April 7, 2014
Unbeaten and second-ranked Notre Dame (now 37-0) retained its perfect women's basketball record by defeating Maryland 87-61 Sunday night in an NCAA national semifinal game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Here's what happened yesterday and last night on a minute-by-minute basis:
1:30 p.m. - It's a veritable Who's Who of former Irish women's basketball players as everyone from Skylar Diggins to Letitia Bowen hangs in the lobby at Notre Dame's team hotel, the Loews Vanderbilt.
3:20 p.m. - Notre Dame's team hotel is packed the minute you exit the elevator as dozens of Irish supporters dressed in green await the Notre Dame squad as it will head for its team bus for the short drive to Bridgestone Arena.
4:32 p.m. - With an hour on the scoreboard clock, the Irish hit the floor to get up some practice shots. The Notre Dame players are wearing blue long-sleeved adidas warm-up shirts that say "The Irish Way" on the front and "Ace 11" on the back in tribute to injured veteran Natalie Achonwa.
4:45 p.m. - Diggins walks down into the Notre Dame section at Bridgestone and is engulfed by fans wanting to take photos with her.
4:50 p.m. - Achonwa stands on the baseline with her crutches, dressed in a light green sleeveless top and black slacks. She has a video camera shooting her from one side and a still camera on the other as she smiles and lends vocal encouragement to the Irish warm-ups. Notre Dame shoots at the east basket.
4:52 p.m. - With early warm-ups over, a handful of Irish players grab some liquid nourishment from behind their bench. A few take seats on the bench and watch the Maryland players shooting in front of them.
4:53 p.m. - The Notre Dame pep band led by Sam Sanchez enters the arena and takes its place at the west end adjacent to the Notre Dame bench.
4:58 p.m. - Final Four, including arena floor, features graphics from historic Nashville letterpress company Hatch Show Print.
5:00 p.m. - The Irish pep band plays its first number of the night.
5:02 p.m. - Notre Dame heads to its locker room to a big cheer. Meanwhile, it's an Irish women's basketball alumni reunion in the stands--with hugs all around and lots of comments such as, "I didn't know you were going to be here."
5:05 p.m. - The Notre Dame cheerleaders and leprechaun arrive.
5:10 p.m. - Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins. C.S.C., arrives and even he is invited to pose for a couple of cellphone photos.
5:13 p.m. - "Here Come the Irish" is the cheer from the Notre Dame section.
5:14 p.m. - The first of lots of versions of the Notre Dame "Victory March" is played as the Irish take the floor.
5:17 p.m. - A video of former All-American Ruth Riley (with the Miami beach in the background) introduces the Notre Dame team. Muffet McGraw is shown on the video screen welcoming fans to Nashville, and then Jewell Loyd, Taya Reimer and Lindsay Allen follow suit. Next, you see Kayla McBride saying, "We're so happy to be here," before Ariel Braker adds, "Again."
5:20 p.m. - The teams line up on their respective free-throw lines for a moment of silence for the Fort Hood victims, followed by the National Anthem as sung by Grammy-nominated jazz and rhythm and blues singer Carolyn Malachi.
5:21 p.m. -- As the anthem is sung, Achonwa stands right in the middle of the line of Irish players--could that be symbolic? The coaching staffs shake hands and then head back to the locker room while the players remain to shoot. Achonwa rebounds while leaving her crutches leaning against the basket support.
5:31 p.m. - As the players head to the bench, Achonwa and Braker share a few last comments at the free-throw line.
5:32 p.m. -- Notre Dame fans chant "Let's Go Irish" as spectators sense the impending matchup of conference rivals. McGraw sports green high heels and green accents on her necklace.
5:34 p.m. - With Achonwa on the end of the receiving line, the Irish are introduced, Braker, followed by Reimer, Loyd, Allen and finally McBride. Achonwa sits on the bench next to assistant coach Niele Ivey.
5:39 p.m. - Loyd guards Maryland star Alyssa Thomas out of the gate and then hits her first shot off a rebound for a 2-0 Irish lead. That presages Notre Dame's ultimate 19-4 edge in offensive rebounds.
5:40 p.m. - Loyd scores again on a fast-break pass from Allen.
5:42 p.m. - The game is tied at six.
5:43 p.m. - Maryland takes its first lead at 9-6 at 16:07. Markisha Wright replaces Reimer.
5:45 p.m. - At the first timeout, Loyd is featured on the video board as a WBCA All-American. The Irish pep band plays the "Victory March."
5:47 p.m. - McBride ties the game at nine with a hoop.
5:48 p.m. - After a steal Allen scores for an 11-9 Irish lead.
5:50 p.m. - Maryland's Thomas charges for her first foul at 14:45. It's the first foul against Maryland.
5:51 p.m. - Wright scores on a follow of a McBride miss. Reimer returns at 13:05. Wright scores again at 12:45 on another follow shot.
