NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Notre Dame broke open a tightly-contested first half with a 35-16 run behind All-American guard Kayla McBride and the Fighting Irish routed Maryland 87-61 in Sunday night’s first NCAA women’s basketball Final Four game at the Bridgestone Arena.
McBride scored 28 points on 12-for-21 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds as the Irish coasted for much of the second half to remain unbeaten. Notre Dame plays Connecticut (39-0) for the title Tuesday night.
Notre Dame (37-0) never was really threatened in the second half by its Atlantic Coast Conference rivals. Maryland found some momentum when center Alicia DeVaughn hit a pair of free throws followed by a field goal that cut the lead to 54-37 with 16:34 left.
McBride quickly snuffed out any hope that Maryland had of rallying by hitting a 3-point shot from straight-away, and then getting a rebound, driving the floor and pulling up for a 17-footer that stretched the lead back to 22.
Maryland, meanwhile, rested its hopes on All-American forward Alyssa Thomas, who averaged 19.1 points per game. The Fighting Irish, though, denied Thomas good looks and she finished with just 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
Any chance the Terps had to mount a comeback were essentially erased by Thomas’s foul trouble. She picked up her third early in the first half and went to the bench with a fourth with 8:27 remaining and Notre Dame leading by 21.
The Fighting Irish slowed the offensive pace for most of the second half but just kept on scoring. They extended the lead to 25 multiple times.
When reserve guard Hannah Huffman hit a lay-up with 1:41 left, the lead ballooned to 27.
All-American guard Jewel Loyd added 16 for Notre Dame and reserve forward Markisha Wright had 12.
Maryland guard Laurin Mincy played well off the bench with 11 points, nine coming in the first half. Center Brionna Jones added 16 for the Terps, who finished 28-7. UM’s Lexie Brown (11) also cracked double-figures.
Notre Dame destroyed the Terrapins in the paint, winning the rebounding battle 50-21 and scoring 42 points there.
NOTES: This game featured three of the 10 players on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American squad, which was announced Saturday. Those players were Thomas, Loyd and McBride. … Notre Dame was without starting F Natalie Achonwa, who tore her ACL in the Irish’s regional final victory over Baylor. Achonwa watched from the bench in street clothes as freshman Taya Reimer started in her place. … The teams had met earlier in the season when Notre Dame scored an 87-83 road victory on Jan. 27. … The NCAA, making a point of emphasis of rules changes designed to improve freedom of movement and better shooting percentages, honored South Carolina coach Dawn Staley during a first-half break for coaching the nation’s most improved field-goal-shooting team. The Gamecocks shot 9.43 percent better than they did last year. … Both UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer are in the Hall of Fame. VanDerveer is an exceptional game planner, Auriemma brilliant at finding ways to motivate players to keep building on the program’s past success (eight NCAA titles).
Breanna Stewart recorded 18 points, seven rebounds and two blocks as the Huskies downed the Cardinal in Nashville, Tennessee to advance to their second straight NCAA title game.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored all 15 of her points in the second half while Bria Hartley added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists for Connecticut (39-0), which will face Notre Dame in Tuesday’s championship game. Stefanie Dolson tallied 10 points and seven boards while Moriah Jefferson contributed 10 points, a game-high five steals and four assists for the top-ranked Huskies, who committed just eight turnovers.
Amber Orrange led the way with 16 points and added five assists for Stanford (33-4), which has lost seven of its last eight meetings with Connecticut. Chiney Ogwumike chipped in 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds while Lili Thompson scored 12 points for the second-seeded Cardinal, who shot 38.2 percent from the field.
Connecticut missed 10 of its first 13 shots to fall behind 16-10 before Stewart keyed a 12-2 run to close out the first half and put the Huskies on top 28-24. Connecticut blew open a tight game when Mosqueda-Lewis scored nine points during a 14-0 burst that gave the Huskies a 44-27 lead.
Orrange scored seven straight points for Stanford to trim the deficit to 46-34, but the Cardinal could not get within single digits as Stewart later knocked down a 3-pointer to restore Connecticut’s 17-point cushion with 8:19 remaining. Kiah Stokes’ driving layup put the Huskies ahead 67-52 and they went on to win their 45th consecutive game dating back to last season.