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ND Women’s Basketball

ND women’s basketball defeat Syracuse, Fordham, Bryant; reach 5-0 winning streak

| Monday, November 22, 2021

In an early November ACC matchup, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Women’s Basketball team traveled to Syracuse, New York, for a revenge game in the Carrier Dome. After a 21 straight winning streak in the series, the Orange beat the Irish 74-63 in OT on Jan. 5, 2020, and then lost again 81-69 on Jan. 31, 2021. This year’s matchup did not disappoint. While the Irish had a slow start to the game, they came alive in the second half, defeating Syracuse 82-56.

Basketball will always be a game of runs, which was proven early on. After Syracuse hit the first shot of the night, the Irish responded with a 13-0 run. Those dominant six minutes were led by sophomore forward Maddy Westbeld, who had six of the 13 points. The Orange tightened up their defense and they went into the second quarter 17-10.

“I’m always preaching, trying to set the tone,” head coach Niele Ivey said about the start of the game and the early Irish lead. “I think the tone can be set either offensively or defensively. I’m a big proponent of running the transition and trying to push tempo, push pace, and having a guard like Olivia Miles who can have the ball on a string helps me do that.”  

After the early set of runs, the Orange retaliated, and the two teams fought back and forth through second quarter. With only 3.33 remaining in the half, the Irish were up 28-26. Within the last minute, freshman guard Olivia Miles found junior forward Sam Brunelle for a quick and easy layup. This was followed by an interception and basket from freshman guard Sonia Citron, which brought the Irish lead to 34-28 going into halftime.

This wasn’t without struggle, as this was the first time this year that the Irish starters were in foul trouble early on. 

“It was the first time that we’d been in a situation where our starters were in foul trouble, reeling, going into our bench a lot earlier, “ Ivey said. “My bench was ready. Everyone matters and everyone can contribute.” 

It wasn’t until the second half, though, that the Irish really came together. With Westbeld in foul trouble, the rest of the team needed to step up to maintain their lead over the Orange. This they did. Early on in the second half, Brunelle and senior guard Dara Mabrey both scored, taking the Irish to a 10-point lead, which eventually fell to an eight-point one of 57-49 going into the fourth quarter. At the end of the quarter, Brunelle, Westbeld and Mabrey all hit double figures. 

While the Irish picked up the heat in the third, they excelled in the fourth. The game ended with a 21-0 run from the Irish, Westbeld having a nine-point run by herself, catching up for lost time on the bench earlier in the game. 

“[The run] was so big,” Ivey said. “I rely on Maddy, trying not to put too much pressure on her, but she’s just such an incredible player — her versatility, you know? She just does so much for our team.” 

Despite being benched for a good portion of the game, Westbeld was the highest scorer with 19 points to herself. During the fourth quarter, the Irish outscored the Orange 25-7, which led to a final score of 82-56. 

This momentum continued into their game against Fordham on Nov. 18 where the Irish won 71-56 at home. Even though the Irish ended with a substantial win, it wasn’t always obvious who was the better team. 

The Rams started the game off with the first points, Mabrey and Westbeld scored putting the Irish in the lead 7-2. This was just the beginning of a hot shooting streak from Mabrey, as she would go on to score 15 points in the first quarter alone. 

“I was just getting what (Fordham) was giving me, and my teammates were finding me,” Mabrey said. “We know teams are going to come at us, but we stayed poised and executed.”

By the end of the first quarter, the Irish were up 23-9. Starting the second quarter, Citron kicked off an 8-0 run for the Irish followed by a layup by Westbeld. This, however, ended Irish scoring for the half and Fordham retaliated, making the final score of the half 42-28.

This lull continued into the third quarter, with each team only having 12 points. While the Rams came out hot in the second half, two free throws and a steal by Miles pushed the score back to 48-32. The Rams responded with a fast scoring of eight points in under a minute, closing the gap to only 54-40.

During the fourth quarter, the Irish made it clear who would win this game. While the Rams started the quarter with an early seven points, Westbeld stopped their momentum, quickly putting up both a jumper and a three. Citron followed, which put the Irish up 64-48 with 4:19 left. The Rams returned with a little pressure, cutting the lead down to ten, before graduate-transfer forward Maya Dodson, Mabrey, Miles and Westbeld all had their say on the line. In the end, the Irish won 71-56. This would be the first 4-0 for the Irish in three years.

While Mabrey had the highest total points of 20, this game was surely a team effort. Westbeld put up 18 of her own, and Citron received her first double-double (12/10). In addition, Dodson has 11 rebounds with Citron not too far behind her with 10.   

This momentum proved to continue into the games on Sunday, as the Irish destroyed the Bryant Bulldogs 94-35. They hope to keep this energy as they play the University of Georgia on the road Friday. The Irish take on the Bulldogs at 4:30 p.m. as part of the Daytona Beach Invitational at the Ocean Center. In the two-day tournament, the Irish will also face Oregon State on Saturday. 

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