2014 NCAA Tournament Notre Dame Regional Second-Round Wrap: Irish head home to host Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kentucky in South Bend's Sweet 16
The field is set for this weekend’s Notre Dame Regional, and the four remaining teams in should provide for some great basketball on Saturday when the stages moves to South Bend for the Sweet 16.
At Savage Arena in Toledo, Notre Dame (34-0) overcame a sluggish first half and overwhelmed Arizona State (23-10) in the second, 84-67.
At Mackey Arena In West Lafayette, Brittney Martin registered 20 points and 20 rebounds to lead Oklahoma State (25-8) past host Purdue (22-9), 73-66.
At Memrorial Coliseum in Lexington, host Kentucky (26-8) withstood a late charge from Syracuse (23-10) to eliminate the Orange, 64-59.
And at Ferrell Center in Waco, Odyssey Sims scored 27 points in her final home game to lead Baylor (31-4) past California (22-10), 75-56.
On Saturday, top-seed and host Notre Dame will square off with fifth-seed Oklahoma State, while second-seed Baylor takes on third-seed Kentucky in a rematch of the Wildcats 133-130, four-overtime win, the highest scoring game in women’s college basketball history.
Second Round Results: Monday, March 24
SAVAGE ARENA, UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDA
(1) Notre Dame 84, (9) Arizona State 67
For a half, Monday night, Arizona State gave Notre Dame all it could handle.
Coach Christi Turner Thorne’s Sun Devils forced 12 first-half turnovers and trailed just 32-26 at halftime.
But coach Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish woke up in the second half, outscoring ASU 52-41 in the final 20 minutes to keep their perfect record, now 34-0, alive and head home to host the Sweet 16 in South Bend. Natalie Achonwa scored 25 points, Kayla McBride 22 and Jewell Loyd 19. Achonwa finished with a game-high 11 rebounds and Loyd seven.
Notre Dame finished with 19 assists, nine from McBride, as the Fighting Irish point guards took advantage of ASU’s defense.
"With a team that is so aggressive and pressuring so much, the backdoor is what we were looking for," Achonwa said. "We worked on it in practice, and Kayla and the rest of the guards did a great job of finding me."
McGraw said the biggest difference in the second half was taking better care of the ball.
"In transition, we kept going through the middle of the floor where all the traffic was. We were just careless,” she said.
Turner Throne praised Notre Dame and its effort.
“They have their big three and then they bring their shooters in. I think this is the best team that Notre Dame has had because of their depth,” she said. “I don’t remember when they’ve been this deep. That might carry the day for them this year. They have different scorers they can go to if they big three are struggling. I wish them the best.”
Eleven different players played for the Sun Devils, who were led by Deja Mann’s 16 points and Adrianne Thomas with 14.
"I would say in the first half, we really tried to stick to our gameplan and just play them aggressively,” Thomas said. “I feel like not a lot of other teams really pressured them as much as we have. So I think like today we just gave it our all and tried to play our best just to keep their assists and scoring down.”
For Turner Thorne, this is another positive step in the direction she wants to take the ASU program.
"We had such a small margin of error to win this game and we’ll have lots to build on in the off season,” she said. “There are little things we need to improve on both ends of the floor to close the gap between us and Notre Dame because we want to be where Notre Dame is.”
IN WEST LAFAYETTE
MACKEY ARENA, PURDUE UNIVERSITY
(5) Oklahoma State 73, (4) Purdue 66
OSU coach Jim Littell rallied to win Saturday, but Monday night no rally was needed as the fifth-seeded Cowgirls (25-8) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 with a comfortable 73-66 margin over hosting and fourth-seeded Purdue.
Brittney Martin finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds, and LaShawn Jones had 16 points and 12 rebounds to eliminate coach Sharon Versyp’s Boilermakers on their home floor. Roshunda Johnson added 16 points off the bench and Liz Donohoe 12.
“Just very, very proud of this team,” Littell said. “I thought their unity and chemistry on the floor tonight was just unbelievable. Everybody stepped up and played. We said that we couldn't go into this game and have one or two people play, and we just had great contributions out of everybody.”
The Cowgirls held their own on the boards, 41-40.
“I was concerned about rebounding coming into it,” Littell said. “I told our kids that I didn't think that they would beat us off the first shot but I knew she had the capabilities to give us put-backs and second and third shots. I think our coaches schemed very well. We changed defenses all night long. We played man, we played a 20-zone. We rolled into a 1-3-1, and we played a triangle-in-two for a lot of minutes on Moses and April Wilson, and I thought we did a great job of keeping them under control and I thought the triangle in two was a big difference in the ballgame."
The Cowgirls survived a challenging moment when at the 14:04 mark of the second half, leading scorer Tiffany Bias rolled her foot on that of another player as Purdue's Courtney Moses drove to the basket. Bias went down and stayed down and had to be carried off the floor to the locker room.
Fortunately, Bias was able to return with 2:45 left to play, though she favored the injured foot during the postgame celebrations.
"I think it will be fine," said Bias in the locker room, her foot encased in ice. "Our trainer is great and we'll do a whole bunch of rehab between now and then. But we've got great players, too."
Whitney Bays had 21 points off the bench to lead Purdue, while Courtney Moses added 11 for the Boilermakers, who finish their season at 22-9.
FERRELL CENTER, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
(2) Baylor 75, (7) California 56
In her final home game, Odyssey Sims gave a farewell performance Baylor fans will remember. Despite a tough shooting night, the senior finished with 27 points; Nina Davis added 13 for coach Kim Mulkey’s squad.
