Notre Dame 77, Baylor 68
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Notre Dame star Jewell Loyd struggled with her shot for the second straight game. Lindsay Allen was there again to help the Fighting Irish advance.
Allen scored 23 points and top-seeded Notre Dame beat Baylor 77-68 in the Oklahoma City regional final Sunday night to reach its fifth consecutive Final Four.
Allen, who scored a career-high 28 points in the regional semifinal win over Stanford on Friday, followed that by making 10 of 16 shots and adding seven assists. The sophomore point guard was selected the Most Outstanding Player in the regional.
"Well, she's like my twin, and really, and she's unstoppable," Loyd said. "I think people have underestimated her, and she's been awesome all year. It's been awesome to see how talented she is."
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said Loyd, a top candidate for national Player of the Year honors, still made her mark.
"The truth is, Jewell Loyd makes all those players get those points, and we don't have that player, so we've got to get it from a bunch of different places," Mulkey said.
Michaela Mabrey scored 14 points and Jewell Loyd added 13 points for the Fighting Irish (35-2), who won their 21st straight game. Notre Dame will play South Carolina next Sunday.
"We're just excited to be in this moment," Allen said. "When we're looking back, we're just excited to be making it to another Final Four."
Nina Davis had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Sune Agbuke had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Niya Johnson added 10 assists for second-seeded Baylor (33-4), which had hoped to avenge an 88-69 loss to Notre Dame in last year's regional final.
A 3-pointer by Cable gave Notre Dame a 60-56 lead, and a pair of free throws by Loyd pushed the advantage to six with just under 10 minutes to play.
Agbuke, Baylor's 6-foot-4 center, picked up her fourth foul with just over 9 minutes to play, and Notre Dame continued to attack the basket. Cable's runner with just under a minute to go put Notre Dame up 74-68, and the Fighting Irish held on at the free-throw line.
Baylor made 12 of its first 18 shots to take a 26-17 lead. Baylor led 27-21 when Agbuke was called for a flagrant foul. Notre Dame's Brianna Turner hit two free throws, then Mabrey made a 3-pointer to cut Baylor's lead to a point.
"I don't throw elbows," Agbuke said. "I just felt like the rest of the game, the refs kept telling me don't give us something to look at, don't give us something to look at, like I was doing it on purpose, and I wasn't."
Mabrey made another 3-pointer to make it 31-all with just over 6 minutes left in the first half, and Notre Dame finally took the lead on a jumper by Allen with 12 seconds left in the first half that gave the Fighting Irish a 39-37 lead at the break.
Baylor was in foul trouble throughout the second half. Davis, Agbuke and Johnson each finished with four.
"You have to play smart at the end of the day," Johnson said. "I guess we tried to stay off of them. They were calling it pretty tight at the end, and I don't know - it was just difficult playing with four fouls."
Baylor: The Lady Bears shot 49 percent in the first half. ... Agbuke, a senior, played a career-high 35 minutes. Her previous high was 32 minutes against Iowa on Friday. She never played more than 26 minutes in a game this season until the Sweet 16. ... Johnson had 46 assists and two turnovers in the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame: Loyd got hit hard on a screen in the closing seconds of the first half and remained seated on the court as time expired. She appeared a bit woozy when she got up and was helped to the locker room. She started the second half. ... Loyd made just 2 of 9 shots in the first half and just 5 for 18 for the game.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Agbuke, on dealing with the aftermath of the flagrant: "You know, I didn't understand what I could do different, and it happened, and I don't know, it rattled me for a minute. But I was just trying to play and just trying to get where I was going."
Mabrey played just two minutes in the second half after scoring 14 points in the first because she felt light headed. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Mabrey should be able to play in the Final Four.
"I think she's going to be fine, probably didn't eat enough before the game," McGraw said. "I think she's going to be fine. She sure looked good in the first half."
Baylor: Season over.
Notre Dame: Plays South Carolina in the Final Four on Sunday.
South Carolina 80, FSU 74
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley climbed the ladder, snipped the final strand of net and raised it as thousands of garnet-clad fans cheered.
