GREENSBORO, N.C. – In their first trip to the ACC Tournament Championship game on Sunday, the No. 7/6 FSU Women's basketball Team came up short to No. 2/2 Notre Dame 71-58 in the Greensboro Coliseum. For the first time this season the Noles lost the rebounding battle.
It was a strong first half for the Fighting Irish (31-2) that propelled them to a second consecutive ACC championship. The Seminoles (29-4) trailed Notre Dame 38-25 in what was a rare halftime deficit, as inside looks were hard to come by with UND’s defense packing the paint. FSU was only able to muster 20 points inside while the Irish generated 50 points on the block.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd led Notre Dame and all scorers with 18 points and finished with seven rebounds. Florida State redshirt senior guard Maegan Conwright led the Noles with 14 points and dished out six assists, just one shy of her season best. Sophomore guard Leticia Romero added 13 points while junior center Adut Bulgak had 10 points and seven boards.
Florida State kept even with Notre Dame in the second half at 33-33, and proved to be bothersome at times with seven blocked shots. Sophomore forward Ivey Slaughter once again recorded a career high-tying three blocks while freshman Shakayla Thomas added two.
For the first time this season, FSU was out-rebounded as Notre Dame won the edge on the glass 39-27.
Two quick baskets in the paint forced an FSU timeout early in the second half. The Noles faced a 42-25 deficit, their largest deficit of the season. Following the timeout, FSU got an immediate 3-point field goal from Conwright and Romero would follow with a 3-ball from the left wing to leave FSU trailing 48-33 with 15:54 left. FSU finished the game with six made 3-point field goals in 20 attempts.
FSU trailed at halftime for just the third time this season, heading into the locker room with a 38-25 deficit. Notre Dame out-rebounded FSU in the first half 21-15 and shot 48.5 percent, led by four players who each had eight points. UND’s size advantage showed in its 26-4 advantage in the paint, while the Irish also generated 18 points off 10 FSU turnovers.
Notre Dame would finish the game shooting 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the floor while FSU shot 21-of-57 (36.8 percent).
Bulgak led FSU with 10 points in the first half despite finding it difficult to go inside. It marks her 21st double-figure scoring game of the year.
A fast start to the game made for some entertaining play on both sides as Notre Dame took a 16-14 lead into the first media timeout at 13:12. Brittany Brown led FSU with six points early as she swished her first two 3-point field goals, including her first to cut FSU’s deficit to 10-5 following an 8-0 Notre Dame run. From the start of the game the Irish tried to use its size to its advantage with high-low action for Brianna Turner on the block.
FSU took a 17-16 lead on a 3-pointer from Bulgak at the wing. The Noles had a period of strong defense where it forced Notre Dame turnovers and held the Irish to a 2:51 scoring drought. However, The Irish turned things around with an 8-0 run over a quick one-minute period as a result of forcing FSU turnovers and finding open shooters in transition. The Noles had a stretch where they went 2-for-11 to allow Notre Dame to take a 28-19 lead with 6:55 left in the first half.
Romero drew her third foul of the game late in the second half when she was whistled for a charge. FSU’s offense continued to struggle but got a boost from Bulgak’s second 3-point field goal of the game to cut the deficit to 36-25. However, a scramble for the rebound underneath the basket pinballed into the arms of Madison Cable. Her layup created FSU’s 38-25 halftime deficit.
Shakayla Thomas earned a spot on the ACC All-Tournament First Team while Leticia Romero was named to the second team. Jewell Loyd earned MVP honors for the Fighting Irish.
Florida State is expected to be selected as a host to the NCAA First and Second Rounds scheduled for March 20-23. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will air on Monday, March 16, at 7 p.m. on ESPN.