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Irish make history in 74-60 upset over UConn

No. 7 Notre Dame women’s basketball came out on top tonight in an impressive 74-60 upset over No. 3 longstanding rival UConn. This marks the Huskies first loss of the season, spoiling their perfect record. Sophomore All-American guard Olivia Miles and junior forward Maddy Westbeld were dubbed “players of the game” by Karen & Kevin Keyes Family head coach Niele Ivey, for their substantial contributions to the Irish squad. This Irish victory follows a devastating buzz-beater loss against No. 20 Maryland on Thursday. Lessons from that defeat helped to drive the women’s desire to fight today. 

“Thursday’s loss really fueled us today,” Ivey said. “That was a really tough loss and obviously went down to the wire. We learned a lot from that game, that we can score, had a lot of balance offensively but that it’s our defense that wins games.” 

The Irish took on the challenge and played with heart today against the Huskies. Miles was timid in the Maryland game, but demonstrated aggressiveness and precision right out of the gate. She was the star of the show early, with 13 points and an assist in quarter one alone. She would go on to amass a total of 21 points (tying her season high), four assists, and eight rebounds. Miles’ play helped propel the Irish to an 18-13 lead at the end of the first.

“She’s unstoppable at the dribble,” Westbeld said. “Nobody can guard her, especially when she’s that aggressive coming out of the gate. It opens up the rest of the floor when she’s that aggressive.”

Westbeld herself was also an asset for the Irish, as she scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots in one of the best games of her career. Graduate student center Lauren Ebo was a major player, as her strength in the post, scored 12 points on 6-10 shooting to go with a pair of blocks.

“I think she’s one of the best posts in the country,” Ivey said. “She’s so efficient. We know when we run it to her she’s going to make it 80% of the time. I thought she had some great looks and was more aggressive today. She finished with contact and she didn’t really let the game get to her today. She had the chance to play her game with freedom.”

Sonia Citron and Dara Mabrey also scored 10 points, giving the Irish five different players in double digits.

Notre Dame built off Miles’ momentum in the first and went on to dominate the second quarter. The defensive intensity of the Irish was shown here and a high scoring performance brought the score 41-28. The Irish’s FG% was over double that of the Huskies — 65% to 28% — by the end of the first half. Even by the end of the game, the difference was 56% to 37%. 

UConn saw a solid third quarter with a 10-0 run, and several fouls by Irish players cost Notre Dame some points. The Irish saw seven fouls in the third quarter alone, one of them called intentional on Miles. Unlike Northwestern where Miles was ejected from the game after her second technical and a verbal sparring match, she kept her cool against the Huskies and was able to rebuild momentum for the Irish.

“It was a learning experience for me at Northwestern,” Miles said. “I think just being the type of player that I am, refs have an extra eye on me. It was unintentional, I didn’t mean to hit her. It wasn’t a sort of technical situation where I was like talking to somebody so I wasn’t really that heated. I feel like that’s what the difference was with this one.”

Despite a shaky third, the Irish never lost the lead and were able to respond well to the Huskies’ run to finish the third 58-46. The Irish controlled the action in the final quarter to round out the afternoon. Each time the Huskies scored, Notre Dame had an answer. They ran the clock out in the final seconds of the game to officially upset the Huskies 74-60. This win makes history and bodes for a promising future this season.

“Going against UConn and a hall of fame coach like Geno [Auriemma] means everything,” Ivey said. “It shows where we are as a program and how we are progressing forward. It shows my team that anything is possible. I love having this moment in front of our home crowd.” 

The energy was high in an almost sold out Purcell Pavilion, making all the difference for the team. 

“Our crowd has been so supportive and I’m hoping our games look like that all the time, not just when UConn comes in,” Ivey said. “We want to have fans continue to support women and support our team.” 

After their impressive performance today, Notre Dame women’s basketball is back in action on Thursday, Dec. 8 in an away matchup against Lafayette.

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