Tournament time in Hartford
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 22:03
HARTFORD – The Bulls know how to keep it close against Notre Dame, they just haven’t quite figured out how to win them.
Earlier this season, the Bulls took Notre Dame to overtime in the Sun Dome before falling 75-71. On Sunday afternoon at the XL Center, South Florida gave the Irish a good push, but just couldn’t overcome them in a 75-66 loss.
The Bulls shot an impressive 10-of-21 from behind the arc to keep themselves in the game, and sisters Andrea and Andrell Smith scored 18 and 27 points, respectively, but it was not enough for the Bulls to play the part of giant-killer.
“We just wanted to attack,” Andrea Smith said. “I know our teammates build off us, so if we get them going, they’re going to come along and push us as well as we push them. So that’s all we wanted to do was we wanted to get out and attack and that was what we did.”
The Irish led by just a point, 57-56, with 7:33 to play in the game. From that point, they went on a 10-1 run over the course of 3:56, effectively putting the game away.
For the Irish, it was Natalie Achonwa leading the way with 20 points and a career-high 20 rebounds on the night, her 17th double-double of the season.
“She’s been big for us all year long but I thought the second half…she didn’t miss much in the second half,” Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw said.
South Florida falls to 21-10 on the season and will have to await their fate on Selection Monday. They will likely make the NCAA Tournament.
Top-seed Notre Dame advances to Monday night’s semifinal against four-seed Louisville at 6 p.m. Their record now stands at 29-1.
In Sunday afternoon’s second game, Louisville managed to survive and advance to tomorrow’s semifinals.
They outplayed St. John’s down the stretch and overcame and eight minute and 28 second dry spell en route to a 62-55 win.
The first half was a story of two long, drawn-out runs.
Louisville opened the game by jumping out to a 19-5 lead in the first six and a half minutes, lead by sophomore forward Sara Hammond, who tallied 10 points during that span and shot 3-of-3 from the field.
“I just knew that I had an advantage,” Hammond said of her quick start, “because they started four guards and there was a guard guarding me and you know, the coaches prepared us well for that…I just knew I had to take advantage.”
But she and the Cardinals quickly tailed off, and St. John’s opened up a run of their own.
This time, it was a 19-2 run in favor of the Red Storm as St. John’s senior guard Shanneika Smith began to pour it in. She finished the half with 14 points and carried the Johnnies to a 24-21 lead at the break.
The second half was far more closely contested, and neither team was able to grab more than a six point lead in the closing period until the final two minutes of the game.
Hammond rediscovered her scoring touch, and finished with a career-high 22 points, while Smith cooled off and stumbled to just five second half points – 19 in total.
With the loss, St. John’s falls to 18-12 on the year and are in some doubt regarding their NCAA at-large bid.
As for Louisville, they advance to the semifinals where they will play either Notre Dame or South Florida and bolster their record to 24-7 on the year.