WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Baylor, Notre Dame set for regional final matchup

2014-03-30T21:00:00Z Baylor, Notre Dame set for regional final matchupThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 30, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

SOUTH BEND | Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame have been on a journey all season to get back to the Final Four.

They've met every challenge, running through the season unbeaten.

With a victory over Baylor on Monday night, the Irish will join a select group of schools to make four straight Final Fours. Only UConn, LSU, Stanford, Louisiana Tech and Tennessee have accomplished that feat.

"If that happens that would be a great thing for our program," McGraw said. "It sets us apart from others. Having Skylar (Diggins) lead us to three was fun, but now to have a different team to do that. It's a really great thing for our program."

Standing in the way is a plucky young Baylor team led by senior guard Odyssey Sims. Coach Kim Mulkey didn't know what to expect from her team which lost two-time AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and four other seniors. Sims, who helped guide Baylor to a national championship and 40-0 season as a sophomore, would love to get them to Nashville.

"It would mean a lot, seeing all year nobody expected us to be here" Sims said. "This team has grown faster than all of us really expected. The freshmen came a long way and stepped up to the plate. They learned their role and are giving us a lot of production. It would feel unbelievable."

But now the Lady Bears are back in the regional final for the fourth time in five seasons, a year after the team was eliminated in the regional semifinals by Louisville in one of the biggest upsets in women's basketball history.

Mulkey knows it will be a tall task for her team to knock off the Irish at home. A place where they have won 27 straight games with the last loss coming against Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012.

"We don't embrace it, we have no choice," Mulkey said.

Maryland 73, Tennessee 62: Alyssa Thomas scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as fourth-seeded Maryland upset No. 1 seed Tennessee.

The Terrapins (27-6) reached their ninth regional final and first since 2012. They did it against a program the Terps had beaten only four times previously and never before in the NCAA tournament. Maryland improved to 5-10 against Tennessee (29-6) with a little revenge for their previous tournament loss in the 1989 Final Four.

The Lady Vols' self-titled "GrindFor9" in their chase for a ninth national championship is over. They will miss the Final Four for a sixth straight season. This hurts even more with the national championship game being played April 8 in Nashville just 179 miles from their home in Knoxville.

Meighan Simmons scored 31 points for Tennessee.

Louisville 73, LSU 47: Shoni Schimmel scored 19 points, Tia Gibbs added five 3-pointers and third-seeded Louisville rolled seventh-seeded LSU to reach the regional final of the NCAA tournament.

Facing an injury-riddled Tigers squad that dressed just eight players, the Cardinals (33-4) rung up another rout highlighted by a season-best 12 3-pointers with the two seniors leading the way. Schimmel was 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and three other Cardinals contributed.

LSU (21-13) on the other hand went 31 minutes with just Danielle Ballard (24 points), Jasmine Rhodes (eight) and Theresa Plaisance (seven) scoring before other Tigers chipped in. By then the game was out of hand and the Tigers shot just 24 percent from the field.

Louisville moved on to host Maryland on Tuesday night, matching Cardinals coach Jeff Walz against Terrapins counterpart Brenda Frese, whom he worked under from 2002-07.

Stanford 82, Penn State 57: Chiney Ogwumike had 29 points and 15 rebounds, Mikaela Ruef produced a career performance on both ends, and second-seeded Stanford rey to reached the regional final on its home floor.

The Cardinal (32-3) built a big first-half lead and rolled against the third-seeded Lady Lions to move into Tuesday night's regional final against either No. 4 seed North Carolina or top-seeded South Carolina.

Ruef recovered from getting poked in the eye early to contribute 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. She was cheered at every chance by the raucous home crowd at Maples Pavilion. Amber Orrange added 18 points in Stanford's ninth straight NCAA tournament home win.

Ariel Edwards scored 22 points for the Lady Lions (24-8), while leading scorer Maggie Lucas was held scoreless in the second half and finished with six.

North Carolina 65, South Carolina 58: Diamond DeShields escaped two close calls with injury to score 19 points, leading North Carolina one win closer to a sweet reunion with healing coach Sylvia Hatchell.

Brittany Rountree converted a pair of free throws with 1:14 left and two more at the 36.4-second mark to help seal it for the No. 4 seed Tar Heels (27-9), who backed up their December victory against the Gamecocks with another on the NCAA tournament stage.

Alaina Coates hit several key baskets down the stretch on the way to 22 points for South Carolina (29-5), held to 37.7-percent shooting while committing 13 turnovers.

North Carolina needs one more win to be reunited with Hatchell, whose doctors have said she could travel to the Final Four in Nashville, Tenn., after recently undergoing her final chemotherapy session for leukemia.

Hatchell hasn't coached this season after being diagnosed with leukemia in October, though she does plenty of game planning with associate coach Andrew Calder by phone.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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