Irish Stay Perfect
South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame’s quest for perfection will continue at the Final Four.
Jewell Loyd scored 30 points and unbeaten Notre Dame advanced to the Final Four for a fourth straight season with an 88-69 win over Baylor on Monday night.
Natalie Achonwa added 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Irish (36-0), who will face either Louisville or Maryland in the national semifinals on Sunday night in Nashville.
The loss ended the brilliant career of Baylor guard Odyssey Sims, who finished this season with 1,054 points — eight short of Jackie Stiles’ NCAA record for a single season. Sims scored 33 points for Baylor (32-5), but had little help on offense.
The win extended Notre Dame’s home winning streak to 28 games. Baylor was the last team to beat the Irish in South Bend — doing so on Dec. 5, 2012 — but that team had 6-foot-8 star Brittney Griner.
The loss ended another superb season for Baylor. The Bears advanced to the regional final for the fourth time in five seasons, a year after they — with Griner — were eliminated in the regional semifinals by Louisville in one of the biggest upsets in women’s basketball history.
The Irish took control in the first half with senior Kayla McBride on the bench with early foul trouble. Trailing 21-17 midway through the first half, Loyd and Achonwa got the Irish going. Achonwa, who had a double-double in the first half, started a 14-0 run with a layup. Loyd then scored the next eight points, including a highlight reel three-point play that made it 24-21 and whipped up the sellout home crowd, which included former Irish star Skylar Diggins.
By the time Sims hit a pullup in the lane with 5:32 left the Lady Bears trailed 31-24. The Irish led 44-32 at the half as Loyd finished with 21 points in the first 20 minutes.
Connecticut 69 Texas A&M 54
Lincoln, Neb. — Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis continued her splendid run through the NCAA tournament with 17 points, and Connecticut advanced to the women’s Final Four for the seventh straight year with a victory against Texas A&M.
The defending national champion Huskies (38-0) won their 44th straight game and will be going for their record ninth national championship in Nashville. Their semifinal opponent Sunday will be either Stanford or North Carolina.
Stefanie Dolson, who made her 150th career start to tie the NCAA record, had 14 points and 10 rebounds and blocked a career-high eight shots. Bria Hartley had 14 points, Breanna Stewart added 13 and Moriah Jefferson 11.
Courtney Walker led Texas A&M (27-9) with 14 points. Courtney Williams had 13 and Jordan Jones 12.
After the Aggies got within three points early in the second half, UConn outscored the Aggies 27-12 to build its lead to 18 points.