Notre Dame women’s basketball eased into their 2022-23 campaign with a comfortable 88-48 victory over Northern Illinois Monday night.
Sophomore guard Olivia Miles paced all scorers with 17 points, but it was a team effort that propelled the Irish to victory. Graduate student guard Dara Mabrey chipped in with 16 points, 12 of which came from beyond the three point line. Junior forward Maddy Westbeld added 13 points and graduate student center Lauren Ebo chipped in with 10 points as well.
Notre Dame didn’t explode out of the gates against the Huskies, rather steadily building their lead over the course of the full forty minutes. Miles stressed the importance of consistent offensive output after the victory.
“We talked about keeping our foot on the gas the whole time,” Miles said. “That fourty point lead didn’t come right away. Just working through those struggles we do have. [Runs] will happen, that’s basketball, you know. But we kept shooting and kept getting to the basket. If we aren’t making it from the outside, we’d go inside, and vice versa.”
That focus on working the inside was a major factor in the Irish slowly building their lead, with Ebo and junior forward Kylee Watson slowly but surely pounding away at the Northern Illinois interior. The pairing combined for 19 points in an efficient performance, one that Miles noted after the game gave the team a different dimension.
“They work really well off of each other,” Miles said. “I was telling [head coach Niele] Ivey, ‘we should run post-up plays’ just because they couldn’t really guard Ebo or Kylee. Really getting them actions is super important, getting them the ball, calling doubles when we see them, working off of each other. It’s really important posting one of them up so they can work off each other.”
Another major element of Notre Dame’s winning season-opening performance was an impressive defensive display, as Ivey highlighted.
“That’s something that we are working on and something that we are growing, our defensive mindset,” she said. “They’re all locked in, committed to it. There are some things we’re focused on as a team and that was one of them. So [the defense] was really great, and it just goes to show our growth over the last couple of weeks. The commitment, the trust, in our defense … they’re working towards it, in practice you can just tell the energy is shifting in that regard … for us to be able to show and perform like that defensively is what I love.”
The Irish will now look to take Monday’s performance on the road to St. Louis for what figures to be a tougher test against Cal in the Citi Shamrock Classic. The Golden Bears provided an impressive victory of their own in their opener, dispatching Cal State Northridge 86-56.
Cal struggled last season to a 2-10 finish in the PAC-12, but return three starters and added two transfers. The Golden Bears are led by sophomore guard Jayda Curry, who won PAC-12 freshman of the year last season.
Notre Dame will take on Cal at 4:00 Saturday afternoon in the Citi Shamrock Classic in St. Louis, Missouri. The game will be broadcast on NBC, becoming the first women’s college basketball game to ever be shown on the channel.
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