GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — When No. 2 Notre Dame needed her most, Jewell Loyd once again did it all.
Loyd scored 21 points and grabbed an important rebound in the Fighting Irish’s 55-49 win over No. 16 Duke in an Atlantic Coast Conference semifinal Saturday.
The ACC player of the year hit five straight baskets during 6 key minutes down the stretch for the top-seeded Fighting Irish (30-2), who will play No. 7 Florida State (29-3), the tournament’s second seed, on Sunday in the championship game.
“She was simply amazing, which she has been all year long,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought during that stretch (she was) the best player in the country.”
Brianna Turner added 11 rebounds to help the Irish 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.
“We ran out of time,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We needed a longer game.”
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’s 3-pointer failed to hit anything, 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.
“That was the game,” McGraw said.
Loyd said she “just knew I could get in there and at least make a tip out. It bounced right to me.”
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 2
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