Notre Dame Blasts Cowgirls, advance to Elite 8

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is one win away from advancing to their fifth straight Final Four

When Notre Dame loss to the Connecticut Huskies last season, it left a bad taste in their mouth.

The Fighting Irish (35-0) took one step closer to that rematch and perfection today by dismantling the Oklahoma State Cowgirls 89-72.

Natalie Achonwa led Notre Dame with 23 points as they jumped on the Cowgirls 14-0 in the first 3:31 of the game. Achonwa hit a three to cap off the 14-0 run. Jewell Loyd contributed 20 points as Notre Dame handed the Cowgirls their worst loss since February 15th, 2013 when Baylor Lady Bears beat Oklahoma State 83-52.

With all the talk about going undefeated and making a run at the NCAA Championship and a potential rematch with UConn, Notre Dame head coach, Muffet McGraw isn't trying to look forward.

"We stay focused by not answering questions about the noise and distractions surrounding this whole thing," coach Muffet McGraw said. "We did it all season long without looking ahead and now we have to do it again."

Oklahoma State was able to cut the Notre Dame lead to 24-14 with 10:55, but that would be the closest the Cowgirls would get the remainder of the game. They were able to cut it to within 12 and 13 on separate occasions in the second half, but every time Oklahoma State would put together a few buckets back-to-back. Notre Dame had an answer every single time. They were able to push the lead out to as many as 20 late in the second half when Kayla McBride hit a 3-pointer. The Fighting Irish led 82-62.

The loss also ends the fantastic career of Tiffany Bias. She'll focus on trying to become a top draft pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft that takes place in April. Bias finished today with a double-double. She had 17 points and 11 assists in the loss.

Brittney Atkins came off the bench for the Cowgirls and contributed 13 points. LaShawn Jones was one of the few bright spots for the Cowgirls. She had 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting. She started 6-of-8 from the floor.

McBride finished with 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting, she also drained two 3-pointers for Notre Dame. Madison Cable came off the bench and scored eight points and Markisha Wright contributed six as well off the bench.

For a team like Oklahoma State that usually dominates the rebounding category, which in turn allows them to win contests against teams that may be better shooting or more efficient. Notre Dame and tried to limit the Cowgirls to one-and-one possessions, thumping the rebounding category 46-36 and outscore the Cowgirls 24-16 on second chance opportunities.

Oklahoma State falls to 0-3 in the Sweet 16. Their run over the last three seasons, 69 wins, winners of the 2012 WNIT and a Sweet 16 appearance is nothing that should go without credit to Jim Littell. He took over a sensitive situation, with the death of former head coach, Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna. It's been over 2 1/2 years since that fateful day, and Budke started this and Littell is just continuing what Budke wanted.

Only thing standing in Notre Dame's way of another Final Four appearance, are the Lady Bears of Baylor. The last time Notre Dame lost on their home court, was to Baylor last season. Currently, the Fighting Irish are on a 27-game home winning streak. They'll put that on the line for a shot at the Final Four on Monday night. Notre Dame is 0-4 all-time against Baylor.

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