2014 women’s NCAA Tournament


Notre Dame, UConn advance to women’s title game


No. 1 UConn and No. 1 Notre Dame have been the two best teams in women’s college basketball all season long, with both teams rolling through the season without a single blemish on their respective resumes. That remained the case in Sunday’s national semifinals, and as a result the former conference rivals will meet on the game’s biggest stage Tuesday night.

And that will be the first time in the history of women’s college basketball that the title game matches undefeated teams.

The question for Notre Dame was a simple one: would they be able to account for the loss of leading rebounder Natalie Achonwa, with the senior forward suffering a torn ACL in the South Bend regional final. Thanks to the scoring of Kayla McBride and a group effort on the boards the Fighting Irish were able to do so against No. 4 Maryland, beating the Terrapins 87-61 in the first semifinal.

McBride finished the game with 28 points to go along with seven rebounds, making 12 of her 21 attempts from the field. As a team Muffet McGraw’s squad shot 50.8% from the field, but the story for Notre Dame was their rebounding. Notre Dame managed to rebound 52.8% of its missed shots, scoring 20 second-chance points. Jewell Loyd (five offensive rebounds) and Markisha Wright (four) accounted for nine of Notre Dame’s 19 offensive boards with the latter combining with Taya Reimer to help the Fighting Irish account for the loss of Achonwa inside.

Brionna Jones scored 16 points and Alyssa Thomas added 14 for the Terrapins, with the latter shooting 5-for-13 from the field in her college finale. Thomas ends here collegiate career as the school’s all-time leading scorer.

As for UConn, the Huskies got off to a slow start from the field as they made just five of their first 20 field goal attempts. Geno Auriemma’s team would get going late in the first half, turning a six-point deficit into a four-point lead at the intermission in what would eventually become a 75-56 win over No. 2 Stanford.

UConn has just a six-player rotation but all six contribute, with five starters finishing Sunday’s win in double figures and reserve Kiah Stokes adding nine points off the bench. Breanna Stewart paced the Huskies with 18 points while also grabbing seven rebounds, and UConn’s front court length factored into Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike scoring 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. As a team Stanford shot 38.2% from the field after making seven of their first 12 shots, and the 6-for-25 night from beyond the arc didn’t help matters either.

Normally a game between Notre Dame and UConn at this stage in the season would represent the third or fourth time they’ve met, meaning that there would essentially be no secrets. But thanks to conference realignment, with the Fighting Irish in the ACC and the Huskies in the American, that isn’t the case.

What hasn’t changed is the fact that these two elite programs have continued to rack up wins, and as a result they’ll be playing for a spot in the history books Tuesday night.

Stanford, Maryland join undefeated UConn and Notre Dame in women’s Final Four


Maryland 76, Louisville 73: The Terrapin head to Nashville as the lowest seed remaining — the No. 4 seed coming out of the Louisville Region. Maryland had to knock off top-seeded Tennessee to reach the Elite 8, where it faced the No. 3 seed Louisville, playing inside its home arena.

With two minutes Maryland appeared to have the game locked up, leading the Cardinals by a dozen. But Louisville would use a late-game comeback which was nearly completed before Shoni Schimmel missed her potential game-tying 3-pointer. With 31 seconds remaining Schimmel connected on three 3-pointers. She finished with 31 points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals. Alyssa Thomas scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Maryland. Lexie Brown added 20.

Maryland faces undefeated Notre Dame, though, the Fighting Irish will be without senior forward Natalie Achonwa, who tore her ACL in the Elite 8 win over Baylor.

Maryland-Norte Dame is scheduled for 6:30 on April 6.

Stanford 74, North Carolina 65: Chiney Ogwumike played her Maples Pavilion on Tuesday night, but her college career with continue as the No. 2 seed Stanford will head to Nashville for the Final Four following its Elite 8 win over No. 4 seed North Carolina.

Ogwumike went for a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. She was one of five Stanford players in double figures as Mikaela Ruef (17 points), Amber Orrange (14 points), Bonnie Samuelson (13 points), Lili Thompson (10 points) followed.

The Cardinal will play unbeaten UConn, which enters the Final Four with a 37-0 record. In 2010, Stanford ended the Huskies’ 90-game winning streak.

Stanford-UConn is scheduled to tip at 8:30 p.m. on April 6.

Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa tears ACL, out for women’s Final Four

Natalie Achonwa
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Undefeated Notre Dame qualified for its fourth straight Final Four on Monday night following an 88-69 win over the No. 2 seed Baylor in the Elite 8.

The Fighting Irish enter the Final Four in Nashville without senior forward Natalie Achonwa, who left the game with less than five minutes remaining with a knee injury. Her college career will end where it began, the Edmund P. Joyce Center in South Bend, as it was announced on Tuesday that she had torn her left ACL and is out for the remainder of the tournament.

Anchonwa was third on the team in scoring and the Irish’s top rebounder at 14.9 points, 7.7 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.2 block and 1.1 steals per game.

“Natalie has been an extremely valuable contributor to our success, not only this season but throughout her career, and that won’t change,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said in a statement. “While she may not be in uniform, her voice will be heard loud and clear in the locker room, on the bench and in the huddle. I know that our team is going to continue to feed off her energy, passion and leadership as we head into the Final Four.”

Notre Dame is one of two unbeaten teams in the Final Four along with former conference rival UConn.

The Fighting Irish begin the Final Four on Apr. 6, facing the winner of Maryland-Louisville.

Unbeaten No. 1 seeds UConn and Notre Dame advance to 2014 Women’s Final Four

Jewell Loyd,Michaela Mabrey
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A pair of undefeated No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four of the 2014 women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night as UConn and Notre Dame both advanced with wins.

