SOUTH BEND, Ind. —Montana needed to find some hot hands and hope the nation’s second-best shooting team had an off game if the Lady Griz were going to compete with Notre Dame Friday night in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. Neither happened.
No. 16-seed Montana’s season came to an end with a 77-43 loss to the No. 1-seed Fighting Irish in front of 6,231 fans at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion. Stats
Notre Dame (32-2), which is ranked No. 2 nationally, advances to face DePaul in the tournament’s second round Sunday night.
The Fighting Irish hit six of their first seven shots and 10 of their first 12, and shot 62.3 percent overall to win their 18th straight game. Notre Dame hasn’t lost since Jan. 8.
“They’ve got a heck of a team and kind of had their way with us offensively,” said Robin Selvig, who was coaching in his 21st NCAA tournament.
“They just pass it so well and are a great shooting team. They’re a great basketball team that plays well together. I think they have a chance to go a long ways.”
Montana (24-9) wasn’t going to hold Notre Dame to 56 points, which the Lady Griz had been giving up this season. The challenge was going to be matching the Fighting Irish offensively.
They did for short stretches, but not consistently, and Montana struggled from 3-point range, going 2 for 21, despite most of the shots being nice looks.
“Our chance would have been if we had come in and done the opposite of what we did,” said Selvig, whose team shot 30.6 percent. “We would have needed to be hot. We could have hung around if we did that, but it just didn’t happen.”
Montana scored three times in the paint in the opening three minutes, two baskets coming from sophomore Kayleigh Valley, who did not look at all out of place against Notre Dame, and were down just 7-6 early on.
But 14 straight points by the Irish put the Lady Griz in catch-up mode, a tough spot to be in against an offensive juggernaut. Montana missed six straight shots as Notre Dame was pulling away.
“I thought we were actually doing okay. We were just missing shots,” said Selvig. “We had a lot of looks early and were not making them, and you’re hoping that doesn’t happen.
“Occasionally we shoot the heck out of it from the perimeter, and we absolutely didn’t do that tonight. So it was going to be a long night.”
Montana was overmatched but not necessarily outplayed. Maggie Rickman brought Montana within eight, 21-13 midway through the first half, and a Valley free throw made it 25-16 with 7:00 left.
But Notre Dame was just too balanced and too big offensively. The Irish scored 44 points in the paint and had 20 assists on its 33 field goals.
“After having two weeks off (after the ACC tournament), I was a little worried about our execution and how sharp we would look, so I was really pleased with the way we came out. I thought we looked poised,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, who won her 695th game at UND.
“Our shot selection was really good. We looked to go inside a lot more and were especially working the high-low very effectively.”
Jewell Loyd, named the National Player of the Year last Friday by espnW, scored 18 points, and all five Notre Dame starters scored at least nine points and all five shot at least 50 percent.
Behind Kellie Rubel, McCalle Feller and Valley, Montana matched Notre Dame basket for basket through the opening five minutes of the second half, but another offensive outburst by the Fighting Irish put the game away.
Montana would score just 19 points in the second half and had just one basket the final eight and a half minutes to drop to 0-11 its last 11 trips to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s obviously disappointing for us,” said Selvig, “but what we try to do is provide experiences for the ladies, and going to the NCAA tournament is a great experience.
“We got kicked, but who wouldn’t want to play against the best if you’re a competitive athlete?”
Valley finished with a team-high nine points. Rickman, Rubel and Feller all added eight.
Carly Selvig, Rickman and Rubel, who finished her career with 1,291 points, 12th in program history, all played their final game in a Lady Griz uniform.
— Montana Sports Information