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No rest for the Irish as No. 24 Florida State comes to town

On the heels of graduate guard Dara Mabrey’s college career-ending knee injury, No. 7 Notre Dame women’s basketball awaits another challenge as No. 24 Florida State will visit Purcell Pavilion Thursday night in a pivotal ACC matchup. FSU (18-4, 7-2) sits just half a game out of first place in the conference. Brooke Wyckoff’s team doubled up Pittsburgh at home Sunday for a 74-37 win. The Irish (16-2, 7-1) are one of the two teams occupying the ACC’s top position, sharing it with No. 16 Duke. Notre Dame has won four consecutive games overall and six straight on the home hardwood. Niele Ivey’s group most recently added a 76-54 defeat of Virginia on Sunday

Irish lose a true leader

Mabrey announced Monday evening that she had suffered an ACL injury during Sunday’s game.

“The last three years at Notre Dame have been filled with so many ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything,” she wrote in a social media post. “I am so grateful for my time in a Notre Dame uniform, and I can honestly say I poured my heart and soul into this program.”

Mabrey concludes her collegiate career, which began at Virginia Tech, with a host of accolades to her name. Incredibly, she started all 135 games she played in, scoring 1,472 points across five seasons. Mabrey sunk 301 career three-pointers, more than her sister Marina who is the Irish program leader with 274. Above all else, Mabrey has been and will continue to be an admirable leader for the Irish. Even as she endured a severe distance shooting slump to open 2023, Mabrey contributed heavily in other areas. On a per-game basis, she closes 2022-23 averaging 9.3 points, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals.

Who’s next?

Ivey has never needed to replace Mabrey in the starting five, but she has the firepower to sufficiently do so. She may opt for a more interior-heavy lineup with graduate student Lauren Ebo, who has played all 18 games. The graduate center stepped up in Sunday’s game, contributing 15 points, six rebounds, and four steals off the bench. Ebo has averaged 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and has plenty of starting experience dating back to her senior season at Texas.

Freshman guard KK Bransford could also see more playing time as well. The former McDonald’s All-American has also seen action in all 18 games, scoring 7.9 points per game. Replacing Mabrey’s three-point prowess will be especially difficult, as Ebo and Bransford have combined to attempt just eight triples this season. Current starter Sonia Citron has the capability to help that cause though. The sophomore guard buried a career-best six threes on Sunday, bringing her season percentage to 48.

Seminoles poised to strike again

Though on the edge of the AP Top 25, Florida State is as dangerous as any ACC team. The ‘Noles played within eight points of No. 5 UConn in mid-December and have made waves in conference play. They have beaten No. 15 North Carolina on the road and walloped then-No. 11 NC State two Thursdays ago. With an OT conference loss at Boston College and a handful of tight non-conference games, FSU can sometimes play down to competition. Even so, the Irish can expect to have their hands full Thursday night.

Florida State boasts the fifth-best scoring offense in the country (85.8 points per game). Notre Dame is 17th in that category. Their attack is led by Ta’Niya Latson, the top scorer in the ACC. The dynamic freshman has posted 23.6 points per game and paces the team in steals, assists and free throw percentage. Latson has the ability to take over games, evidenced by her six 30-plus point outings this season.

Latson is not the only star on the Seminoles roster, as Makayla Timpson is also present on several national leaderboards. To go with 13.1 points and nine rebounds per game, her 61.9 field goal percentage and 2.45 blocks per game place her in the top 15 nationally. The former ACC All-Freshman selection has recorded three double-doubles in her last five games and nine this season.

Thursday night’s ranked showdown will tip-off at 8 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion. The game will be available on local RSN affiliates and the Notre Dame Radio Network. Florida State is 2-1 against AP Top 25 opposition this season, while Notre Dame is 2-2. The Seminoles and Irish will not meet again in regular season play this year.

Contact Tyler Reidy at treidy3@nd.edu.

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