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Notre Dame Advance To ACC Title Game

Notre Dame will play for a fourth consecutive league crown after defeating Louisville, 84-73, on Saturday. The Irish remain undefeated in ACC Tournament games since joining the league.

When Notre Dame (29-3, 15-1) hosted the Cardinals (27-7, 12-4) a month ago, five Irish players had double-digit scoring efforts in the 19-point victory while one of Louisville’s top players, Myisha Hines-Allen, saw just one minute of playing time due to an injury. This time, however, Hines-Allen was ready to go and the Cardinals proved to be a tougher challenge. But the Irish overcame a cold-shooting first half and foul trouble to oust Louisville from the tournament at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina.

Marina Mabrey paced the Irish with 26 points, her eighth game of 20-plus points this season. Brianna Turner and Jackie Young each added 16 while Arike Ogunbowale chipped in 13. Lindsay Allen had 10 assists and five points in just 27 minutes and Kathryn Westbeld, back in the starting lineup, added eight points and a team-tying five rebounds.

Asia Durr led the Cardinals with 26 points while Hines-Allen had 20. Kylee Shook add 16, including 4-of-5 on three-point shots. Louisville had a 35-25 rebound advantage, but committed 18 turnovers.

Louisville put up the first five points of the game and led for most of the first period, although Notre Dame held an 18-17 advantage when the period ended. The big story, though, was that Allen picked up her second foul with 35 seconds left, and Irish head coach Muffet McGraw was forced to bench her for the second period.

But Mabrey took control of the team and added four more points to her total to lead the Irish with 13 in the first 20 minutes. The score was knotted at 33-33 at intermission despite Notre Dame shooting just 35 percent, but its effort was aided by 9-of-12 shooting at the free-throw line while Louisville had zero trips to the charity stripe. The Cardinals also coughed up the ball 10 times while the Irish had just two turnovers.

“I really don't like when Lindsay does that, but I really don't have to (play point guard) very often,” Mabrey quipped about Allen’s foul trouble. “I really just wanted to keep it even and make sure that we didn't lose our lead or anything, and I thought it was pretty successful.”

The Irish went on a 7-0 run early in the third and jumped out to their biggest lead of the game, but Louisville answered right back behind Durr and Hines-Allen. With just 22 seconds left in the third Allen scored her first points of the game, a trey to give Notre Dame a 58-53 lead. But Durr sank a three pointer of her own at the buzzer to cut the Irish cushion to 58-56.

Allen, Turner and Young all picked up their fourth fouls in the final period, but remained on the floor as Notre Dame slowly managed to increase its lead. With the Irish up 75-69 with just 49 seconds left in the game, Louisville was flagged for a flagrant foul. Westbeld connected on both free throws, Notre Dame maintained possession of the ball and then made seven of its final eight free-throw attempts to secure the victory.

“(Our poise) was critical, and I thought we played a really smart game” McGraw noted. “We got the ball to the right people, took good care of it and forced them into 18 (turnovers), which was huge.”

The top-seeded Irish will face third-seeded Duke, a 57-52 winner over Miami, on Mar. 5 for the ACC crown.

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