Women's College Basketball

 
          === Notre Dame blows out Maryland, reaches women's final ===
 
 Nashville,  TN (SportsNetwork.com)  - Notre  Dame, despite  being without  its
 leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, did its part to reach the  women's
 NCAA Tournament final on Sunday and will face fellow unbeaten Connecticut.
 
 Kayla  McBride poured in 28 points on 12-of-21 shooting and the Fighting Irish
 cruised past Maryland, 87-61, in a one-sided national semifinal at Bridgestone
 Arena.
 
 Natalie  Achonwa  watched from the sideline  in street clothes having torn her
 ACL in Notre Dame's regional final victory over Baylor.
 
 Even  with  the senior forward  relegated to cheerleader, the top-seeded Irish
 (37-0)  owned a  50-21 rebounding  advantage,  with Jewell  Loyd and  Markisha
 Wright each pulling down nine.
 
 "I  thought  Kayla McBride got us  off to a  phenomenal start; put the team on
 her  back,  made shots  early and  loosened  everybody  up  and everybody else
 contributed  throughout  the rest of  the game,"  Notre Dame head coach Muffet
 McGraw said.
 
 Loyd  chipped  in 16 points  and Wright  added 12 off  the bench as Notre Dame
 advanced to its third title game in the last four seasons.
 
 Connecticut,  which  ousted the Irish  in last  year's Final Four, improved to
 39-0  later  Sunday with  a 75-56 victory  over Stanford to  set up the highly
 anticipated showdown between undefeated programs.
 
 Brionna Jones scored 16 points while three-time All-American Alyssa Thomas had
 14 on 13 shots for Maryland (28-7), which as a No. 4 seed made it to Nashville
 by  knocking off  top-seeded Tennessee  and last  season's national  runner-up
 Louisville in the Louisville Region.
 
 McBride  made  eight of her  12 shots during a  19-point eruption in the first
 half,  with five  points coming during a  10-0 run that gave the Irish a 33-21
 lead with under six minutes left in the half.
 
 The  Irish, who  were playing  in their  fourth consecutive  Final Four,  took
 advantage  of nine Maryland turnovers and 12 offensive rebounds in the opening
 20 minutes, which ended with Madison Cable beating the buzzer with a 3-pointer
 for a healthy 48-31 lead.
 
 Back  on  Jan. 27, Maryland  erased a 22-point  deficit against the Irish, who
 needed a late run to pull out an 87-83 victory over their ACC foe.
 
 There  was  no comeback  Sunday, as  Loyd cleaned up  McBride's airball on the
 first possession of the second half for a 19-point lead, and the Terrapins did
 not get any closer.
 
 "They  just  wanted it more.  They beat us  at our own  game and we just never
 seemed to get on the boards," Thomas said.
 
 
 
 
 
 04/06 23:05:10 ET

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