Notre Dame women advance to Big East championship

DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer Published:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Natalie Novosel scored 18 points and Kayla McBride added 15 to help third-ranked Notre Dame beat No. 25 West Virginia 73-45 on Monday night in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

The Irish will play the winner of the Connecticut-St. John's contest in the title game Tuesday night. Notre Dame will be looking for its first Big East tournament championship.

Notre Dame (30-2) got a measure of revenge on the Mountaineers (23-9), who ended the Irish's 21-game winning streak on Feb. 12 by beating them 65-63 in South Bend. It was the lone blemish on their Big East season.

On Monday night, the Irish scored the first seven points and had built a 20-4 lead 8½ minutes in as five different players scored. Devereaux Peters, who had four points and missed seven of her eight shots in the loss, had seven by the half as Notre Dame led 37-19.

West Virginia couldn't get within 16 in the second half.

The Mountaineers closed to 51-35 midway through the second half, but Notre Dame scored 18 of the next 22 points to end any hope of a comeback.

Notre Dame has played in the Big East title game five times and come up short each trip, losing to UConn each time. The Irish haven't had any problems with the Huskies lately, winning the last three meetings -- including beating UConn in Hartford last Monday night to earn its first outright Big East regular season title.

This was West Virginia's final game in the Big East before leaving for the Big 12 next season. The Mountaineers advanced to the semis with a 39-32 win over then-No. 12 Georgetown on Sunday. That was the lowest scoring game in the history of the Big East tournament, easily surpassing the previous record of 78 set in 2005 by Boston College and Villanova.

Buoyed by that victory, West Virginia entered the Top 25 for the first time this season.

Asya Bussie scored 15 points and Ayana Dunning added 12 to lead the Mountaineers. The pair was 12 for 16, but got little help from the rest of the team.