Irish' experience pays off
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- In what seemed to be a hard fought back and fourth battle in the first few moments of the game turned out to be Irish domination. Notre Dame's Kayla McBride was able to power through and lead the Fighting Irish to defeat Maryland 87-61 to advance to the championship game in the Final Four.
Notre Dame and Maryland have great experience in the Final Four, as they combined have made it nine times before this year. Maryland has made it three times and won the championship title in 2006, while Notre Dame has made the Final Four five times before this year and played in the final game three times, but has only won it once in 2001.
These two teams met up this past January in a close game during the regular season. The Fighting Irish narrowly defeated the Terrapins 87-83, however in the series between the two teams Maryland has a 4-3 edge over Notre Dame.
"I think they came out with the first punch. They beat us at our own game. They killed us on the boards, which we usually dominate," Laurin Mincy said. "The first play pretty much characterized the game when they came out and grabbed five offensive rebounds."
The Fighting Irish knew it would be a tough run with Natalie Achonwa sitting out due to an ACL injury, and that's exactly what it was.
Although Notre Dame started off strong as Jewell Loyd got the first shot off of the game, Maryland slowly started to edge the Fighting Irish. It wasn't until 13:05 in the first half when Notre Dame tied the game at 15 each, and continued their lead over the Terrapins.
"I think it was all of us coming together after Natalie's (Achonwa) injury," Ariel Braker said. "Everyone really got together and we knew what we needed to do in order to make up. Everyone really wanted to play for her and we all came out and just clicked on every level."
Maryland started making tough fouls later in the first half, which led to several three point plays for Notre Dame. With five minutes left in the half, Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run to gain a 17 point lead over the Terrapins, which ultimately allowed the Fighting Irish to gain momentum and a hefty lead before halftime.
McBride led Notre Dame with 28 points, two steals and seven rebounds, while Loyd led close behind with 16 points and nine rebounds to help the fighting Irish dominate the Terrapins on the glass. Although Maryland's strong point is rebounds, they fell short with only 21 while Notre Dame racked up 50.
"It means a lot (to be going to the final game)," Braker said. "We couldn't get it right the last times so I think everyone is really excited to be going back. We aren't done yet."
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