia Tech in the round of 16.

GEORGIA TECH 76, GEORGETOWN 64: Sydney Wallace continued her scoring tear with 23 points, and Georgia Tech claimed its first berth in the regional semifinals of the women’s NCAA tournament by beating Georgetown at Chapel Hill, N.C..

Sasha Goodlett added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (26-8).

They shot 50 percent and never let Georgetown get closer than eight in the second half while winning for the 15th time in 18 games and prolonging the best season in school history.

Now comes their biggest challenge: A trip to Iowa to face Baylor — the tournament’s top overall seed — on Saturday.

ST. BONAVENTURE 66, MARIST 63: Jessica Jenkins scored 22 points and Doris Ortega contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead St. Bonaventure to a 66-63 win Tuesday night against Marist and a spot in NCAA tournament’s round of 16 at Tallahassee, Fla.

Leanne Ockenden missed a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer for 13th- seeded Marist, which was the lowest seed to advance into the second round.

Marist (26-8) had a chance to tie the score at 64 with 1:25 left, but Kelsey Beynnon missed a free throw that would have completed a three-point play. CeCe Dixon’s two free throws with 23 seconds left gave St. Bonaventure a 66-63 lead.

Brandy Gang led Marist with 19 points, 14 coming in the second half. Corielle Yarde added 13 points and Beynnon 12 for the Eagles, who shot 40 percent.

Jenkins made six 3-pointers for St. Bonaventure, which hit 45 percent from the field and stopped an 11-game Marist winning streak with its second win of the season over the Eagles. The Bonnies defeated Marist 67-56 on Dec. 18.

Marist trailed 38-31 at half, but regained the lead at 43-42 on Gang’s 3-pointer five minutes into the second half. The score see-sawed until the fifth-seeded Bonnies (31-3) took the lead for good at 52-49 with 9:38 left on Chelsea Bowker’s 3-point shot. Bowker tied the score with a jumper 53 seconds earlier.

St. Bonaventure, playing in its first NCAA tournament, had most things going its way in the first half.

The Bonnies shot 54.2 percent and were 4 for 7 from 3-point distance, all by Jenkins. St. Bonaventure also won the first half rebound battle by a 20-12 margin and finished with a 40-26 advantage overall and 15-8 on the offensive boards.

Marist, meanwhile, shot just 37.9 percent and missed 10 of 15 tries from long range in the opening half.

St. Bonaventure used a 12-2 run midway through the half on the way to its largest lead at 33-23. Marist countered with eight unanswered points to get within 33-31.

Marist had hoped to return to the Sweet 16 for the second time. The Eagles advanced that far in 2006-07 before being eliminated by Tennessee.

Marist upset fourth-seeded Georgia 76-70 on Sunday and St. Bonaventure rallied for a 72-65 overtime win over 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast to advance from the tournament’s opening round.

A small liberal arts college located on the shore of the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Marist captured an automatic berth as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association champion to reach the NCAA tournament a seventh straight season.

St. Bonaventure, a small private Franciscan Catholic University located in the west New York community of Allegany, was an at-large invitee to the women’s tournament.

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