The second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish will play in the finals of the Big East Conference Tournament for a third straight year. The Fighting Irish defeated the 16th-ranked Louisville Cardinals 81-59 in the semifinals on March 11.
Notre Dame got out of the gate quickly, scoring the game’s first 12 points. Louisville answered with a run of their own as they outscored Notre Dame 16-4 over the next 4:41 to tie the game at 16-16 with 11:30 left in the game. Shoni Schimmel scored 10 points and Sara Hammond scored six points during the Cardinals run.
With the game tied, Notre Dame went on a couple of small runs before the end of the half. The Fighting Irish had a mini-run of 7-0 to take a 23-16 lead with 7:50 left. Following a Hammond jumper, Notre Dame outscored Louisville 7-4 to take a 30-22 lead with 2:21 to go. The Cardinals scored four of the final six points in the half to trail by six (32-26) at halftime.
Notre Dame took control of the game right after halftime though it could’ve been different if Antonita Slaughter was able to knock down an open three-pointer. The Fighting Irish, who totaled 51 points in the half, began the second stanza on a 27-6 run and led 59-32 at the 12:06 mark.
"It's a six-point game at the half and if that (Slaughter’s shot) goes in it's a three-point game," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said following the game. "We have some momentum in our favor. She (Slaughter) couldn't make it then they started scoring some in transition. They did a really nice job in scoring when they needed to."
Notre Dame (30-1) had four players in double figures, led by Kayla McBride’s 17 points. Skylar Diggins (14 points), Kalia Turner (12 points, which is a season-high) and Natalie Achonwa (11 points) were the other Fighting Irish in double figures. Diggins also had six assists and four steals while Achonwa grabbed a team-high nine boards.
Notre Dame shot 46.7 percent (28-of-60) from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc (7-of-15) while Louisville connected on 36.5 percent (23-of-63) of their shots from the floor and 16.7 percent (3-of-18) from the three-point line. Notre Dame converted more than 90 percent (20-of-22) of their free throws for the fifth time this season.
Schimmel led Louisville (24-8) with 20 points while Hammond finished with 12 points.
The Fighting Irish will play third-ranked Connecticut (28-4) in the finals of the Big East Tournament on March 12. This championship game appearance will be Notre Dame’s seventh since joining the conference in 1995. The Fighting Irish are 0-6 in Big East championship games with all their losses coming against Connecticut. The Huskies have won 19 Big East Tournament titles, including the last five.
Other game notes:
- Notre Dame has won 25- straight games, which is a school record.
-The Fighting Irish have defeated UConn six of their past seven meetings, including twice this season. Both games were close as the first one was decided by a single tally and the second was a triple overtime affair.
- Notre Dame has won 30-games in three consecutive seasons.
- Notre Dame is now 10-4 all-time against Louisville.