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Notre Dame Knocks Cowgirls Out Of Tourney

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South Bend, Indiana -

The Oklahoma State Cowgirls made their third-ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen on Saturday but were unable to punch the program's first ticket into the Elite Eight.

The Cowgirls knew they would have their work cut out for them against unbeaten Notre Dame on its home floor, but the way the game started put OSU back on its heels immediately in an eventual 89-72 loss to the Irish in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame (35-0) erupted right off the bat to take a 14-0 lead in the opening 3:31. The Cowgirls, despite a fairly evenly played contest from there on, would never be able to cut the deficit to single digits.

OSU used a 7-0 first-half rally to cut the score to 24-14 but wouldn't get closer than that, as the Cowgirls couldn't find enough ways to counter the offensive onslaught brought on by the Irish's "big three" of Natalie Achonwa, Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd.

Achonwa sparked ND's 14-0 start to the contest and finished with a game-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists on an extremely-efficient 10-of-13 shooting performance.

Loyd proved to be a terror herself with 20 points and 12 rebounds on 9-of-16 shooting, while McBride added 18 points for the Irish, who haven't lost on their home court since December 2012.

Tiffany Bias fittingly led the way for the Cowgirls (25-9) in her final game in an OSU uniform. She was the spark plug in a high-energy effort where the team refused to back down and routinely out-hustled ND despite a hefty deficit. The senior point guard finished with 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting to go with a game-best 11 assists.

She was subbed out with 19.6 seconds remaining, receiving an emotional embrace from her head coach, Jim Littell, and tears were shed as one of the best careers in OSU women's basketball history came to a close.

Center LaShawn Jones had a standout showing for OSU, as well, with 16 points and six rebounds against a tough Irish front line, while Brittany Atkins added 13 points off the bench.

Brittney Martin couldn't follow up her excellent second-round performance, struggling mightily on Saturday with six points on 3-of-15 shooting but the sophomore did manage to haul in a team-best eight rebounds.

Notre Dame shot 50.7 percent as a team, outrebounded OSU by 10 and finished with 10 blocks. OSU shot 40.8 percent from the floor and 83.3 percent from the foul line.

The Cowgirls cut the lead to 12 points twice early in the second half, but never really posed much of a threat from there, as the Irish opened an 82-62 lead later in the half on a 3-pointer by McBride.

It was a somewhat disappointing conclusion to an otherwise unprecedented stretch for the Cowgirls, who wrapped up the best three-year stretch in school history on Saturday.

OSU won a program record 69 games the past three years, including a WNIT title in 2012 and this year's Sweet Sixteen appearance, which was just the third in school history and first since 2008. The final 25-9 record is also the third-best mark in Cowgirl history.

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