The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (32-0, 16-0) have not had many nail-biters throughout a thus-far undefeated season. For twenty minutes on Sunday, however, it didn't look like an ACC Tournament championship was going to come easy for the Irish.
Notre Dame and the Duke Blue Devils (27-6, 12-4) were nodded up at just 28 at the break. But as they have done so many times this season, the Irish pulled away in the second half, cruising to a 69-53 victory over the runner-up Blue Devils.
In fitting fashion, the Irish were led in scoring in every game of their ACC Tournament by ACC Player of the Year Jewell Loyd. Her 26 points last night were nearly met by fellow All-American Kayla McBride's 25 point effort, as the duo continues as the most dominant backcourt in the nation.
Loyd and McBride were needed on Sunday, as Notre Dame struggled to find much offense elsewhere on a forgettable shooting night. Their 43% was well below their 54% average on the season.
But the Irish were stellar defensively all night, forcing 20 turnovers and ending Duke's 83-game streak making a three-pointer. The Blue Devils helped matters further by going just 3 of 12 from the free throw line, missing plenty of key ones as Notre Dame was distancing itself.
Duke was led by Haley Peters (18 points) and double-double machine Elizabeth Williams (17 points, 16 rebounds) and look to be around a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame's 16-point victory came on the heels of two thoroughly dominant efforts in their ACC Tournament, each led by Jewell Loyd's scoring efforts. On Friday, the Irish defeated the Florida St. Seminoles by 26 as they shot 60% from the field. Their 35-point victory over the N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday came largely from the free throw line, where the Irish were 26 of 32.
Jewell Loyd led the Irish with just under 20 points per game and added an ACC Tournament MVP to her Player of the Year Trophy.
Notre Dame now has about a week off as they await the NCAA Tournament selection, where they will undoubtedly be a number one seed. Each number one gets to host their regional semi-finals and finals, so local Irish fans should be able to see the women in action in the coming weeks on their road to the Final Four.
Congrats to Muffet McGraw and her Irish on a great and fun-to-watch ACC season!