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Mar 22, 2022 1:11 am

Women’s NCAA Tournament notebook: Irish register record rout

With three players scoring at least 20 points during a second-round women’s NCAA Tournament game, fifth-seeded Notre Dame made history in a 108-64 destruction of Oklahoma on Monday in Norman, Okla.

The margin of victory was the largest in NCAA Tournament history by a lower-seeded team. The Sooners also took the worst NCAA tourney loss in program history.

The Fighting Irish (24-8) shot 53.9 percent from the floor and hit 10 3-pointers in the rout. Notre Dame built a 60-25 lead by halftime.

“To be honest, when you shoot like that — I felt like I was unconscious there — at one point I wasn’t thinking,” said Notre Dame guard Dara Mabrey, who hit seven 3-pointers and scored 29 points. “I just knew when I caught it, I was going to let it go and it was going in. As a shooter when you believe in yourself like that, you believe I’m going to make it and it’s going in, chances are it’s going to go in.”

The 108-point outburst also marked the highest-scoring performance in an NCAA Tournament game in Notre Dame women’s basketball history.

“This is something you wish for, you pray for,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “We haven’t had a game yet where we were really good on both sides of the ball. Like the entire game as far as running and our offense was exactly how I envisioned it as far as our pace, and we shot the ball well. We did a great job of shot selection, going inside out.”

Notre Dame will take on top-seeded North Carolina State in the Sweet 16 on Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn.

–Thanks to a 64-49 victory over Villanova, the Michigan women’s basketball program made history by advancing to the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.

Prior to last season, the Wolverines had never even made it out of the first weekend, but now Michigan has done it again.

“Everybody doesn’t get to the Sweet 16,” said Michigan senior Naz Hillmon, who put up game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds. “You never know when it’s going to happen again, so we need to celebrate for our time.”

Last season, Michigan lost a 78-75 overtime heartbreaker to Baylor in the Sweet 16. The Wolverines would have had an opportunity for revenge against the Bears in the Wichita Regional, but 10th-seeded South Dakota pulled a shocking upset over second-seeded Baylor on Sunday to advance instead.

If third-seeded Michigan can defeat South Dakota on Saturday, it would mark the program’s first-ever trip to the Elite Eight.

“I don’t want it to end,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “And I try to embrace every single practice and every single moment with them. So I know we’ll be back at it (Tuesday) and excited for what’s ahead of us.”

–Indiana is back in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season despite producing its lowest point total in a home game this season during a 56-55 victory against Princeton in Bloomington, Ind.

The third-seeded Hoosiers banked on their recent background to come through after a 14-point lead vanished and they trailed in the final minute.

“We’re a veteran team so we’ve been in these positions before, honestly, whether it’s in practice playing against our black squad or whether it’s in a game, and we’ve been in these situations,” Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes said. “So I think we were ready and didn’t panic.”

A year ago, the Hoosiers reached the Elite Eight, the best women’s NCAA Tournament result in school history, but most of the season was played without fans. This time, they relished in the environment.

“I’m going to go high-five (the fans) and make them feel like they’re part of this victory because they are,” Holmes said. “We couldn’t have done this without them, and I want them to keep showing up for us.”

Indiana had to overcome 17 turnovers to move on to a Saturday matchup with second-seeded UConn in Bridgeport, Conn.

“It was hard to find some offense,” coach Teri Moren said. “Our kids just had enough.”

–UConn is going to the Sweet 16 for the 28th straight time, so coach Geno Auriemma figured he had experienced a bit of everything while in charge of the Huskies.

Then he witnessed the second-seeded Huskies’ 52-47 survival against seventh-seeded UCF on Monday night in second-round action at Storrs, Conn.

“Given the kind of season we’ve had, I thought I’d pretty much seen it all,” Auriemma said, “but this was a rather new experience for me.”

If he dares to review that latest contest, he’s bound to be both disturbed and proud. UConn led by 11 in the fourth quarter back the Knights got within three points in the last minute.

“We could have just as easily let that game get away from us and we didn’t,” he said. “There’s something to be said for that, that you can win a game that you probably would look back and say I’m not sure how we won that game, but we did.”

UConn (27-5) isn’t playing at a vintage level. Still, the Huskies manage to win on a regular basis.

“I’m experiencing things this year I’ve never experienced before,” Auriemma said, “and I guess it’s supposed to make me a better person.”

–Sixth-seeded Ohio State pulled off a significant upset by beating third-seeded LSU 79-64 in a second-round game at Baton Rouge, La.

The result was great for Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff, but it wasn’t all jubilation for McGuff.

That’s because at the same time that his team was playing, Belmont was sustaining a 70-67 loss at Tennessee. His daughter, Kilyn McGuff, is a freshman guard for Belmont. She scored two points in a reserve role.

“Amazingly we came out at halftime and before the second half started, the Tennessee-Belmont game was on the big screen,” Kevin McGuff said. “So I’m sitting there waiting for the second half to start and watching them close out the game and she was in the game at the very end. So I’m watching her and then just trying to get focused for the game. So a very surreal moment for me and for our family.”

Kevin McGuff will take his team to Spokane, Wash., to meet second-seeded Texas in the Sweet 16 on Friday. He would have preferred to have some of his family’s attention diverted to another site as well.

“I’m really proud of her and the season that she had with Belmont and their fight (Monday),” Kevin McGuff said. “Obviously would have been amazing if they won as well. Just an incredible weekend for our family.”

–Kim Mulkey, in her first year as LSU’s coach, knows what it’s like to advance far into the NCAA Tournament. She directed Baylor to the Final Four on four occasions, winning three national titles.

This was her first go-around while directing the Tigers.

“One of my most enjoyable years ever in my career,” Mulkey said. “I personally judge good coaches based on the talent they have on that floor and are they overachieving.

“Did we beat some people this year we should not have beaten? You bet we did. We beat a lot of ’em. We beat ranked teams. We didn’t start this baby ranked. We came from nowhere and just built it.”

The turnaround for the Tigers came fast this season, as they ended up as a host team for the NCAA Tournament’s first and second rounds. Mulkey hopes it will be the foundation for something bigger.

“This bunch jump-started this program again,” she said. “It revived it again. It gave everybody an interest. And I’m forever grateful to them. Forever.”

–North Carolina had one of the longest trips of any team for the opening rounds of the tournament, playing two games in Tucson, Ariz.

Next up, the Tar Heels can take a bus because they’re heading to the Greensboro Region semifinals on Friday.

After handling host Arizona 64-45 on Monday night, North Carolina will play its next game less than an hour’s drive from its Chapel Hill campus.

The Tar Heels, who are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015, will go back to the Greensboro Coliseum, where they lost in their only game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament earlier in the month. This time, they’ll be greeted by South Carolina, which is the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seed.

–Field Level Media

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