NCAA Women

Irish move to Round of 32 after 82-56 win over Southern Utah – Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Official Athletics Website

Irish move to Round of 32 after 82-56 win over Southern Utah – Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Official Athletics Website


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame played its 25th home NCAA Tournament game on Friday. The Irish have now won 23 of those. Third-seeded Notre Dame (26-5) spoiled 14th-seeded Southern Utah’s (23-10) first ever trip to the Big Dance, topping the Thunderbirds, 82-56. 

“The word I’m thinking of is resilience,” Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Coach Niele Ivey said after the game. “Coming into the season, I talked to the team about our identity. What are people going to say about you? To see where we are now, having faced this adversity, the toughness that we’ve shown over the last month, I’m super proud that our identity is our resilience.”

Notre Dame played its best quarter of basketball this season to start the game. The Irish went on a 16-0 run out of the gate and made 13 of 16 buckets (81.3) in frame No. 1. Bigs Lauren Ebo and Kylee Watson both went 3-for-3, and Notre Dame amassed 20 points in the paint. Maddy Westbeld led all players with 8 points. The group cooled off a bit in the second quarter — they made just six shots — but they still took a 43-24 advantage into the break. 

“It started on defense,” Westbeld said. “We’ve emphasized getting out and running in transition. Get the rebound and run. We did a really good job at the beginning, and that’s what set the tone early.”

Notre Dame matched its 27 points in the first quarter with 27 more in the third, as they continued to dominate inside. The Irish finished with 50 points in the paint and 22 layups. It was a team effort all around, as four had double-digit points and KK Bransford was nearly a fifth with 9. 

A more interesting storyline may have actually been one that didn’t show up in the final score. Notre Dame had 24 assists on the day. That mark is tied for the ninth-most in an NCAA Tournament game in program history, and it was done without star guard and assist wizard Olivia Miles. For the first time this season, three players had at least five assists: Sonia Citron (6), Westbeld (5) and Bransford (5). Citron and Bransford’s marks were season-highs. 

Cassandre Prosper continues to fly toward the basket, and she had a career-high 10 rebounds. Ebo had 10 as well. Her 14 points made the performance her fourth double-double this year.

The balance continued on the defensive side of the floor, as five different players recorded a steal and six posted a block. Walk-on junior Sarah Cernugel recorded one of each, her first time getting either….

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