No. 1-seed Notre Dame opened its quest for a third straight trip to the NCAA Championship finale with a 97-64 romp against 16-seed University of Tennessee at Martin Sunday afternoon in Iowa City, Iowa.
Freshman Jewell Loyd made her NCAA Tournament debut with a career high 27 points during the 97-64 victory against UT Martin.
Head coach Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish — 32-1 overall with a school-record 27-game winning streak — will play a dangerous 9-seed Iowa on the Hawkeyes’ home court Tuesday night. Iowa recorded an impressive 69-53 victory versus 8-seed Miami after the Notre Dame victory.
In her first NCAA Tournament game, freshman guard Jewell Loyd tallied a career high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor while adding six rebounds. Junior Kayla McBride (10-of-13 from the field) posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and classmate Natalie Achonwa scored 16 points and hauled in eight rebounds.
All-American point guard Skylar Diggins, who had battled an illness throughout the week, was primarily a distributor, adding 10 points and six assists. Junior Ariel Braker played another efficient game inside, converting all three of her shots for seven points and added eight boards.
“I just played relaxed and loose and feed off the team’s energy,” Loyd told ESPN afterwards. “…We’re really unselfish as a team, we move the ball well and found cutters in the lane.”
Notre Dame fought off a feisty first-half effort by the Skyhawks (19-15) in which they pulled within 38-31 before the Irish scored the last 11 points for a 49-31 cushion at the intermission. UT Martin 5-5 guard Heather Butler had an extraordinary performance with 37 points (13-of-30 from the floor, including six treys), one short of tying the most ever scored by any individual versus the Irish.
In junior guards Jasmine Newsome and Butler, UT Martin possessed the fifth- and seventh-leading scorers in the nation with 22.9 and 22.0 averages, respectively. They combined for 52 of the team’s 64 points.
The Irish then opened the second half with an 11-2 surge, giving them a 60-33 advantage and eventually pushed the advantage beyond 30 before cruising home while resting the starters.
Notre Dame used its size advantage to post a remarkable 49-14 domination on the backboards. It converted 56.7 percent of its shots from the field (although only 2-of-11 beyond the arc) and made all but one of its 20 free throws (95 percent).
The five Irish starters were 31-of-50 (62 percent) from the floor. Notre Dame dished out 26 assists and committed only 10 turnovers.