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ND Women’s Basketball

Fresh off historic blowout, Irish prep for Sweet 16

| Friday, March 25, 2022

Notre Dame women’s basketball will play their first Sweet 16 game since 2019 on Saturday when they square off with the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

The game is of no small significance for second-year head coach Niele Ivey and her young squad. The Irish are making sure to both enjoy the experience while locking in against a known foe the Irish beat in a close 69-66 game at Purcell Pavilion at the beginning of February. 

The Irish couldn’t ask for more momentum heading into the second weekend of the tournament. Notre Dame will enter Bridgeport coming off a historic 108-64 demolition of Oklahoma, a game in which the Irish offense seemed unstoppable for stretches. Ivey made it clear that Notre Dame’s top priority for Saturday will be keeping that offensive momentum rolling.

“I think we want to play our style of basketball — that’s number one. If we do our job defensively, we’ll get a chance to get out and run,” Ivey said. “If you think about Notre Dame, at least this season, it’s about our pace. We have the best point guard in the country [in freshman Olivia Miles]. She’s almost leading the country in assists, so we want to get the ball to her and run. We have to know the way that North Carolina State is going to guard us. They do a great job on the ball screens being physical, but I think playing our style of basketball is what we have to do from the beginning and do for forty minutes.”

Ivey also discussed how the team was preparing for a second matchup with the Wolfpack, and the adjustments she and her staff have made after watching the physical nature of the first game:

“We’re going to do a couple toughness drills today because we have to expect that [physicality],” Ivey said. “We had a lot of adversity that game. Abby [Prohaska] went out, Sam [Brunelle] went out, and everyone had to step up and do a little bit more. So we have to expect it, and we have to prepare for it — mentally and also physically. Were going to do some drills that will help us work to get open and be physical in the box outs. We just have to expect it. This is forty minutes to get to the Elite Eight and we have to be ready.”

Though the Irish will be playing at a venue that will likely feel like a road game in the stands, with regional two-seed Connecticut just over an hour’s drive away from Total Mortgage Arena, the Bridgeport draw has provided a silver lining for the Notre Dame lineup’s strong northeast contingent. Senior guard Dara Mabrey spoke about the benefit of having a game just a short drive away from her native New Jersey.

“I’m really excited. I have a lot of family, a lot of friends that are coming that normally don’t get to see me play a lot just because of the schedule and the location of all of our games,” Mabrey said. “I think it’s something I’m really grateful for, especially with my parents who have been to a bunch of these Sweet Sixteens and Final Fours, and now I’m here at Notre Dame doing it. And I know my parents are super excited about that too.”

Notre Dame women’s basketball will play North Carolina State for a spot in the Elite Eight at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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