Notre Dame and Connecticut each handled their opponents to set up an exciting battle in the women's national championship game.
Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated tells you all you need to know about this matchup:
UConn (39-0) vs. Notre Dame (37-0). Tuesday night.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 7, 2014
The Fighting Irish were clearly the better in their Final Four win over Maryland, outscoring their ACC rival 87-61. Kayla McBride was the star of the show with 28 points, as the squad moves to one win away from completing a perfect season.
In the second game in Nashville, Connecticut pulled away from Stanford late to secure a 75-56 victory. The Huskies continued their own undefeated year thanks to a great effort by both Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart.
Here is a look at what you need to know for the national finals, as well as a full recap of each semifinal game.
|When||Tuesday, April 8|
|Time||8:30 p.m. ET|
|Where||Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.|
You can view the complete women's bracket courtesy of NCAA.com.
No. 1 Notre Dame 87, No. 4 Maryland 61
Notre Dame built up a big lead by halftime and cruised to victory with a dominant showing over Maryland.
McBride was simply outstanding for the Fighting Irish, scoring 28 points, including 19 in the first half. Cindy Brunson of Fox Sports Arizona discussed how good the guard was in this matchup:
Jewell Loyd and Markisha Wright also finished in double figures for Notre Dame, which shot 50.8 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, three-time ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas only had 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting in a losing effort for the Terrapins. Lexie Brown had a solid showing with 11 points and eight assists, but it was not enough to make the game competitive.
These two teams battled closely early on, with the score at 23-21 in favor of Notre Dame 12 minutes into the contest. However, the favorites pulled away thanks to five points in a row by McBride.
Before you knew it, the Irish were on a roll heading into the second half with a 48-31 lead behind 19 points by the senior. As Adam Shear of Fox28 points out, this was an impressive showing even for her:
Kayla McBride has already eclipsed her scoring average in the first half for the #NDWBB team w/19ts and still a minute left.— Adam Shear (@AdamShearFOX28) April 6, 2014
Jeff Barker of the Baltimore Sun noted that Maryland was not getting as much from its star:
#Terps, who trail Irish 48-31 at the half, will need a big dose of Alyssa Thomas (5 pts, 2 fouls). Irish outrebounding Terps 23-8.— Jeff Barker (@sunjeffbarker) April 6, 2014
Brionna Jones had 12 first-half points for the Terrapins, but she struggled as much as the rest of her team at securing rebounds.
The second half featured much of the same, as Maryland was never able to cut the deficit to less than 17.
Notre Dame was playing this game without leading rebounder and third-leading scorer Natalie Achonwa, who suffered a torn ACL in an earlier tournament game. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw discussed the keys to this game with one of her best players out, via Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:
The key to the game for us is rebounding. They're a great rebounding team. They've got so much size inside. They're physical. They're skilled. And for us losing our leading rebounder creates a little bit of a problem in that area. If everybody just gets one or two more rebounds, we're trying to make up for what Natalie would have given us.
The Irish certainly were able to follow this strategy with a 23-8 rebound advantage going into halftime and a 50-21 mark overall. They had 19 offensive rebounds in the win and had a big advantage in second-chance points:
Notre Dame outscoring Maryland 18-0 in second-chance points #ncaaWFF— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 7, 2014
This domination on the boards helped the squad dominate a quality opponent in the Final Four.
Notre Dame now moves to 37-0 on the season with the hope of completing the fantastic year with a national title. However, things will only get much tougher from here.
Still, the Irish proved on Sunday that they are a dominant squad when playing at their best. If this continues, it would be hard to imagine anyone getting the better of them.
No. 1 Connecticut 75, No. 2 Stanford 56
Connecticut used a dominant second half to pull away from Stanford and secure a spot in the national championship.
Mosqueda-Lewis scored all 15 of her points in the second half to add to the 18 from Stewart to help the Huskies secure the victory.
As SportsCenter notes, this continues an impressive trend for one of the best programs in college basketball:
UCONN TO THE TITLE GAME! Huskies beat Stanford to improve to 39-0, advance to 9th championship game in school history. #PursuitOfPerfection— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 7, 2014
Amber Orrange led the way for Stanford with 16 points, but Chiney Ogwumike was held to just 15 in the loss. This was way below the 26.6 points-per-game average of the nation's third-leading scorer.
The two sides were neck and neck in the first half as UConn was able to come away with a 28-24 lead. Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean:
Stanford has not been to FT line. UConn has made 7 of 9 FTs. Star watch: C/Stewart 10 pts (2-6 FGs), S/Ogwumike 4 pts (2-5 FGs). #ncaaWFF— Jeff Lockridge (@jefflockridge) April 7, 2014
Matt Zemek then provided a look at the good and bad side of the first 20 minutes for Stanford:
The good news for Stanford: Ogwumike scored only 4, yet it trails by only 4. The bad news: UCONN's not likely to miss as many shots.— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) April 7, 2014
Ogwumike added a few more points in the second half, but it was not enough to help the Cardinal stay in the game.
After continually battling to a 30-27 score, the Huskies went on a 14-0 run to blow open the game. This streak included nine points for Mosqueda-Lewis, her first points of the game. The team then continued to pull away thanks to its work inside:
At the under 12 timeout, UConn already has more points outside the paint in the second half (12) than it did in the first half (7).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 7, 2014
Orrange provided a strong effort for Stanford to keep it competitive, but Connecticut was simply too good to hold off as the squad moved onto the national finals.
The Huskies improved to 39-0 on the season and have set up a dream matchup against former Big East rival Notre Dame. Both teams enter the game undefeated, but UConn will likely be favored in the competition.
With loads of talent on both ends of the court, the fans will be the true winners no matter what happens.
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