GREENSBORO, N.C. – The top-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish posted a decisive 83-48 win over the fourth-seeded N.C. State Wolfpack in the first semi-final game of the 2014 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday.
The Fighting Irish (31-0, 16-0) used a deep bench to get scoring from 11 different players while N.C. State (25-7, 11-5) had to contend with a shorter bench, minus All-ACC center Markeisha Gatling who didn’t play as a result of suffering a knee injury during the team’s quarter-final game against Syracuse on Friday.
Jewell Loyd led all scorers with 16 points while Kayla McBride, Michaela Mabrey, and Madison Cable all added 10 apiece for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame got out in front early and put up points quickly while N.C. State struggled from the field, going scoreless for the first five minutes of play.
As the Irish quickly built up a 12-0 leady by the 14:37 mark, N.C. State posted its first points on a turnaround jumper from Kody Burke just 11 seconds later.
While the Wolfpack added a few more baskets, the Irish continued to work in the paint to post many more of their own and extended the lead to 25-8 with 7:51 to play in the opening half.
Without Gatling on the floor, the ACC’s most accurate scorer, the N.C. State offense didn’t function effectively, even with Burke as the go-to person inside, as the Notre Dame defense kept her to four points throughout the game.
While the Wolfpack converted on only 25 percent of their shots from the field, the Fighting Irish controlled play and the score with their 52-percent shooting performance that gave them a comfortable 46-18 lead by halftime.
“I thought we played really well,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said.
“I thought we did a lot of good things defensively. I was happy with the transition game and the rebounding. It was difficult for North Carolina State without Gatling, and they’ll be fine. They just didn’t have enough time to prepare.”
During the second half, Notre Dame picked up where it left off and pushed the score to 59-23 before N.C. State started to show some more offensive energy and finish with 14 minutes remaining.
Miah Spencer, who led the Wolfpack offense with 11 points, put together an 8-2 run that ended once the Irish started matching baskets to extend their lead to 66-36 with 8:36 to play.
Even while showing more fight in its play and finishing the game on a 6-2 run, N.C. State’s challenge to play more aggressively during the final half was compounded with foul trouble that all but ensured suffering another large loss to the conference’s best team.
“Rough day; obviously, a very humbling day,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore stated.
“And it’s hard right now to look at the big picture. But hopefully we can do that soon. And there’s about 290 Division I teams out there that would give anything to trade places with us and be playing in the NCAA tournament in a couple of weeks. We’ve just got to pick things up and maybe try to learn from some of the things that occurred today.”
With the win, Notre Dame earned its first trip to the ACC Tournament championship game to face the defending champion, the second-seeded Duke Blue Devils, on Sunday at 7:00 p.m.