RALEIGH, N.C. – One of the most lopsided beatings in the regional round of the NCAA women's tournament has Notre Dame halfway to the national championship that slipped away last year.
Natalie Novosel scored 16 points and Notre Dame advanced to the Raleigh Regional final by routing St. Bonaventure 79-35 on Sunday in the semifinals.
Kalia Turner scored 14 points and Kayla McBride added 10 for the top-seeded Irish (33-3).
They shot 52.5 percent, never trailed and led by 45 before matching a 22-year-old record for scoring margin at the regional stage while cruising into the regional finals for the second straight year.
Notre Dame will play second-seeded Maryland (31-4) on Tuesday night with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
CeCe Dixon had 13 points and Doris Ortega added 11 for the fifth-seeded Bonnies (31-4).
They shot a season-low 19 percent, gave up a season-high point total and finished with a season-worst 21 turnovers. Leading scorer Jessica Jenkins was scoreless – she entered averaging 14 points – and missed all six of her shots.
The best season in school history – not to mention their first NCAA tournament berth – ended abruptly after they couldn’t recover from a disastrous start in which they went scoreless for more than 10 minutes.
The Irish have won all three games in this tournament by double figures. This one equaled the 91-47 beating Louisiana Tech gave Purdue in the 1990 Midwest semifinals, and it was another convincing step toward the national championship that slipped away a year ago.
Calling it unfinished business, they’ve drawn motivation from their loss in the 2011 title game to Texas A&M. They would’ve earned another shot at the Aggies in the regional final, had the Terrapins not rallied to beat them 81-74 in the first semifinal.
Notre Dame made it to a regional final for the fourth time – they’ve advanced to the Final Four in each of the previous three – and did it by bringing a quick end to St. Bonaventure’s dream season.
The Bonnies simply couldn’t have started much worse: After Ortega’s layup 30 seconds in, they didn’t score again until Ortega’s three-point play pulled them within 16-5 with 9:32 left in the half. At its nadir, St. Bonaventure missed 20 of its first 23 shots and didn’t get into double figures until the final minute of the half when Jennie Ashton’s free throw with 52.2 seconds left made it 33-10.
The Irish pushed their lead into the 30s when Novosel’s layup with 17 minutes remaining made it 43-13 – and it only got worse from there.