by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM Duke gets a chance to repeat as ACC Women’s Basketball champion tonight, but to get that done the Blue Devils will have to slay Goliath.
Notre Dame (31-0) won both regular-season meetings with No. 10 Duke by a total of 31 points, and the intrepid Blue Devils are down to their fourth point guard.
But Duke (27-5) is coming off a brilliant 66-61 win over archrival UNC in Saturday’s nightcap following a 30-point rout of Georgia Tech, and it’s fair to say Joanne P. McCallie’s team is on a good roll.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, on this night the Irish’s outside combination of Jewell Loyd and Kayla McBride is about as good as has been seen in women’s college basketball.
Loyd finishes with 26 points and McBride 25 as the Irish use a big second half to break away for a 69-53 win.
It makes Notre Dame the first member outside the ACC’s “Original Seven” to win the title.
The Blue Devils dominate the inside, as Haley Peters scores 18 points and Elizabeth Williams adds 17 with a season-high 16 rebounds.
Duke shoots 43.9 percent to 42.9 for the Irish and wins the rebound battle 40-36, but commits 20 turnovers to Notre Dame’s 10.
The score is tied 28-28 at halftime, but a 12-point Irish run early in the second puts the game away.
Loyd earns MVP honors and is joined on the first team by McBride, Williams, Duke’s Tricia Liston and UNC’s Diamond DeShields.
Peters and Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa made the second team along with Wake Forest’s Dearica Hamby, Florida State’s Natasha Howard and Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “This was a good game, a really good basketball game. I’m really, really proud of our players and their fight. I thought Elizabeth was just absolutely outstanding and aggressive in a way that she can be. I thought Haley was just a fierce competitor as she always is, rebounding and looking to score and being aggressive there, too.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw: “We have really played well. It’s a credit to our senior leadership. They have this team ready every single day in practice. They’re mentally tough. They have a competitive spirit. They just came in every day willing to work hard, ready to do whatever it takes. It would have been easy to watch a little game film and pat ourselves on the back and talk about how good we are.”
Williams: “I think it was a matter of focus and concentration and getting the ball inside. As Coach P. said, we bugged out of some of our offenses in the second half. And defensively we started cheating out the shooters and that left the paint a little more open.”
Peters: “Our overall tournament performance was good. We need to play as much as we can play together, and we earned all three games. In every game we took a step forward in being as good as we can be. I think we did that a little bit tonight. We just didn’t stay with it the whole game.”
Stars of the day
Duke in NCAA Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium, March 22
Notre Dame in NCAA Tournament, March 22 or 23.