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Notre Dame diminishes Duke's NCAA hopes

The second ACC quarterfinal game features top-seeded Notre Dame against eight-seeded Duke. It would be all Notre Dame from the first whisle to the final horn. The Fighting Irish shared the ball with Lindsay Allen leading with four and the first 20 minutes of play, nobody turned the ball over for Notre Dame.

ACC

Greensboro, NC -- The second ACC quarterfinal game featured top-seeded Notre Dame against eight-seeded Duke. Prior to today, the Irish were 4-0 against the Blue Devils in the post-season.

The game got off to a slow start.  Duke scored first with two free throws from Oderah Chidom after she was fouled by Brianna Turner.

From there, defense dominated the play.  Two minutes passed without a score; then Madison Cable got Notre Dame on the board with a three-pointer to take the lead.

Another scoreless two minutes went by before Chidom and Kathryn Westbeld traded layups for their teams.  Azura Stevens and Michaela Mabry then swapped three-pointers, giving Notre Dame an 8-7 lead.

For the remainder of the quarter, the Irish kept the lead, but the Blue Devils were never far behind.  Notre Dame began the second quarter up 14-11.

To start the scoring off, Michaela Mabrey sank a deep three, increasing the Irish's lead.  Then Notre Dame went on an 18-4-run over the next six minutes.  Defensively, Duke could not keep up.

Angela Salvadores and Stevens each made a three-pointer in an attempt to chip away at Notre Dame's increasing lead, but time ran out in the half before they could barely make a dent.  The Blue Devils went into the locker room with a 15-point deficit, down 39-24.

At the half, Stevens led both teams in scoring with 11 points.  Chidom led in rebounds with 8.  Perhaps the most impressive stat, though, is the zero turnovers committed by Notre Dame.

Not much changed to start the second half.  Duke was still struggling to stop Notre Dame's offense.  The Irish went on another long run, 12-2, in the first four and a half minutes.

Marina Mabrey was not making it any easier on Duke by swishing a long-range three to eventually put the Irish up 56-33.  Fouling was also not proving to be a smart decision since Notre Dame was shooting 100 percent on free throws.

The Irish took a 62-35 lead into the fourth quarter and things were not looking so good for Duke.

Faith Suggs, Chidom and Stevens combined for seven points within the first few minutes.  But whenever Duke seems to get in a grove, the Irish spoiled their success.  This time, it was Marina Mabrey again with the three, making it 71-42.

Within the last four minutes, Kyra Lambert hit three three-pointers.  Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the Irish continued to score as well, keeping the deficit out of reach.

Notre Dame won healthily with a final score of 83-54.  The Irish will take on Miami in the semi-finals tomorrow at noon.

Stevens remained the game's top-scorer with 19 points, while Chidom finished on top as well with 11 rebounds.  Notre Dame had five players score double digits for the tenth time this season.

Irish Head Coach Muffet McGraw credits the team's success to their incredible team chemistry and IQs.

"Everybody knows everybody's strengths, and they know what their role is," said McGraw.  "They don't try to do too much.  They do exactly what they're supposed to do, so when they get the ball, everybody knows what's going to happen next."

Beyond this weekend, the Irish have their eyes on the NCAA Tournament and a national championship.

"The ACC Tournament is a really important stepping stone going into the NCAA Tournament," said senior guard Hannah Huffman.  "If we have a good tournament here, it helps build us up and get some solid momentum going into the tournament."

As far as Duke, they will wait in hopes of receiving a bid to the NCAA tournament as well.

"I feel like they've overcome a great deal," said Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie.  "A great deal more than any other team in the country. And despite today, we are the greatest story.  This team is the greatest story.  No one out there has any idea what we've been through, and what we'd like to continue to go through to the tournament."