SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Jewell Loyd scored 18 points and top-seed Notre Dame used its size and speed to overwhelm 16th-seeded Montana 77-43 Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Brianna Turner added 12 points and Michaela Mabrey, Taya Reimer and Lindsay Allen added nine points each as Notre Dame shot 62.3 percent against the Lady Griz (24-9). Montana entered the game fourth in the nation in field-goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 33.8 percent.
The Irish (32-2) won their 18th straight game while Montana lost for the 11th straight time in the opening round of the tournament.
Kayleigh Valley led Montana with nine points and six rebounds.
The Irish outscored Montana 42-24 in the paint and 8-0 on fast-break points.
It was largest margin of defeat by Montana this season and its biggest loss in the NCAA Tournament, breaking the mark of 31 points to top-seeded Southern California in 1986.
Kathryn Westbeld added eight points and 10 rebounds as the Irish outrebounded Montana 38-32.
Montana, the Big Sky champion, shot 35.5 percent overall and was just 2-of-21 from 3-point range as they were held to a season-low for points. The previous low was 50 points against Pacific.
A basket inside by Loyd sparked a 10-2 spurt by the Irish that included a fastbreak layup by Loyd and a pair of baskets inside by Turner and another by Taya Reimer while the Lady Griz shot 1 of 7 with a turnover as the Irish opened a 57-32 lead. Michaela Mabrey hit a 3-pointer midway through the half to give Notre Dame a 62-34 lead.
The Irish scored on seven of their first eight possessions to quickly gain control, using a 14-0 run to open a 21-6 lead. Shanae Gilham made a 3-pointer and Maggie Rickman scored back-to-back baskets as the Lady Griz used a 7-0 spurt to cut the lead to cut the lead to eight points. But the Irish quickly regained control with baskets by Loyd and Turner but Montana didn’t go away easily.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was clearly frustrated as the Irish allowed the Lady Griz to get three straight offensive rebounds. Maggie Rickman twice recovered her own misses, then Alycia Sims pulled down a miss by Kellie Rubel and scored underneath, but missed a free throw for the three-point play as the Lady Griz cut the lead to 35-22. The Irish used an 8-2 run to open a 43-24 halftime lead.
Montana: The previous best shooting performances against the Lady Griz were 46.2 percent by Wake Forest and 44.3 percent by Princeton. Only six teams had shot better than 40 percent against Montana. Montana is 6-15 in NCAA tournament opening games.
Notre Dame: Notre Dame doesn’t have any senior starters, but this year’s senior class has set the school record for victories with a record of 139-9. Last year’s senior class was 138-15. … The Fighting Irish are 24-2 in the NCAA Tournament when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points. … The Irish have held 13 straight opponents to 63 points or fewer..
Notre Dame plays DePaul on Sunday.
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