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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish overwhelm Grizzlies in first round

| Friday, March 20, 2015

No. 2 Notre Dame advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in resounding fashion Friday night, defeating Montana, 77-43, at Purcell Pavilion.

“I was really pleased with the way we came out,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think Jewell got us going. I thought we looked poised. After having two weeks off, I was a little worried about the execution, how sharp it would look. I thought all three freshmen really played well, and overall, just a great win for the whole team, I thought a real team effort today.”

The No. 1-seeded Irish (32-2, 15-1 ACC) led for almost the entire game against the No. 16-seed Grizzlies (24-9, 14-4 Big Sky). Montana’s only lead was a 4-2 advantage in the game’s first minute.

Junior guard Jewell Loyd scored a game-high 18 points; freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds, and sophomore guard Lindsay Allen dished out a game-high seven assists.

Notre Dame shot the ball well throughout the game. Overall, the Irish made 62.3 percent of their field goals, compared to 30.6 percent for Montana.

Sophomore forward Kayleigh Valley led the Grizzlies with nine points.

“I actually thought we were getting some pretty good looks early and not making them,” Grizzlies head coach Robin Selvig said. “They did hit us with some pressure that turned us over, and give them credit for that, but I didn’t think we were having a horrible time getting shots. We just aren’t a 60 percent-shooting team like them.”

In the first half, the Irish made 18 of 30 from the floor.

Two free throws from Westbeld and a Loyd jumper with less than a minute remaining in the first half sealed a 43-24 lead for Notre Dame heading into the locker room. It was the largest advantage of the half for the Irish.

Notre Dame also held 15-point leads three times in the first half.

Notre Dame pulled away, 21-6, seven minutes into the period, but Montana clawed back with a 7-0 run to make the score 21-13 midway through the half.

A Westbeld layup gave the Irish a second 15-point lead, 33-18, with under five minutes to go in the half. Allen later drove and sank a layup to push Notre Dame to its third 15-point edge of the half, 37-22.

The Irish played quick and racked up six fast-break points in the first half while also tallying 22 points in the paint. Notre Dame finished with eight fast-break points and 44 points in the paint, compared to 24 inside points for Montana.

“We executed really well,” Loyd said. “Everyone fed off each other’s energy really well, and we just took what the defense gave us.”

Loyd paced the Irish with 12 points and four assists in the first half. Westbeld led the way for Notre Dame on the boards with eight rebounds in the first half.

For Montana, senior forward Maggie Rickman’s six points were the most in the first half, and sophomore forward Alycia Sims had her team’s high in rebounds with four. Rickman finished with eight points, and Sims totaled six rebounds, tied for the team lead with Valley.

Notre Dame returns to the court Sunday for a second-round matchup against DePaul at 9 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion. DePaul beat Minnesota on Friday at Purcell Pavilion to advance.

The Irish and the Blue Demons have met once this season Dec. 10 in Chicago. Notre Dame escaped in its only overtime game of the year, 94-93, thanks in large part to a program-record-tying 41 points from Loyd.

Notre Dame has made many improvements since then, especially with communication and toughness, Loyd said.

“I think we’re stronger,” Loyd said. “We’re getting tougher. That’s something coach has been pushing hard all year, and I think we’re finally starting to get it.”

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