SALT LAKE CITY – The women’s basketball team’s dreams of advancing to its first-ever Sweet 16 vanished on Monday night as No.10 seed Temple fell to No. 2 seed Notre Dame, 77-64, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Following a solid performance in the opening round against Arizona State, the Owls’ bigs were dominated in the paint by the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame finished with 44 points in the paint, compared to 20 for Temple. Sophomore center Victoria Macaulay scored just two points after leading the Owls in scoring in the opening contest. The lack of an inside presence hurt the Owls.
“I think if they would have showed up like last game, it would have definitely helped our chances,” redshirt-junior guard Shey Peddy said.
Peddy led the Cherry and White with 21 points, shooting 8-of-16 from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc. Junior forward Kristen McCarthy finished with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Notre Dame had five players finish with double figures, led by senior forward Devereaux Peters and junior guard Natalie Novosel with 17 apiece. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins finished with 15 points and seven assists, leading the Fighting Irish to their ninth appearance in the Sweet 16.
Notre Dame started the game slow, shooting 1-of-4 to open the contest. The Owls defense effectively shut down Diggins for the opening nine of the contest, leaving her scoreless.
Senior guard Qwedia Wallace hit a three to give the Owls a 14-13 lead with 11 minutes, 48 seconds left in the opening half to give the Owls their only lead of the contest.
Diggins would not be contained any longer, as the point guard scored or assisted on the next four Irish possessions. Her offense revitalized the Irish, and they took control from that point forward.
“I think once Shey got scoring, I think [Diggins] probably took it a little personally,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “She wanted to fight right back at her. “
Wallace turned the ball over on a shot clock violation with 38.6 seconds remaining without putting up a shot. It was that kind of weekend for Wallace. She finished 3-of-10 in the contest and 6-of-20 for the tournament.
Notre Dame used a 15-2 run in the first half to gain its largest lead of the half with 18 seconds remaining. Diggins hit a three to give the Irish the lead, but Peddy answered with a three of her own, and the Owls trailed at halftime, 41-29.
The Fighting Irish shot 59.3 percent in the first half, compared to just 33.3 percent for the Owls. The Owls were able to stay in contention by shooting 5-of-9 from three.
The Owls fought back in the second half, cutting the lead to five with 12:58 remaining. Following a Notre Dame timeout, the Irish went on a 10-0 run that effectively put an end to any comeback chances for the Owls.
Temple had several chances to close the gap once Notre Dame entered the penalty, but it failed to convert its free-throw attempts. The team shot 10-of-21 in the second half and 12-of-25 for the game.
Notre Dame will move on to play the winner of the Miami and Oklahoma contest in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday.
The team advanced to the second round of the tournament, defeating No. 7-seeded Arizona State, 63-45. Macaulay led the way for the Owls with 12 points.
Peddy finished the contest with 10 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three assists. Her six steals against the Sun Devils were enough to break Jen Ricco’s single season steal record of 96 set in 1997-98.
Temple was able to contain All-Pac-10 guard Simon to force as many turnovers – five – as points scored. The Owls defense limited the Sun Devils to 30.9 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from the three-point line, while forcing 18 turnovers.
Temple recorded its largest margin of victory in the NCAAs with the 18-point win. The previous record was 12 in the win against James Madison in the 2010 first round game. Temple lost to eventual champion Connecticut, 90-36, in the second round last season.
The Owls finished the season 24-9 and moved to 0-5 all-time in second round contests. Despite a disappointing end to the season, the team has hopes to build on its performance for next season.
“We do have a lot to look forward to next year,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to continue to work hard and come back stronger.”
Joe Serpico can be reached at email@example.com.