Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

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

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48 NOV. 27, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA N otre Dame was playing too well to only be leading by five. There the Irish were in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., clinging to a five-point lead after leading all but 1:51 of their matchup with the Orange to that point. Syracuse started dropping threes in the bucket late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, and suddenly Notre Dame found itself in the danger zone. Two-possession game, first road game of the year, gut check time. Sophomore forward Maddy West- beld answered the bell. She went on a personal 9-0 run that included two old-fashioned three-point plays and a three-point jumper. Suddenly, Notre Dame led by 14. Westbeld's run was the start of a string of 21 points in a row for the Irish to finish the game. They won in runaway fashion, 82-56. "I thought this would be a great test to see where we're at this early in the season, and I couldn't be more thrilled with this team," head coach Niele Ivey said. "To get our first road victory, I'm just so ecstatic." Westbeld scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Senior guard Dara Mabrey chipped in 16 points by making 4 of 6 shots from behind the three-point line. Freshman point guard Olivia Miles had 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Not to be outdone, junior forward Sam Brunelle scored 12 of her 17 points in the first half. Westbeld scored the Irish's first six points. Brunelle added six first quarter points of her own to get the Irish pointed in the right direction from the start. "She is one of the best shooters in the league," Ivey said of Brunelle. "For her to come in and give us 17 points off the bench, she really stretches the defense. I'm just happy she's healthy this year. She's gone through a lot. I'm just really proud of her to be able to reap the ben- efits of her work in the offseason." MABREY SETS THE TONE As snow flurries fell outside Pur- cell Pavilion on the evening of Nov. 18, Mabrey three-pointers fell through the net inside the arena. The senior guard scored 15 first-quar- ter points to get the Irish out to an early lead it never relinquished in a 71-56 vic- tory over the visiting Fordham Rams. "I was just taking what they were giving me, and my teammates were doing a really good job of finding me," Mabrey said. Outside of Mabrey's hot shooting night, it wasn't Ivey's team's best per- formance. Turnovers and fouls plagued the Irish in the very early going. The Rams scored the game's first four points and led 5-2. Mabrey hit her first three to tie the game at five, and sophomore Maddy Westbeld put the Irish ahead 7-2 with her first points of the game. From there, the Irish never looked back. But it wasn't always easy. Notre Dame started to assert its size advantage in the paint. It grabbed firm control of the rebounding battle. Ivey's squad should be able to do both of those things against Patriot League opponents like Fordham. But it still takes effort to utilize those advantages. Notre Dame aced its first three tests in effort depart- ment, but it showed signs of faltering against Fordham in the second half. But that wasn't for a lack of trying. "It was a really hard, adverse game," Ivey said. "We knew coming into this game Fordham was a really tough team. We knew it was going to be a battle." The pesky Rams baited the Irish into some fouls. They were scrappy in their defense of the Irish's bigger ball han- dlers, too, causing Notre Dame's turn- over problem to resurface a bit. The mistakes could have been prevented by razor-sharp execution. Notre Dame just wasn't razor-sharp, though, and the Rams took advantage as much as they could. It still wasn't nearly enough. Fordham never crept within a closer margin than seven points in the second half. "I thought we were really gritty and we played together," Ivey said. Once the Rams keyed in on Mabrey, who finished with 20 points, West- beld and freshman guard Sonia Citron picked up the slack. Those two com- bined for 30 points. Westbeld followed up her big game at Syracuse with 18 points and seven rebounds against the Rams. Notre Dame had a season-high 20 turnovers. Eight of those were Ford- ham steals. Notre Dame only scored 29 second-half points. The Irish got the job done, but the Rams' style of play opened Ivey's eyes to an opposing blueprint her team needs to watch out for as the sea- son moves along. "They kind of got us in the half-court game, and that's not our game," Ivey said. "We need to get stops and run. We didn't get a chance to do that in the third quarter. That really slowed us down, and it took us a minute to really get back into our up-and-down game." ✦ 'Gritty' Irish Extend Season-Opening Win Streak To Four Senior guard Dara Mabrey scored 16 points against Syracuse and led the Irish with 20 against Fordham to help Notre Dame improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2018-19. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS 2021-22 WOMEN'S EARLY BASKETBALL SCHEDULE As of Nov. 19 Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Nov. 9 Ohio W, 105-69 Nov. 11 Western Illinois W, 76-50 Nov. 14 at Syracuse* W, 82-56 Nov. 18 Fordham W, 71-56 Nov. 21 Bryant (ACCNX) 5 p.m. Nov. 26 vs. Georgia# 4:30 p.m. Nov. 27 vs. Oregon State# 7 p.m. *ACC; # Daytona Beach Invitational in Daytona, Fla.

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