Notre Dame Outlasts South Carolina to Advance to Championship Game


They’ve been here before. They’ve been tested like this before. But it doesn’t make this one any less sweet for coach Muffet McGraw and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After racing out to an early lead, the Irish went scoreless for over seven minutes until Madison Cable had the biggest rebound and basket of the night to propel Notre Dame to the 66-65 win over South Carolina and advance to the National Championship game.

The Irish (36-2) ran out to an early lead, but the Gamecocks battled back–and even took the lead late in the second half. But poor foul shooting may have been their downfall, going 7-of-16 and missing six of seven down the stretch. With Tiffany Mitchell proving ineffective for much of the night, it was A’Ja Wilson who stepped up on the big stage, scoring 20 points to keep South Carolina (34-3) in it to the end.

The Irish got big games from Jewell Loyd (22 points) and Brianna Turner (17 points), but things reached panic level late in the second half. Turner fouled out, and not long after Lindsey Allen joined her. While Allen hadn’t been an offensive force, her directing of the offense is critical. So with two of their stars on the bench, Notre Dame simply had to survive.

After the Cable rebound and putback, the Gamecocks brought it across the line and called timeout. No secrets here. Coach Dawn Staley was drawing up something for Mitchell. But McGraw made some changes of her own, putting in Hannah Huffman–who played five minutes–to guard Mitchell in the biggest sequence of the game.

More from Slap the Sign

The move paid off, as Loyd and Huffman forced her into a bad pass that Huffman swatted away. Mitchell regained control, but only with enough time to force up a desperation shot that didn’t come close.

The Irish will now get a rematch in the championship game on Tuesday against the Connecticut Huskies, who beat Maryland 81-58. The two met last season in a battle of unbeatens that the Huskies won. Notre Dame was without Natalie Achonwa in last years game as she injured her knee in the prior game.

Next: McGraw's Most Unlikely Final Four Team