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Win over Temple tastes sweet for Fighting Irish

Notre Dame back in Sweet 16 for 2nd straight year

SHARE Win over Temple tastes sweet for Fighting Irish

SALT LAKE CITY — The Notre Dame women's basketball team is in the midst of yet another sweet season.

For the ninth time in team history and the second year in a row, the second-seeded Fighting Irish have advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the women's NCAA Tournament. They earned a 77-64 victory over the No. 10 Temple Owls at the Huntsman Center on Monday evening.

After starting slowly in the opening round against Utah on Saturday, Notre Dame (24-9) jumped out to an early lead by playing well from the tipoff on both ends of the floor. The Irish shot 59.3 percent in the first half while holding the Owls (28-7) to just 33.3 percent and 29 points.

"I was happy with our offense," said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. "We finally got back into rhythm, shot the ball well and executed. (Temple) is a good defensive team, and I was pleased with how good our offense was against that defense."

Notre Dame went on to finish the game shooting 51.9 percent from the field, which was greatly due to the number of high-percentage shots the team created, scoring 44 points in the paint.

In spite of the dominant first-half play, which led to McGraw's team taking a 41-29 advantage into halftime, a string of turnovers to open the second half allowed Temple to rally back into contention. The Irish had just seven giveaways in the entire first half, but committed four in the first seven minutes of the latter half and allowed the Owls to pull within five points, 52-47, with 13:16 remaining.

Owl guards Kristen McCarthy and Shey Peddy sparked the Temple rally, combining to score 21 of the Owls' 35 second-half points.

Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said that run was her team's opportunity to take over, but the scoring was too unbalanced and, "that's not how we play. We need contributions from everybody. By the end of the game, (Peddy) was worn out and committing turnovers."

The Owls came up empty in their next four possessions and Notre Dame took control of the game for good.

"We kept fighting, but when we were down five, that was our chance," Peddy said. "Then we turned the ball over and gave them and-ones."

The Irish said regrouping is what allowed them to put a stop to the Owls' momentum.

"We didn't panic," Notre Dame guard Natalie Novosel said of how her team responded. "We played defense and executed. That was the big key."

Peddy and McCarthy finished with 21 and 16 points, respectively, and Natasha Thames grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in addition to 12 points for Temple. The team shot 61.5 percent from the 3-point line but made just 12-of-25 free throws.

The Owls exit the tournament at the same place they did last year, falling to 0-5 in second round games.

"I'm proud of my team for going up against a top-10 team," Cardoza said. "We gave them a fight, we never backed down, and hopefully we take something from this into next season."

The Irish had five players score in double digits, led by 17 points from both forward Devereaux Peters and Novosel. Peters added 12 rebounds for the double-double, leading Notre Dame's dominance in the paint.

Skylar Diggins scored 15 points and had seven assists while Becca Bruszewski had 12 points and Natalie Achonwa had 10 points and eight rebounds.

"(Anhonwa) hit some big shots for us going down the lane," Muffet said. "I'm proud of her; she's a freshman hitting those shots to send us to the Sweet 16 and she didn't even look nervous."

With the win, the Irish are now 26-0 when leading at halftime and 29-16 in NCAA Tournament games. They will play again on Saturday against the winner of today's match up between No. 3 Miami (Fla.) and No. 6 Oklahoma.

"Any win in the Tournament is a relief," Novosel said when asked if it was nice to get through the first set of games. "It's about survival, and now we move on to the next one."

email: sthomas@desnews.com