Irish top Sooners 78-53 in Sweet 16 rematch
Chris Masoud | Sunday, March 27, 2011
DAYTON, Ohio — Revenge is regarded as a dish best served cold, but Brittany Mallory missed the memo.
The senior guard buried six 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 20 points, as Notre Dame rolled by Oklahoma 78-53 to advance to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament. The Irish fell to the Sooners in overtime in the 2010 regional finals.
“In the first two rounds, I hadn’t hit a three,” Mallory said. “Coming in, I just had to forget about that and just say I’m going to keep shooting. I knew they would eventually fall.”
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins dished out a Notre Dame NCAA tournament record 12 assists, and junior forward Devereux Peters added 17 points and 13 rebounds. The Irish (28-7) outhustled the Sooners (23-11) on the glass, outrebounding Oklahoma 47 to 24.
“We got absolutely demoralized on the boards,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. “They were the better team. There’s no doubt about it.”
Mallory scored Notre Dame’s first nine points of the game, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to push the Irish out to an early lead. The Sooners remained within reach until a 21-2 Irish run gave the squad a 34-17 lead heading into the break.
Peters and junior guard Natalie Novosel combined for 11 points during the first-half run, as Notre Dame capitalized on 14 Oklahoma turnovers.
“I thought our defense was outstanding,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we did a really great job of guarding the three-point line, which was one of our primary concerns. We wanted to be able to rebound and run, and we certainly did that. [Junior guard] Fraderica Miller may be the unsung hero of the game.”
Notre Dame’s bench outscored Oklahoma’s 16-2, as Miller’s 18 minutes proved to be the biggest of her career. Tasked with guarding Oklahoma’s leading scorer, senior guard Danielle Robinson, Miller held Robinson to 16 points, two below her season average.
“She brings great energy to our team,” McGraw said. “I think everybody gets a little bit excited watching the matchup. [Miller] was able to get out and really put some pressure on the ball-handler, which really keyed the rest of our defense. I thought she was a huge key to the win.”
Diggins said the team played with an intensity that stemmed from last year’s loss to the Sooners in the same round.
“I’m not going to act like last year’s game wasn’t at the front of my mind the whole 40 minutes,” she said. “All I wanted to do was score and I wanted to set my teammates up in a position to do so.”
Notre Dame faces No. 1-seed Tennessee (33-2) in the regional final Monday at 7:00 p.m. in Dayton. It marks the first time the Irish have advanced to the Elite Eight since their championship campaign in 2001.