5:53 p.m. - At 11:34 McBride's fast-break layup makes it 21-17 for Notre Dame. Maryland calls timeout as Irish fans exchange "Go" and "Irish" calls with the Notre Dame pep band.
5:55 p.m. - At 10:10 Loyd scores off an alley-oop. The Irish zone Maryland, double-teaming Thomas.
6:01 p.m. - At 7:43 it's 23-21 for Notre Dame.
6:03 p.m. - As the "Victory March" plays again, Reimer returns at 7:17.
6:06 p.m. - McBride hits after a steal, is fouled and makes the free throw for a 28-21 Irish lead at 7:07.
6:07 p.m. - An Allen layup and free throw make it 31-21. At 5:30 Reimer takes the lead to 33-21 as Maryland tries a zone defense.
6:12 p.m. - Thomas commits her second foul at 4:35.
6:13 p.m. - Madison Cable scores at 3:08 to make it 39-27. At the 2:48 timeout South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is honored because her team improved its field-goal percentage by 9.43 percent to lead the nation. Then McBride's two free throws make it 41-27.
6:19 p.m. - Reimer's scores on a give and go to make it 45-31 and Maryland takes a 30-second timeout.
6:22 p.m. - Cable knocks down a three at the buzzer to make it 48-31 at the break. Considering Achonwa is on the bench in street clothes, it couldn't have gone much better for the Irish. The fans chant, "We are ND."
6:23 p.m. - As halftime rolls on there are lots more former player reunions in the stand. The Maryland section is sitting. The Notre Dame section is standing and full of life. The score tells it all, as the Irish hit 20 of 37 shots in the first half.
6:25 p.m. The Firecrackers, a group of Ohio girls in blue dresses and orange tennis shoes, put on a rousing jump-roping exhibition and earn a standing ovation from spectators.
6:32 p.m. - A scoreboard promo touts tickets for the 2015 Tampa Bay NCAA Final Four. Think the Irish can make it five in a row?
6:33 p.m. - The Irish are back on the court with 4:40 still remaining in the halftime break.
6:39 p.m. - The second half begins, with McBride already having scored 19 points. Meanwhile, Maryland all-star Thomas has been held to five. At 19:38, McBride scores to make it 52-31. At 17:57 Thomas is hit with her third foul on the offensive end. At 16:14 McBride's long-distance three makes it 57-37 and then her jumper takes it out to 59-37.
6:47 p.m. - At the first media timeout at 15:06 it remains 59-37 for Notre Dame.
6:51 p.m. - At 14:12 Loyd's two free throws make it 61-40.
6:52 p.m. - At 13:13 Thomas shoots an air ball and hears it from Irish fans. At 12:43 Wright's follow makes it 63-42. Then she scores again at 12:07 on a give and go.
6:56 p.m. - Maryland calls time at 11:54. Braker is on the sideline with an ice bag on her face. On the video board Braker says she would like to sing backup with Beyoncé, a feeling echoed by many of the other players featured in the video spot.
7:03 p.m. - Braker comes back on the floor after a trip to the locker room.
7:04 p.m. - At 9:24 Maryland commits its seventh team foul so the Irish are in the bonus. The Terps try a zone press but foul and an Allen free throw makes it 68-47.
7:07 p.m. - Thomas is hit with her fourth foul as Cable grabs a rebound in front of her. Cable's free throws take it to 70-47. Then Braker hits as the Irish break the full-court press for a 72-47 margin.
7:09 p.m. - At the media timeout at 7:48 Thomas is highlighted on the video board, but at that point she has only seven points and four fouls.
7:15 p.m. - At 5:52 Thomas hits a three but Loyd answers with one of her own and it's 77-52. At 4:19 McBride leaves with 28 points.
7:20 p.m. - At the final media timeout at 3:43 it's 78-56 for Notre Dame. At 2:31 Loyd sits down for the night with 16 points. At 2:21 Allen and Reimer retire for the evening. Then at 1:50 Wright sits down to huge applause from the Irish contingent.
7:27 p.m. - At 1:33, the "We are ND" chant reverberates from the standing Irish fans, as Thomas goes to the bench for the night.
7:30 p.m. - At :22 Maryland misses its final shot and the Irish dribble out the final seconds. The two head coaches shake hands as the clock hits zeroes. Notre Dame wins 87-61.
7:32 p.m. - ESPN's Holly Rowe interviews McGraw and McBride near midcourt. Loyd does a network radio interview.
7:33 p.m. - The rest of the Irish players wait in the center circle for McBride and Loyd, as McGraw high-fives with her assistants.
7:34 p.m. - Achonwa and Loyd are the last two players to leave the floor--and the big smiles all around tell the story.
The Irish are moving on. Notre Dame outrebounds Maryland 50-21. Wright hits for a season high of 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds (Loyd also had nine). Maryland star Thomas manages only 14 points and six rebounds.
Two and a half hours later unbeaten Connecticut also wins.
A battle of unbeaten awaits in the NCAA Championship game.