March 08, 2014
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina State's offense had run through Markeisha Gatling inside all season. It's no surprise then that the No. 14 Wolfpack would struggle without her.
The 6-foot-5 senior didn't play in Saturday's 83-48 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals due to a knee injury suffered in Friday's quarterfinal win against Syracuse. Without her, N.C. State lacked its most efficient offensive player who was a reliable scorer and rebounder in the post.
"We've run quick hitters and we have other things that we can do offensively, but Keisha's a big part of what we try to do," first-year coach Wes Moore said. "We work inside out. These other kids obviously can do a lot of things on their own as well, but it runs through her. Obviously you take her out, that changes things."
Gatling was averaging 18 points and seven rebounds while shooting a national-best 67.6 percent. She had started all 31 games this season, so it was the first time N.C. State had to go without her.
With Gatling leading the way, the Wolfpack had ranked near the top of the league by shooting almost 46 percent. Without her Saturday, N.C. State shot 31 percent and managed just 18 points in the paint.
"It was difficult for North Carolina State without Gatling," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "They'll be fine. They just didn't have enough time to prepare. I know she'll be back for the NCAA tournament and we wish them luck."
The top-seeded Fighting Irish (31-0) had no trouble putting away the injury-depleted Wolfpack. Notre Dame scored the first 12 points, led by 28 at halftime and by 37 from there to continue their dominating run in their new league.
The Fighting Irish, who shot 60 percent in a 26-point win against Florida State in Friday's quarterfinals, shot 52 percent in the first half on the way to their second lopsided win against the fourth-seeded Wolfpack (25-7) in a week.
That sent Notre Dame to Sunday's championship game, where the Irish will try to become the first team to go 19-0 through ACC regular-season and tournament play since Duke in 2001-02 and 2002-03.
Notre Dame will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between No. 10 Duke and No. 13 North Carolina.
Freshman Miah Spencer scored 11 points to lead the Wolfpack, who will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
Gatling dressed out and stood under the basket while rebounding for her teammates during pregame warm-ups, but spent the rest of the day on the bench.
Gatling's absence was a tough blow for a team that was already down two seniors, guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and forward Lakeesa Daniel, due to season-ending knee injuries suffered on consecutive days in mid-February.
Second-leading scorer Kody Burke managed just four points on 1-for-8 shooting as N.C. State shot 31 percent for the game, including 4 for 20 from 3-point range as it searched for a new flow.
As for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish got a jumper from Lindsay Allen to cap its 12-0 run in the opening 5-plus minutes, then ran off an 11-0 burst midway through the opening half to blow the game open and take a 42-15 lead on Taya Reimer's layup at the 1:50 mark on the way to a 46-18 halftime lead.
N.C. State, which lost to Notre Dame by 24 at home last weekend, got no closer than 27 points in the second half.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame sets a school record with its 31st consecutive win, topping last year's winning streak and establishing the second-longest success string by any Fighting Irish team (regardless of sport) since 1950 (only softball's 33-game run in 2001 has been longer) ... Notre Dame advances to the championship game of its conference tournament for the fourth consecutive season and 13th time in the past 26 seasons (since winning the 1989 Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League Tournament in their inaugural season in that league) ... the Fighting Irish are 6-6 all-time in conference tournament championship games, going 5-0 in the MCC (1989-92, 1994) and 1-6 in the BIG EAST (2013) ... as the top seed in the conference tournament for the eighth time since 1988-89, Notre Dame is 16-3 (.842) and has advanced to the title game seven times, winning three MCC crowns (1990, 1991, 1994) and one BIG EAST championship (2013) ... Saturday's 35-point margin was the largest for the Fighting Irish in a conference tournament game since March 6, 2010, when they defeated Louisville, 89-52 in a BIG EAST second-round game at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. ... Notre Dame allowed 48 points, tying for its second-lowest points allowed this season and the fewest given up to a ranked opponent since Dec. 29, 2012, when it defeated 11th-ranked Purdue, 74-47 at Purcell Pavilion ... the 48 points were the fewest allowed by the Fighting Irish in a conference tournament game since March 5, 2012, when they defeated No. 25 West Virginia, 73-45 in the BIG EAST semifinals in Hartford, Conn. ... the 18 first-half points were the fewest allowed by Notre Dame in a half this year (Virginia Tech scored 19 in the first half on Jan. 30 at Purcell Pavilion) ... Notre Dame is 10-0 against Top 25 teams this year, winning nine of those by double figures and claiming the past four (and five of the last six) by at least 20 points ... the Fighting Irish are 3-0 all-time against North Carolina State ... Notre Dame is 21-2 (.913) all-time against North Carolina schools, including an active 11-game winning streak ... the Fighting Irish are 10-1 (.909) all-time when playing in the state of North Carolina ... Notre Dame was playing its second game in less than 48 hours, improving to 43-9 (.827) in the back half of such situations since the start of the 2008-09 season ... the Fighting Irish had four double-figure scorers for the 22nd time this season and are 97-5 (.951) in such games in the past five years, including wins in 67 of their last 68 games ... Notre Dame had single-digit turnovers (nine) for the fourth time this season, ending up two short of their season best (seven vs. Clemson on Jan. 5 at Purcell Pavilion) ... the Fighting Irish bench scored at least 40 points for the sixth time this season, and first since Feb. 9 vs. Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion (43) ... Notre Dame had at least one reserve score in double figures in a game for the 22nd time this season ... freshman guard Lindsay Allen set a Fighting Irish record for freshmen with 118 assists this season, surpassing Mary Gavin's mark of 116 assists set in 1984-85 ... sophomore guard Jewell Loyd scored in double figures for the 35th consecutive game, extending the second-longest string in school history, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride posted her 22nd consecutive double-digit scoring game, tying for fifth-longest in school history ... Loyd has 998 career points, putting her in position to be the 33rd 1,000-point scorer in program history, and the third to do so before the end of her sophomore season (Beth Morgan in 1994-95, Skylar Diggins in 2010-11) ... having played her 66th game on Saturday, Loyd also could be the third-quickest player in program history to reach 1,000 points, surpassed only by Morgan (56 games) and Shari Matvey (66 games from 1979-83) ... freshman center Diamond Thompson scored a season-high four points (she had two on two occasions, the last against Duquesne on Dec. 1 in Toronto) ... for the eighth time in her career, sophomore guard Hannah Huffman tied her personal best with five rebounds, having last done so on Jan. 2 against South Dakota State ... junior guard Madison Cable scored in double figures for the fifth time this season and eighth time in her career (first since Jan. 23, when she had 10 points against Miami) ... sophomore guard Whitney Holloway tied her season high with four points, having hit that mark for fifth time this year ... Notre Dame will face No. 10 (and second-seeded) Duke in the ACC championship game at 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum -- the game will be televised live on ESPN and online through the WatchESPN mobile app, while the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast can be heard live and free of charge on South Bend's Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and online at WatchND.