IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa overcame a late-season swoon, rallied to make the NCAA tournament and even posted a tourney win in front of an electric home crowd.
The Hawkeyes, however, were no match for a true national championship contender like Notre Dame.
Kayla McBride scored a career-high 28 points and top-seeded Notre Dame advanced to the regional semifinals of the women's NCAA tournament with a 74-57 win over Iowa on Tuesday night.
Skylar Diggins had 16 as the Fighting Irish (33-1) extended their school-record winning streak to 28 games and finished 13-0 on the road.
"Turned the ball over too many times, gave up too many offensive rebounds, and you have to expect almost a near perfect night to beat a team like Notre Dame," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We just didn't have it."
Iowa, which pounded Miami 69-53 on Sunday for its first NCAA tournament win since 2010, ends its season at 21-13. Bethany Doolittle scored 16 points for a Hawkeyes team which went 0 for 11 from 3-point range and had 21 turnovers.
"I think their defense really bothered us, especially their pressing. They kind of set the tone with that. Their ball pressure was very good," Bluder said.
The favored Irish never let the host Hawkeyes take the lead. Though Iowa managed to threaten Notre Dame's edge at various points in the first half, the Irish pulled away early in the second half and maintained a comfortable lead throughout.
Jewell Loyd had 14 points and Natalie Achonwa added 11 with 14 rebounds for Notre Dame.
Iowa fared quite well against ranked opponents this season despite an 8-8 mark in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes had beaten seven of the 10 opponents who were ranked when they faced them.
But there's a big difference between mere ranked teams and Notre Dame.
The Hawkeyes immediately discovered the difference.
The Irish hit five of their first seven shots and jumped ahead 15-6. By then, Iowa's Samantha Logic — who led the Hawkeyes with 23 points in their opening-round rout of Miami — had picked up two fouls.
Logic followed up a strong first-round game with nine points and 11 turnovers.
Still, Iowa pulled to 24-18 and ignited the home crowd for the first time. It didn't last, as Diggins hit a contested mid-range jumper and McBride pulled up for a long 3 and a 31-18 edge.
McBride had two more momentum-busting 3s from nearly the same spot to put Notre Dame up 46-34 at halftime.
"They're just a really good team. Obviously, we were looking to stop their runs and go on runs of our own. But some of the time we couldn't do that as well as we could have or should have, and they capitalized on that," Doolittle said.
McBride, fresh off her first double-double of the season, hit eight baskets in the first half and four 3s in five tries. She matched her career high of 26 points early in the second half, and the Irish had their first 20-point lead a few minutes later.
Tuesday night marked the finale for seniors Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson. Printy finished second in school history with 252 3-pointers and Johnson finished in the top 10 in blocks, rebounds and scoring.
They won't be easy to replace, but Logic headlines a strong core of youngsters set for more responsibility in 2013-14.
"I think we have a good core coming back. Obviously, losing our three seniors is a huge hit to us. Two starters with names like Morgan Johnson, Jaime Printy, that's not going to be easy to fill," Logic said. "But I think we really have some good people to come back and build off of, a lot of experience still coming back, and we're a team that's willing to work really hard."
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