UConn moved to 38-0 this season with a 69-54 win over Texas A&M to claim the Lincoln Regional title while Notre Dame ran past Baylor, 88-69, to make it to the Final Four out of the Notre Dame Regional. The Fighting Irish move to 36-0 on the season.

Notre Dame made its fourth consecutive Final Four behind 30 points from Jewell Loyd and Natalie Achonwa added 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Achonwa went down with a left knee injury in the final five minutes of the game and will have an MRI Tuesday, however as Notre Dame holds its breath.

The Huskies won in the Lincoln Regional as all five starters finished with at least 11 points and the Huskies had 20 assists for 27 field goals.

Center Stefanie Dolan was particularly effective for UConn, scoring 14 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking eight shots.

The Fighting Irish will play the winner of No. 4 Maryland and No. 3 Louisville in Sunday’s Louisville Regional final while UConn will play either No. 2 seed Stanford or No. 4 seed North Carolina in the Stanford Regional final.

One-seeds South Carolina, Tennessee fall in women’s tournament

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Women’s NCAA Tournament bracket

And then there were two one-seeds remaining in the NCAA women’s tournament.

One day after No. 1 UConn and No. 1 Notre Dame took care of business, South Carolina and Tennessee weren’t as fortunate in their respective Sweet 16 matchups. Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks, who won their first-ever SEC regular season title this year, fell to No. 4 North Carolina 65-58 in the Stanford Regional. Diamond DeShields, daughter of former major leaguer Delino DeShields, led the way for the Tar Heels with 19 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

North Carolina’s best work was done on the defensive end of the floor, where they limited the Gamecocks to 37.7% shooting from the field. Alaina Coates scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds off the bench for South Carolina, but leading scorer Tiffany Mitchell was held to 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting from the field. North Carolina’s reward for knocking off the Gamecocks is a true road game in the Elite Eight, as they’ll face No. 2 Stanford in Tuesday’s regional final.

Chiney Ogwumike scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to propel the Cardinal to an 82-57 win over No. 3 Penn State, with Mikaela Ruef adding 11 points and 13 rebounds and Amber Orrange scoring 18 points. In total four Stanford starters scored in double figures, and just as important was the defending of Penn State’s prolific shooting guard Maggie Lucas. Lucas scored just six points in her final game as a collegian, shooting 3-for-14 from the field.

No. 1 Tennessee was eliminated by No. 4 Maryland in the Louisville Regional, dropping a 73-62 decision with the versatile Alyssa Thomas being a thorn in the Lady Vols’ side all afternoon. Thomas scored 33 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out three assists to lead the Terrapins, who made up for their 38.6% shooting by forcing 22 Tennessee turnovers. Meighan Simmons scored 31 points to lead Holly Warlick’s Lady Vols, but the turnovers and 35.8% shooting proved to be too much to overcome.

And like North Carolina, Maryland will need to win a road game on Tuesday in order to reach the Final Four as No. 3 Louisville whipped No. 7 LSU 73-47 in the other regional semifinal. Shoni Schimmel scored 19 points and Tia Gibbs added five three-pointers off the bench for the Cardinals, who reached last year’s title game before falling to UConn. Danielle Ballard scored 24 points to lead LSU but she was their lone double-digit scorer, and as a team the Lady Tigers shot 23.9% from the field.

No. 1 UConn moves to 35-0 with win in NCAA tournament opener

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One day after fellow No. 1 seed Notre Dame improved its unblemished record to 33-0, No. 1 UConn moved to 35-0 with an 87-44 win over No. 16 Prairie View A&M in its NCAA tournament opener Sunday. Geno Auriemma’s Huskies, the top seed in the Lincoln Region, have won all 35 of their games by double digits with their 11-point win over Baylor on January 13 being the closest result.

Against the SWAC champion Lady Panthers, UConn would lead by as much as 50 in the second half with Breanna Stewart scoring 19 points and grabbing ten rebounds to lead the way offensively. All five starters scored in double figures for the Huskies, who led 44-12 at the half.

Next up for UConn is No. 9 Saint Joseph’s, which beat No. 8 Georgia 67-57 in the first game of the doubleheader in Storrs. The men’s programs met Thursday night in Buffalo, with the Huskies beating the Hawks in overtime.

Saint Joseph’s was one of five lower-seeded teams to win Sunday, with just three such teams were able to pull off the feat Saturday. Two 11-seeds were among the five, with Stanford Region No. 11 Florida beating Dayton 83-69 and Lincoln Region No. 11 James Madison knocking off No. 6 Gonzaga 72-63. CAA Player of the Year Kirby Burkholder put together quite the line for JMU, finishing the game with 28 points, 18 rebounds and four assists.

Both teams will have challenging road tests Tuesday, with the Gators taking on No. 3 Penn State and the CAA champion Dukes playing No. 3 Texas A&M.

The other one-seed in action Sunday was Stanford Region No. 1 South Carolina, which won the SEC regular season title. Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks held off Cal-State Northridge 73-58 in their NCAA tournament opener, with guard Tiffany Mitchell scoring 24 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists and center Alaina Coates providing 13 points and 16 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Louisville Region No. 2 West Virginia and No. 3 Louisville were also winners Sunday, with the Mountaineers beating No. 15 Albany 76-61 and the Cardinals throttling No. 14 Idaho, 88-42. And in the game that provided the most suspense, Stanford Region No. 4 North Carolina came back from 18 down to beat UT-Martin, 60-58. Diamond DeShields scored 15 points and dished out four assists for the Tar Heels, and Xylina McDaniel’s putback with 56 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.