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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Natalie Achonwa and Notre Dame put a quick end to Oklahoma State's hopes of winning its first NCAA Tournament semifinal regional game.
Achonwa got the Fighting Irish going early and never let up as she finished with 23 and Jewell Loyd added 20 to lead the Fighting Irish to an 89-72 victory over the Cowgirls on Saturday, matching Oklahoma State's second biggest loss of the season.
The Irish jumped to a 14-0 lead in the opening 3:31, capped by a three-point play by Achonwa, as the Cowgirls missed their first six shots. The Cowgirls later used a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 24-14, but that was as close as they got.
Achonwa was 10-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists, five blocks and two steals, although she also had eight of Notre Dame's 12 turnovers. The Irish outscored the Cowgirls 42-34 in the paint and had a 46-36 advantage in rebounds.
Kayla McBride added 18 points as the top-seeded Irish won at home for the 27th straight game. They will seek to extend that streak Monday against Baylor (32-4), which is 4-0 all-time against the Irish and the last opponent to win at Purcell Pavilion on Dec. 5, 2012.
Achonwa hit the first two baskets of the game and Loyd drove through the heart of the Oklahoma State defense for a fastbreak layup and added a free throw after being fouled as the pair had seven points apiece as the Irish jumped to a 16-3 lead.
She outscored the entire Oklahoma State team in the opening seven minutes, 13-7, as she was 6-of-7 from the floor with a three-point play, helping the Irish open a 24-7 lead. She had 15 points at halftime with four blocks, four assists and two steals. The most impressive play, though, was a behind-the-back pass around the back of an Oklahoma State defender for an easy basket inside by Madison Cable to give the Irish a 40-24 lead.
The Cowgirls cut the lead to 12 points twice early in the second half, but never really threatened as the Irish responded the second time with a 6-0 spurt to take move ahead 57-39 on a basket inside by Achonwa. The Irish opened an 82-62 lead later in the half on a 3-pointer by McBride.