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Photo courtesy of Sara D. Davis for theACC.com
Fighting Irish shoot 60.4 percent from floor in ACC tourney debut
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Jewell Loyd scored 17 points to lead No. 2 Notre Dame past Florida State 83-57 on Friday in its Atlantic Coast Conference tournament debut.
Kayla McBride added 13 for the top-seeded Fighting Irish (30-0), who ran off 21 straight points in the first half to turn their quarterfinal matchup with the ninth-seeded Seminoles (20-11) into a rout. Notre Dame shot 65 percent before halftime to build a 22-point lead at the break and never looked back.
Notre Dame advanced to Saturday's semifinals to face No. 14 North Carolina State, which lost by 24 points at home to the Fighting Irish less than a week ago.
Natasha Howard followed up her big second-round performance with 29 points to lead Florida State, which led 12-11 before Notre Dame took over.
Howard went for 30 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday's overtime win against Miami, then went 14 for 22 from the field with five rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes. No other Seminoles player reached double figures.
The Fighting Irish went 16-0 in the league, becoming the first team since North Carolina in 2007-08 to go unbeaten in the ACC regular season. Notre Dame was so dominant that it also became the first team to win the league race by at least four games since Duke did it in 2001-02.
The Fighting Irish didn't need long to put that dominant form on display.
After starting the game 0 for 6, Notre Dame made 17 of 20 shots for the rest of the first half, with Loyd going 5 for 6.
Michaela Mabrey (12 points) hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the 21-0 run, while Natalie Achonwa followed a short time later with a three-point play.
The Seminoles got as close as 15 four times in the second half, the last coming at 66-51 on Howard's layup with 6:18 left. But Achonwa answered with a score, McBride hit two free throws and Ariel Braker followed with a layup to push the lead back up to 72-51 with 4:07 to go.
Notre Dame scored 23 points off turnovers and went 7 for 14 from 3-point range.