No. 2 Irish women hold off South Florida 75-66

Updated at: 03/10/2013 3:39 PM
By DOUG FEINBERG

(AP) HARTFORD, Conn. - Natalie Achonwa had 20 points and 20 rebounds to help No. 2 Notre Dame beat South Florida 75-66 on Sunday in the Big East women’s tournament quarterfinals.

Skylar Diggins, the Big East player of the year, added 15 points for the Irish _ who have won a school record 24 straight games. They will face No. 13 Louisville in the semifinals Monday night.

These two teams met in South Florida in early January and Notre Dame came away with a 75-71 overtime victory. Sunday’s game was more of the same.

Notre Dame (29-1) trailed 51-47 midway through the second half before scoring eight straight points, including four by Achonwa.

The Smith sisters _ Andrell and Andrea _ did all they could to keep the Bulls (21-10) in the game, but they couldn’t regain the lead.

Andrell finished with 27 points, while Andrea had 18.

Andrea Smith hit the first of two free throws with 5:08 left to pull within 61-57. But Notre Dame scored the next six points _ including four by Kayla McBride, who had a quiet game otherwise _ to put the game away.

With the Irish’s win, every top seed in the history of the Big East tournament has reached the semifinals. Notre Dame had to work hard to keep that streak alive.

Achonwa came up with almost every big play to help the Irish, whether grabbing an offensive rebound or making a key defensive play.

With the Bulls trailing 39-31 early in the second half, the Smith sisters rallied the team. They scored 15 of the next 17 points for the Bulls to give South Florida a 48-45 lead with 12:50 left after Andrea Smith hit a 3-pointer. Inga Orehkova’s 3-pointer made it 51-47.

___

Follow Doug on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)