Sims got her points despite shooting just 9-of-25 (36 percent) from the field, an "off" night by her standards.
“I was just very excited to play,” she said. “I was waiting all day to play. It was a very late game. I think I kind of rushed it a little bit at the beginning, but I blame myself for that. I just kept playing. I trusted my teammates, and I got them the ball when I needed to. I found the open player, Mackenzie (Robertson) hit the big three on the baseline, and I did what I could. I scored when I needed to, and I passed the ball when I needed to.”
Mulkey was forced to go to her bench after Sims and Davis both picked up two fouls.
“For a split second Odyssey wanted to convince me not to take her out, but sometimes you just go with your gut,” Mulkey said. “In that moment, in the flow of the game, we were going to be okay and I took her out. Had it been a case of when I took her out the game had gotten out of hand or I felt like we were losing momentum I would have put her right back in. In fact I told her when she was on the bench to be ready to go back in, that I wasn.t afraid to play them if I needed to but I didn’t need to and that's a sign of a team that's grown and improved when you can play freshmen like that in a big game.”
Freshman Khadijiah Cave stepped up and contributed 10 points off the bench.
“I thought Kay Kay [Cave] was unbelievable, Mulkey said. “When you look at the athletes that are on that paint, Kay Kay might be the only post player that could jump and leap and alter shots with their athletes in the paint. She certainly scored on them.”
Afure Jemerigbe posted 17 and Brittany Boyd 15 to lead the way for coach Lindsay Gottlieb's Cal squad who close the books on the 2013-14 season at 22-10.
“I think the story was our inability to score the basketball,” Gottlieb said. “Yeah, 75 is not great to give up, but I think that the 56 points was our problem. The inability to get baskets, it makes it such a grind when you're not scoring. I thought we got a lot of inside looks. I thought a lot didn’t go down, maybe we didn’t get to the free-throw line the way that we expected to. I thought we still were aggressive and assertive in the paint both off the dribble and to the post. It just didn't produce the same amount of points that it normally does and, sure, that’s a huge difference for us.”
MEMORIAL COLISEUM, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY
(3) Kentucky 64, (6) Syracuse 59
Losing a close tournament game on the road might have Syracuse fans asking the question, “What if?”
Minus star Brittany Sykes who went down with a knee injury in Saturday’s win over Chattanooga, coach Quentin Hillsman’s Orange played the Wildcats tough, but could never quite get over the hump.
Brianna Butler who finished with 15 points, Briana Day with 13 and Alexis Peterson with 12 all did their best to fill the void left by the loss of the Orange's leading scorer, but their efforts would wind up short of the mark in a game they managed to keep close and competitive throughout.
“Our kids played hard,” Hillsman said. “Obviously, with one of our best players out, we knew the game was going to be tough, but I thought that Brianna Butler did an unbelievable job in just trying to take on the role of scorer for us and she really did an awesome job of trying to press against shots.
“I thought Alexis came off the bench and really stabilized us as a point guard. Our point guard future is obviously very bright. We have a young team and they really played hard and I’m really, really pleased with their effort and everything that they’ve done. It’s a great group of kids and they put up with me every day and that’s tough. They just really get after it and they competed, I love them to death.”
Kentucky led by as many as 10 points in the opening half, but Syracuse managed to shave that edge to seven (32-25) heading into the break. Neither side seemed to be able to find the hoop for the first two minutes of the second period, but Kentucky was the first to reestablish itself, swelling its edge to double-digits (40-29) less than five minutes into the frame.
Fueled by eight straight points from Day, a freshman, 'Cuse rallied with a 22-9 run that drew them to within two points, 46-44, with 11:53 to go. But that's where the comeback ran out of steam, as the Orange whiffed on a series of 3-point attempts that might have given them the lead, while Kentucky responded with a 9-1 lead to push the lead back to 10 with 7:06 still to play.
From there, Syracuse worked hard to nibble away, but were unable to come any closer than four, as each time the Orange threatened, the Wildcats responded with a trey, a jumper or a pair from the line to maintain separation.
“They did an awesome job of just staying poised during a run,” Hillsman said of the Wildcats' response to the Orange second-half surge. “That’s what good teams do. They stay poised when you’re making a run at them and they make plays. Every time we made runs, they made a play. Every time we pushed at them, they made an incredible play to kind of stabilize the game.”
Bria Goss had 17 points, DeNesha Stallworth 13 and Kastine Evans 11 to lead coach Matthew Mitchell’s squad on to the next round at Notre Dame. Defense was a big key in Kentucky’s win as the Wildcats forced 23 Syracuse turnovers which they turned into 21 points. Syracuse garnered 17 points off Kentucky's 15 miscues.
“Our team has worked so hard to become a team and they wanted to go to the Sweet 16 in the worst way,” Mitchell said. “They prepared so well for this game and I am just really, really pleased that we found a way with our defense to punch through to the next round.”
Mitchell said advancing to the Sweet 16 is big for the program.
“What it means for our program a lot of times is different than what it means for a particular team,” he said. “For our particular team right now, we’ve got to stay really, really focused on the team that is next and right in front of us. When you take a look back and you pause, for our program, it’s unbelievable. It’s never happened before and it’s a very, very difficult place to get too, and we had a lot of advantages in this game tonight with the home crowd and with Syracuse missing their top scorer, and a lot of things like that. It still was just very, very difficult to make it happen. I’m so proud of the players on a night where clearly the ball didn’t go in the basket for us and we didn’t make the best decisions.”
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