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Fighting Irish advance to championship for second straight season
Box Score | Quotes | Notes| Photo Gallery || VIDEO: @theACCDN Highlights | Notre Dame Star Jewell Loyd Talks Big Semifinal Win Over Duke | Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw On Advancing to ACC Title Game
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Jewell Loyd scored 21 points and No. 2 Notre Dame beat No. 16 Duke 55-49 on Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference semifinal.
Brianna Turner added 11 rebounds to help the top-seeded Fighting Irish (30-2) earn their 16th straight win.
The defending ACC tournament champions improved to 5-0 in the event in their two years in the league and earned a return trip to the title game after shooting 39 percent and holding off the Blue Devils' late push.
Elizabeth Williams had 15 points and Ka'lia Johnson added 12 for Duke (21-10), which had the ball while trailing by four points with less than 2 minutes left.
But Rebecca Greenwell shot an airball 3-pointer, and Turner hit the front end of a one-and-one with 1:29 to go. She missed the second, but Loyd grabbed the rebound and spun in a layup to make it 53-46 with 1:15 left.
Notre Dame will play either No. 7 Florida State or No. 10 Louisville on Sunday in the championship game.
The Fighting Irish, who beat Duke by 13 on Feb. 16 in South Bend, improved to 9-1 against Top 25 opponents by winning this rematch of last year's ACC title game.
Freshman Azura Stevens added 11 points for Duke, which was denied its 14th title game appearance but made things interesting after falling behind by 12 in the second half.
The Blue Devils reeled off seven straight points and Williams hit three straight buckets, the third of which made it 46-41 with just under 5 minutes left.
Greenwell then pulled Duke to 50-46 with her big 3 with about 2½ minutes to play. Her pivotal airball came on the Blue Devils' next possession and they didn't score again until Johnson's 3 with 0.4 of a second to play.
Duke: The Blue Devils shot 32 percent but their poor shooting numbers were dragged down by a miserable start in which they missed 14 of their first 15 shots during the opening 8½ minutes.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish reached the 30-win mark for the fifth straight year and seventh time in program history.
Duke: Awaits at-large bid into NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame: Plays either No. 7 Florida State or No. 10 Louisville on Sunday in the ACC championship game.