RALEIGH, N.C. — Someday, St. Bonaventure will look back fondly on the best women's basketball season in school history.
Just not yet. Not after the Bonnies' first NCAA tournament appearance ended with them making an unwanted kind of history.
Notre Dame routed St. Bonaventure 79-35 on Sunday in the Raleigh Regional semifinals, with that 44-point romp matching the 22-year-old record for scoring margin at the regional stage of the tournament.
A memorable season that included the school records for most wins and most in a row (18) ended with a thud against the region's top-seeded team after the Bonnies couldn't recover from an awful start in which they went scoreless for more than 10 minutes.
"Forty minutes isn't going to define our season," coach Joe Crowley said. "It didn't earlier in the year. It doesn't right now."
CeCe Dixon had 13 points and Doris Ortega added 11 for the fifth-seeded Bonnies (31-4), who shot a season-low 19 percent, allowed a season-high point total and finished with a season-worst 21 turnovers. They missed 11 of 12 attempts from 3-point range and had just two assists on their nine field goals.
Leading scorer Jessica Jenkins was scoreless — she entered averaging 14 points — and missed all six of her shots, with Notre Dame's Brittany Mallory leading the defensive effort that blanketed her.
"They're really physical with you on cuts," Jenkins said. "They don't even let you set them up or anything. ... They're just really physical and they're really, really good at blowing up screens and running you off the 3-point line."
Natalie Novosel scored 16 points, Kalia Turner had 14, Kayla McBride added 10 and Devereaux Peters grabbed 10 rebounds for the Irish (33-3).
They shot 52.5 percent, never trailed and led by 45 in advancing to face second-seeded Maryland (31-4) on Tuesday night with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
"They're a strong, strong rebounding team," coach Muffet McGraw said of the Terrapins. "They have great size. We're a team that plays four guards. We don't match up well. They're much more physical and so much bigger inside than we are."
The Irish have won all three games in this tournament by double figures. This one equaled the 91-47 beating Louisiana Tech gave Purdue in the 1990 Midwest semifinals, and it was another convincing step toward the national championship that slipped away a year ago.
Calling it unfinished business, they've drawn motivation from their loss in the 2011 title game to Texas A&M — and they would've had another crack at the Aggies in the regional final, but the Terrapins rallied to beat them 81-74 in the first semifinal.
"This is a really competitive group," McGraw said. "When you go down through the team, you kind of realize that they're all the type of player that just hates to lose. So when we lost the last game last year, I think the whole summer workout for them was about getting back, and kind of had that motivation, that extra motivation, to try to get back to that."
Notre Dame made it to a regional final for the fourth time — the Irish have advanced to the Final Four in each of the previous three — and did it by bringing a quick end to St. Bonaventure's dream season.
The Bonnies simply couldn't have started much worse: After Ortega's layup 30 seconds in, they didn't score again until Ortega's three-point play pulled them within 16-5 with 9:32 left in the half. At its nadir, St. Bonaventure missed 20 of its first 23 shots and didn't get into double figures until the final minute of the half when Jennie Ashton's free throw with 52.2 seconds left made it 33-10.
The Irish pushed their lead into the 30s when Novosel's layup with 17 minutes remaining made it 43-13 — and it only got worse from there.
"My biggest worry the whole time was if we could score," Crowley said. "And, obviously, that came to fruition."
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company