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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish, led by Mabrey, push past Tar Heels, prepare for Eagles matchup

| Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Notre Dame (13-3, 4-1 ACC) came away with a hard-fought 70-65 victory over 21st-ranked North Carolina (14-2, 4-2 ACC). Senior guard Dara Mabrey scored a season-high 24 points, including six three-pointers, and graduate student forward Maya Dodson added a double-double for the Irish. Dodson scored 10 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. 

“I’m just so proud of this group,” head coach Niele Ivey said after the game. “I’m so proud of this win, but I’m also proud of the resiliency of this team.”

The Irish trailed by as many as nine points midway through the second quarter. They then battled back and cut the deficit to just one heading into the locker room. Freshman point guard Olivia Miles picked up her third foul with just under four minutes to play in the half. This limited her impact, but she still finished with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.

“That’s the strength of this unit is that we have such versatility,” Ivey said. “I have two starters coming off the bench. Sonia [Citron] is a starter, and so is Sam [Brunelle].”

Citron, the ACC freshman of the week four times in six weeks, added a double-double for Notre Dame with 10 points and 12 rebounds. 

“I thought it was an incredibly balanced attack against a really great North Carolina team,” Ivey said of the team’s offense.

The Irish also forced 18 turnovers against a Tar Heels offense that had been the highest scoring in the conference. 

Notre Dame came out energized to start the third quarter, going on an early 17-2 run which put them up 50-39 and fired up the crowd at Purcell Pavilion.

“I credit our staff for the halftime adjustments,” Mabrey said. “They have great halftime adjustments and it was really evident, especially in that four-minute stretch to start the third.”

North Carolina continued to fight, but it seemed when they got within striking distance, Notre Dame would make another shot. A three-pointer from Mabrey to close the quarter put the Irish up, 54-48.

“When [Mabrey] misses, I’m shocked,” Ivey said. “She’s the heart and soul of our group. She’s always the one bringing the energy.” 

It was the first time the Irish had played at home since their Dec. 19 win over Pittsburgh. The team attributed part of the success at home this year to the fans.

“We credit our fans for that energy,” Mabrey said. “They give us energy, and we give that energy back, and this is the best place to be.”

Notre Dame hasn’t lost at home in seven games this year. 

The Tar Heels cut the lead to just one with eight minutes to play. Another Mabrey three extended the lead for Notre Dame, and the Irish pulled away for good. 

“Defensively, we played a lot harder. I felt like we competed more. We were more aware of the shooters, and we got stops, we got rebounds,” Ivey said of the fourth quarter. “It always comes down to who’s going to lock in defensively and who’s going to be able to execute. I felt like we did that better today.”

The Irish came off a road win over Wake Forest on Thursday night. During it, they led by 24 points heading into the fourth quarter. But the Demon Deacons outscored the Irish to 30-16 in the final frame to climb back into the contest. The Irish held on for a 74-64 win, led by Mabrey’s 22 points. Brunelle added 16 and Miles had 15 points and 12 assists. 

“It’s just going to continue building momentum for our group,” Ivey said. “Every time you win a game in the ACC is big. I want them to understand you have to celebrate every victory.”

Notre Dame heads east this week for a Thursday night matchup with Boston College. The Eagles (12-5, 3-3 ACC) had won four games in a row prior to losing to Louisville Sunday afternoon. Forward Taylor Soule and guard Cameron Swartz, who average 15.5 and 13.5 points per game, respectively, lead the Eagles. Notre Dame, meanwhile, moved up to third in the ACC. The Irish will look to solidify that position by winning their third consecutive contest, and their eighth in the last nine games.

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