GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Madison Cable never lost a conference tournament game while playing for Notre Dame. The sharpshooting senior wants to find out what it’s like to conquer an even bigger bracket.
The second-ranked Fighting Irish won their third straight Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title by beating No. 17 Syracuse 68-57 on Sunday.
Cable, the tournament MVP, scored 18 points with six 3-pointers and Brianna Turner had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Kathryn Westbeld added 10 for the top-seeded Fighting Irish (31-1).
They never trailed and overcame a late 6 1/2-minute scoring drought to extend their winning streak to 24.
In earning its fourth straight conference tournament title, Notre Dame became the first ACC team to three-peat since North Carolina in 2006-08.
”I don’t think that many people have done that,” Cable said of winning four straight conference tournaments. ”But I think this year we’re kind of looking to take a step further and maybe win the next tournament.”
Alexis Peterson had 19 points and Briana Day added 17 for third-seeded Syracuse (25-7), which had its 11-game winning streak snapped.
The Orange were playing in a league title game for the third time and were denied their first conference title since they won the Big East in 1985.
Syracuse forced the Irish to miss 10 consecutive shots and pulled within 65-53 on Cornelia Fondren’s jumper with 4 1/2 minutes to play. But the Orange missed their next four attempts, while Lindsay Allen hit a free throw and Turner scored on a key putback with less than 90 seconds left to give Notre Dame a 68-53 lead.
”When you’re down by 12 and you’re not really scoring the ball at a good rate, and you’re right there … we just wanted to be there,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. ”We just had to make a few more plays to get matched up. We just didn’t do a good job getting matched up in certain situations.”
Notre Dame’s fourth-year players have never lost a conference tournament game: The Irish won the Big East in 2013, then jumped to the ACC and won this event three straight years – all by double figures.
They beat Duke by 16 in the 2014 final, then topped Florida State by 13 in last year’s championship game before defeating a familiar former Big East rival in their latest title game.
Notre Dame led by double figures for all but about 30 seconds of the second half, building an 18-point lead early in the fourth quarter and then weathering that late cold spell.
Allen finished with six assists to just two turnovers, and coach Muffet McGraw said that was critical against a Syracuse team that runs a full-court press. ”She had the ball in her hands the majority of the time,” McGraw said. ”The key to the game was handling their pressure and getting out and guarding them on the 3-point line.”
Syracuse: The Orange, the Division I leader in turnover margin, were just plus-2 in this one. … They also were 4 of 23 from 3-point range. In their first 31 games, they hoisted an ACC-leading 947 3s – more than 200 more than second-place N.C. State – but made only 29.6 percent of them, good for 12th place in the league.
Notre Dame: The Irish improved to 10-1 against Top 25 opponents, with the only loss coming at No. 1 Connecticut in December. … This marked the ninth tournament title in three different conferences for them. They won the Horizon League Tournament five times before moving to the Big East in the mid-1990s.
Syracuse: Awaits at-large berth into NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame: NCAA Tournament.
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