Taking in the scene, she mouthed one word: "Unbelievable."
Believe it. Staley and the Gamecocks are headed to their first Final Four.
Tiffany Mitchell scored seven of her 21 points in the final 2 minutes, and South Carolina beat Florida State 80-74 on Sunday in the Greensboro Regional final.
"It put South Carolina on the map," Staley said. "The regular season that we had, the success that we've had in (the Southeastern) Conference, when you hurdle over being a regional champion and going to the Final Four, it puts your name in history. So it was a history-making game for us."
Alaina Coates finished with 14 points, A'ja Wilson added 10 and Asia Dozier hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds for the top-seeded Gamecocks (34-2).
Playing from behind for most of the day, they shot 61 percent while rallying to win their seventh straight and keep the best season in school history going.
Next stop: Tampa, Florida, to face Notre Dame, the top-seeded winner of the Oklahoma City Regional, on April 5.
"I just remember last night watching the Kentucky men doing it, and thinking, `That could be us tomorrow afternoon,'" Mitchell said. "To actually be in this moment and experience it means a lot."
Leticia Romero scored 13 points and Brittany Brown had 12 for the second-seeded Seminoles (32-5). The best season in program history ended after they set the school record for wins and reached their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
"Of course, we fell short of our goals, but we made history," Brown said. "I will remember this forever."
There were five ties and seven lead changes in the final 10-plus minutes. The last came when Mitchell's drive made it 69-67 with just under 2 minutes left.
The Gamecocks forced Brown to miss a jumper before Mitchell put them up by five with a corner 3-pointer with about 1:15 remaining - on a play that Staley said eventually will be renamed "Mitch" after her.
"Tiffany Mitchell is the person we want the ball in her hands when we need a basket," Staley said.
Maegan Conwright pulled Florida State to 72-69 with two free throws with 58.3 seconds left. Mitchell then got the rebound of her missed jumper in the lane, drew a foul and hit both free throws with 27.9 seconds left to restore the Gamecocks' five-point lead.
Dozier's free throws each came immediately after Florida State pulled within two points, and Khadijah Sessions stole the ball from Conwright and hit a layup at the buzzer to make it a six-point game.
Adut Bulgak finished with 10 points for Florida State, which never trailed during the first 30 minutes of this meeting of teams that until now had combined to reach two Elite Eights but had advanced no deeper.
South Carolina lost to Duke in a 2002 regional final and Florida State fell to Connecticut at this stage in 2010.
"To play that many minutes leading ... the No. 1 team in the country at one point, they weren't afraid," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said of her team. "They had so much courage."
The Seminoles briefly led by 10 in the first half before Mitchell gave the Gamecocks their first lead with a driving layup that made it 55-54 with 10 minutes left.
After that, neither team led by more than five until that last-second layup.
"I knew we were always in the game," Mitchell said. "We played behind plenty of times. We never doubted for a second that we weren't going to lose this game, and that's the mentality you need against a great team like Florida State."
Part of the problem for Florida State was foul trouble. Conwright, the Seminoles' top defensive player whose steal sealed the Sweet 16 win over Arizona State, picked up her fourth foul with 14:24 to play. They also had two players - Brown and guard Emiah Bingley - foul out. They were the first Florida State players to foul out since Bulgat did it Feb. 22 in a win at Boston College.
Florida State: Each of the Seminoles' final three losses this season came in the state of North Carolina. In addition to this one, they lost at UNC on Feb. 12 and also were beaten by Notre Dame in the Greensboro Coliseum in the ACC title game March 8. ... Romero, who scored a career-best 21 points in the Sweet 16 win over Arizona State, was 5 of 14 while shooting with a taped right hand and wrist.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks were outrebounded for just the second time all season. Florida State held a 33-28 advantage on the boards. ... Coates, selected as the most outstanding player of the regional, finished 6 of 6 from the field.
Florida State: Season over.
South Carolina: Will play Notre Dame on April 5 in the Final Four in Tampa, Florida.