SOUTH BEND, IND. — No. 5 Notre Dame (27-3, 15-1 ACC) flexed its prowess in its season finale Sunday versus No. 8 Florida State (25-5, 13-3). The Fighting Irish jumped out to an early 12-3 lead and never looked back en route to a 79-61 win over the Seminoles.
The Fighting Irish extended their season-long winning streak to 11 games and look like the team to beat heading into the ACC Conference Tournament.
“We played a very intelligent game,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “This team, we were anointed early on and didn’t handle it well but we were able to earn our way back.”
Notre Dame has had an excellent season with only three losses on the year, one of which came against top-ranked Connecticut.
It can be argued that Notre Dame’s lone roadblock to an ACC Championship in its upcoming conference tournament is this same Florida State team.
Led by Brianna Turner and Arike Ogunbowale, the Fighting Irish utilized a balanced offensive attack to stifle the Seminole defense early. Ogunbowale and guard Lindsay Allen consistently pushed the pace offensively, while Turner dominated the low-post.
“Its not just Turner,” Florida State head coach Sue Semrau said. “You have to make choices [defensively] when your playing Notre Dame. If your choice is Turner for a layup or Mabrey for a three, its a tough choice to make.”
The Seminoles were outmatched most of the game because of the wealth of options Norte Dame has at its disposal.
Allen, who currently leads the ACC in assists and assists per game, kept the Seminole defense guessing all afternoon. The senior point guard used her offensive savvy to consistently create open looks for her teammates.
Allen finished with a team-high nine assists — which tied Notre Dame’s school record — and didn’t commit a turnover throughout the game. Meanwhile, Turner finished the game with a team-high 24 points, six rebounds and five blocks. Ogunbowale chipped in 19 points.
Reigning ACC Player of the Week Marina Mabrey couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively and finished the game with just eight points but added six assists.
The Seminoles couldn’t stop the Fighting Irish offensively and let Notre Dame’s home court advantage get to them mentally.
Senior guard Leticia Romero was the lone bright spot for Florida State. She finished the game with 14 points and four rebounds.
Florida State has relied on star forward Shakayla Thomas for most of the season but the junior finished with just 10 points on Sunday.
Florida State made a push late in the third quarter. They managed to gain some momentum and cut Notre Dame’s lead to 11 entering the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t keep pace with the Notre Dame offense or its crowd.
“To have that many people that get excited about a layup and three-point shot when you haven’t been in that situation, it’s deflating,” Semrau said.
Florida State will have to prepare itself mentally for the postseason if it wishes to outlast its ACC foe.
Notre Dame was crowned regular season ACC champion with its victory over Florida State, but its season is not over. McGraw’s squad will look to cap its year with a Final Four berth.