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ND Women’s Basketball

Westbeld, Miles shine in Irish win over Western Illinois

| Friday, November 12, 2021

Led by their underclassmen stars, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team defeated the Western Illinois Leathernecks 76-50 to sweep their two-game homestand to start the season.

“I’m very encouraged by getting so many people opportunities to play and getting so much contribution from the entire team,” Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said. “This is going to be a group that we’re going to continue to grow and learn each night, so just really happy to be home and to get this win.”

The Irish (2-0) jumped out to a quick start in the first quarter, and they were sparked by their suffocating defense. Communication was key for Notre Dame, as Ivey’s voice reverberated throughout Purcell Pavilion from the bench. The Irish were able to contest nearly every shot from the Leathernecks (0-1), blocking four while holding them to just 10 points during the period.

Notre Dame cooled off during the second quarter, but their dominance on the glass prevented Western Illinois from closing the gap. Sophomore guard Maddy Westbeld led the way for the Irish and grabbed 13 total rebounds in the first half. The team as a whole had 14 offensive rebounds, giving them a significant edge in the paint and a 37-26 advantage over the Leathernecks at the break.

Western Illinois senior guard Danni Nichols worked to keep the Leathernecks in the game, finishing with 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting. However, a dominant and efficient third quarter for the Irish put the game out of reach.

Notre Dame went on a 14-2 run over a four-minute stretch, led by graduate student forward Maya Dodson and senior guard Dara Mabrey. Dodson continued to impress in her second career game for the Irish, pouring in 14 points along with eight rebounds. Meanwhile, Mabrey finished with nine points.

The upperclassmen led the way in the third quarter, but the most encouraging takeaway of the night for Notre Dame has to be the emergence of their young players.

Freshman guard Olivia Miles had a career-best 16 points and 11 rebounds to go with six assists, and she looked extremely comfortable running the offense all night. Miles was aggressive driving into the paint throughout the game, and her impressive vision led to some flashy assists from underneath the basket.

“I knew she was going to make an immediate impact, just the caliber player that she is. She’s very confident, has a lot of swag,” Ivey said. “She’s always the person that wants to make everybody better, and I thought today she just looked for her shot a little bit more, which I thought was really great and what we needed.”

Sophomore guard and reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Maddy Westbeld also dazzled and showed why she was nominated for the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List. Her presence was felt all over the floor, as Western Illinois was unable to contain her imposing 6-foot 3-inch frame. Westbeld had 15 points, three assists, and a Purcell Pavilion record-tying 18 rebounds on the night.

“It’s really humbling,” Westbeld said regarding the rebounding record. “I had no idea until my teammates were telling me in the fourth quarter. Just knowing the legends that have played here before, even being mentioned in that same sentence as them is really humbling and really awesome to say that.”

Next up, Notre Dame will kick off ACC play on Sunday, Nov. 14, against the Syracuse Orange. Tip-off is scheduled for noon ET at the Carrier Dome, and the game will be broadcast on ACC Network.

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