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Irish fall to Blue Devils at home, 57-52

| Monday, February 6, 2023

Sunday afternoon Notre Dame women’s basketball fell 57-52 to Duke at Purcell Pavillion.

The game was defined by struggles on the offensive end and success on the defensive end for both teams, but it was Duke who got the last say in a tight contest. It was the Irish who set the pace early, entering halftime with a 31-25 lead. But in the second frame Duke, who shot just 39% from the field and 0% from three in the first half, found their rhythm.

A 23-15 third quarter run put the Blue Devils in control, powered by a 10 point surge from Celeste Taylor. In the final frame, looking to hold their two point lead, Duke put on a defensive masterclass.

Only allowing six total points, all of which came from sophomore guard Olivia Miles, the Blue Devils completely suffocated the Notre Dame’s offense. The Irish shot just 15% from the floor over the final ten minutes, and most critically turned the ball over on their last ditch effort to close down a three point Duke lead with 15 seconds left.

Head coach Niele Ivey said after the game that she was just trying to draw up a play that would allow her star guard to operate quickly given the time crunch the Irish were up against.

“I was trying to get a quick score, get [Miles] downhill,” Ivey said. “So we set a flat screen, wanting to get her downhill. The idea was to get a quick score in the paint, turnaround, try to get a stop, advance [the ball] and try to run another play.”

But Duke, like they had all game, came up big. Miles’ got downhill, but Duke ensured she didn’t get an open lane to the basket and picked off her attempted feed to freshman forward Cassandre Prosper. From there, the Blue Devils were able to ice the game with free throws and walk out of South Bend in first place in the ACC.

Playing without graduate student center Lauren Ebo for the third consecutive game, the Irish struggled down low. Ebo’s usual frontcourt partner junior Kylee Watson only played 23 minutes, with all four other starters clearing the 30 minute mark. Watson only amassed 2 points and 5 rebounds in her time on the floor, with Notre Dame often unable to control the paint. 

Junior forward Maddy Westbeld put in an especially admirable shift helping to cover for Ebo, even playing out of position. Westbeld played the full 40 minutes for the Irish and ended with team-highs in both points and rebounds. The junior rotated all over the floor throughout the game as Ivey attempted to manage a six player rotation without a natural center. 

Without Ebo, the Irish once again took the floor against Duke without a single senior in the rotation. On a team that just weeks ago gave significant minutes to two, the learning curve has been noticeable.

But Ivey stressed after the game the benefits being forced into high pressure situations will have on her young lineup. 

“That’s an adjustment. It’s part of the game you’ve got to navigate,” said Ivey. “Yes, injuries have plagued us the last couple weeks. But again, adversity gives a lot of opportunity for our team. Some players are really young and have never been in these moments. And you’ve got to learn in the fire unfortunately. But I know we’ll be better for it down the road.” 

Looking ahead, the Irish now get a stretch of three straight home games to rebound from the Duke defeat. The first of the week will come at the midweek against a struggling Pittsburgh team. The Panthers will enter South Bend searching for their first conference win, currently standing 0-11 in ACC play.

Tip off against the Panthers is Thursday night at 6 p.m. EST in the Purcell Pavillion.

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About J.J. Post

J.J. Post is a junior in Fisher Hall. Hailing from Mountainside, New Jersey, he's currently working his way towards being the nation's foremost expert on college soccer. Whether via the button below or his overly active Twitter (@JayJayPost), feel free to reach out and talk about Notre Dame soccer, football, basketball, volleyball, baseball or softball. Or any other Notre Dame sport you can think of. Odds are he watches it as well.

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