Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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48 APRIL 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T hroughout the "Year of CO- VID-19," collegiate and profes- sional athletes had to live in a bubble more than ever. The 2020-21 Notre Dame women's basketball team took to living in a bubble one step farther throughout the regular-season campaign, fluc- tuating between being on the cusp of a breakthrough to dealing with another on-court collapse. The team repeated its recent history in its opener of the ACC Tournament versus Clemson March 4. First-year head coach Niele Ivey's Fighting Irish were listed by ESPN "Bracketologist" Charlie Creme as the "last team in" the NCAA Tournament field despite posting a relatively modest 10-9 record with no conquests of a ranked team. A victory by No. 6-seeded Notre Dame over No. 11-seeded Clemson — losers of six straight and 11 of its last 13 —wasn't necessarily going to ensure the Irish of an NCAA Tourna- ment bid, but a defeat would signifi- cantly hurt the chances. On Dec. 20, the Irish had their worst performance of the year in a 78-55 debacle at Clemson, so a sec- ond opportunity was presented to wipe out that bitter residue and dem- onstrate it was a fluke. Instead, while squandering a 10-point second-half advantage, Notre Dame had its fifth fourth-quar- ter implosion of the season, resulting in a 68-63 defeat and then getting classified as Creme's "last team out" from the 64-team field. Whether that will be accurate won't be confirmed until Selection Monday on March 15, but Ivey wasn't ready to campaign for a berth, deferring to the NCAA Tournament selection commit- tee in a year truly on the bubble. MORE GROWING PAINS In the March 4 loss to the Tigers, a season-long pattern of fourth-quarter collapses and a plethora of turnovers reared their heads again. In addition to holding a 29-6 advantage in points off turnovers, Clemson crushed Notre Dame in offensive rebounds with an 18-6 advantage. That resulted in a whopping 18-4 disparity for the Ti- gers in second-chance points. Notre Dame built a 52-42 advantage with 1:33 remaining in the third quar- ter before the lead was whittled down to 54-50 entering the fourth. The Irish then were outscored 18-9 in those final 10 minutes (and 26-11 the last 11:33). After converting 21 of 37 field goals (56.8 percent) the first three quar- ters, Notre Dame was 4 of 14 (28.6 percent) in the fourth to go with six turnovers that put their final count in the game at 23. Clemson did not allow Notre Dame to score for 4:21 before the Irish finally tallied with 15 seconds left. Ivey said closing out contests had been a point of emphasis at prac- tice in recent weeks, but the actual execution in game situations has be- come a severe mental roadblock. "With all the games that we've had tough fourth quarters, I thought it would be something we would have grown from," Ivey lamented. "We continue to lose our composure, and we tried to use some of the timeouts to calm them down. "It's a little bit of just growth and experience. We have a young point guard in freshman Olivia Miles. I thought Olivia played really well [10 points, eight assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes]. She did turn the ball over [seven times] uncharacteristi- Notre Dame's 10-10 record was a step in the right direction following last year's 13-18 finish, but a penchant for late-game collapses — including versus Clemson in the ACC Tournament — might cost the Irish an NCAA Tournament bid. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Bubble Trouble A missed opportunity in the ACC Tournament left 10-10 Notre Dame in limbo for a bid to the Big Dance

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