Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Despite scoring just two points in the final 7:51, Notre Dame advanced to the National Championship game with a 66-65 win over South Carolina in a hard-fought Final Four matchup from Amalie Arena.
The Irish held a comfortable 64-52 lead following Kathryn Westbeld's jumper just before the under-8 media timeout. They missed nine straight shots after that and turned the ball over three times before Madison Cable played the role of hero.
Cable chased down a Jewell Loyd airball, turned and knocked down a turnaround jumper from the baseline with 13.9 seconds to play, giving Notre Dame a 66-65 lead.
South Carolina took its final timeout and put the ball in Tiffany Mitchell's hands, but the Irish locked down defensively and forced a bad miss on Mitchell's 3-pointer from the left wing as the clock expired.
Loyd paced Notre Dame with 22 points while Brianna Turner and Taya Reimer contributed 17 and 16 points, respectively. Cable's putback was her only basket of the game.
The Irish (36-2) will meet Connecticut in a rematch of last year's title game on Tuesday.
A'ja Wilson scored 20 points for South Carolina (34-3), which was participating in its first Final Four in program history. With the game seemingly out of reach after Westbeld's jumper, Aleighsa Welch, who finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds, led the near-comeback.
Welch scored on three straight possessions and assisted on a Mitchell jumper that cut Notre Dame's lead to 64-58. Mitchell hit again and Olivia Gaines split a pair of free throws before Wilson's layup made it a one-point game with 2:12 to play.
Welch gave the Gamecocks their only lead of the game on a putback layup a minute later. Empty possessions both ways led to Cable's eventual game-winner.
Notre Dame will look to bring the title back to South Bend for the first time since 2001, when it beat Purdue in the final game. The Irish have made five straight Final Fours, losing in the championship game three times.
South Carolina's reserves outscored their counterparts 39-6, and the Gamecocks had 48 points in the paint compared to just 32 for the Irish, but it wasn't enough.
Notre Dame looked to put the game away right off the opening tip. Turner scored seven points in the game's first seven minutes, while the Gamecocks had just five as a team. The Irish led 17-5 before a 4 1/2 minute scoring drought, along with eight straight points by South Carolina reserves, made it a four- point game.
South Carolina got within one late in the first half and tied the score at 36 early in the second, but the Irish responded.
Loyd's three-point play sparked a 10-0 run that helped Notre Dame create some distance. It was down to two following Wilson's personal 6-0 run moments later, but Turner answered, netting the next five.