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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame women‘s basketball falls to North Carolina State in Sweet 16

| Saturday, March 26, 2022

Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame women’s basketball suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Sweet Sixteen, falling 66-63 to North Carolina State.

The Irish led the contest for most of the day before a steal and layup by Wolfpack guard Raina Perez with 14 seconds left gave North Carolina State a lead they would preserve until the final buzzer. That late bucket by Perez put the Wolfpack ahead for the first time since two minutes into the second quarter, but that lead would be the one that mattered most. The Irish’s last grasp search for a buzzer-beating winner saw sophomore forward Maddy Westbeld’s three-point attempt rim out, and Perez would hit two more free throws with 1.5 seconds on the clock to ice the game.

Wolfpack center Elissa Cunane said after the game that the team’s experience proved to be the difference-maker in the face of the late deficit:

“We’ve been in these situations before. We’ve had some games this season where we were down in the first half or even at the end of games,” said Cunane. “So we knew what we were capable of and we just all had confidence in each other. We kept reminding each other, ‘take it one step at a time, get one stop and push it, and then focus on the little things.’” 

That confidence and experience proved vital in the final minute of the contest, as the Irish seemed flustered in the face of tight-man Wolfpack defense. This frustration came to a head in the final thirty seconds of the game when Notre Dame, holding a one-point lead and the ball, saw several inbounds plays run astray. A combination of deflected passes and smart tactical fouling by North Carolina State ensured the Irish continually struggled to even start their offensive possession. And when the Irish finally did get the ball in play, Perez’s steal just seconds later allowed the Wolfpack to put the finishing touch on a stellar defensive possession.

North Carolina State head coach Wes Moore said after the game his team was just looking to frustrate the Irish any way they could on that fateful possession.

“We were trying for whatever we could get. We obviously wanted to make it tough for them to get the ball in… but I’ll be honest, we don’t work on [inbounds] stuff enough,” said Moore. “They just went out there and made plays. They got after it and competed. That’s what it takes. It takes energy, it takes urgency and that can cover up even a coach that makes mistakes. They can still cover that up.”

Despite the loss, after the game Irish head coach Niele Ivey reflected on how far her team came and what they have to look forward to next season. 

“I talked [to the team] about just celebrating, and just acknowledging where we are right now,” said Ivey. “I’m in year two. We didn’t go to the tournament last year. And I don’t want [the team] to feel like this loss dictates who we are. It’s hard, but it’s part of the game. There’s a winner and there’s a loser. We can always learn from it, and that’s what we’re going through…  I don’t want them to feel like this is the end of the world. We have a bright future.”

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