For the second year in a row, the Kansas women’s basketball team put together a Cinderella-like run in the NCAA tournament.
For the second year in a row, that streak ended in the round of 16.
The Jayhawks, who became the first 12-seed to make the Sweet 16, could not keep the magic alive against Notre Dame in a 93-63 loss Sunday.
“Credit Notre Dame,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “It was disappointing our defensive effort wasn’t better.”
Kansas finishes its season at 20-14 after back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances as a double-digit seed.
Senior forward Carolyn Davis kept her squad in the game for most of the first half with 14 points on 7 of 11 shooting for Kansas, and finished the match-up with 25 points.
But as Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins ripped into the Jayhawks defense for 22 first-half points, a Kansas squad that started the game 7-for-9 went cold. The Jayhawks shot only 6-for-26 in the final 14 minutes of the half.
“I think we just kind of locked down on defense and wanted to string together a series of stops,” said Diggins, who finished with 27 points to become Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer. “That’s when we play our best offense.”
The Irish hit four 3-pointers in the opening stanza, including back-to-back treys from Diggins to push Notre Dame’s lead to 13. Then, Kayla McBride fired out of the break with eight points and an assist in the opening two minutes of the second half after going 1 of 8 to start the game, sealing what would become a rout.
Two other players, Jewell Lloyd with 15 and Natalie Anchonwa with 17, also cracked double figures for the Irish.
Angel Goodrich, the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer, posted only seven points in the loss. While she had 12 assists to her name, the senior point guard also coughed up six turnovers and went 3-for-11 from the field.
“We didn’t put a lot of pressure on them, and that’s when they picked up the intensity,” Goodrich said. “You’ve got to make them feel uncomfortable, a team like that, and we didn’t. I just wanted to go in, play my game and be aggressive, and I didn’t do that. I’m not sure what prevented me. I had my mindset right at the beginning, and I’m disappointed in myself.”
The Irish, now 34-1 on the season will face the winner of Sunday afternoon’s Duke-Nebraska game on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, will begin an effort to replace three starting seniors and perhaps another run next season.
“You look back and say, ‘Hey, I left it better than I got it,’” Henrickson said of Goodrich, Davis and fellow starter Monica Engelman. “That’s pretty special. It’s difficult to manage all the emotions of today, but we certainly won’t lose sight of what they meant.
“These guys handed the baton off, and we want to make sure we grab it and run with it.”