Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2022*

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

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56 JANUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA E veryone was watching, waiting and trying to decide which way it would go. Ultimately, it went the way most people probably figured. Notre Dame was locked in a dog fight on the road against the No. 2 team in the country Dec. 5. The Fighting Irish were up against the UConn Huskies in a hostile environment. Neither team brought its "A" game. Had Notre Dame, the Irish might have been able to pull an upset against a Hus- kies team that had an unusually high number of turnovers (21). Notre Dame only shot 31 percent from the field, though, and in the end an inability to put the ball in the bucket doomed the visitors. The Irish were right there, only trail- ing by seven entering the fourth quarter after outscoring the Huskies by three in the third, but head coach Niele Ivey's team melted down in the final frame. UConn started it on a 13-0 run to take a 20-point lead. Notre Dame lost 73-54. A promising attempt at a monumental upset was thwarted without much re- sistance when it mattered most. "I thought we lost our composure," Ivey said. "They made their run, and we didn't counteract. I felt like when they made their run in the first half, we combatted and came back. But we fell apart [in the fourth]." Consider it a lesson learned in a year that has been full of them. In the third game of the season, Notre Dame learned it can indeed go on the road and pull away from a respectable Power Five foe in the fourth quarter at Syracuse. It learned it can hang on to win a game that goes down to the wire at Michigan State Dec. 2, too. It learned it can't come out sluggish and sloppy against anybody — even winless Val- paraiso — and expect a proper result. The Irish were tied at 25 with the Bea- cons in what eventually turned out to be a comfortable 73-56 victory. Freshman point guard Olivia Miles became the seventh Notre Dame player in program history to record a triple- double in that win. She had 11 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists. As of Dec. 16, no player in the country had more as- sists than Miles' 82. Notre Dame's two best players have arguably been the two freshmen, Miles and combo guard Sonia Citron. The lat- ter has been named the ACC Newcomer of the Week three times. She averaged 12.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game through the first 11 games despite only starting one of those. And if you're not willing to name either of those two players as Notre Dame's MVP in the early going, it's been sophomore Maddy Westbeld who led the team in scoring through 11 games with 14.3 points per contest. The Irish's three best players are two freshmen and a sophomore. That makes the collapse at UConn a bit more un- derstandable. UConn has the reign- ing NCAA Player of the Year in Paige Bueckers and is coming off a 13th straight Final Four appearance. Notre Dame is coming off a 10-10 season un- der a first-year head coach and is led by a trio of players who are all not yet old enough to buy an adult beverage at Corby's after a win if that's the way they chose to celebrate. The loss to UConn stung and showed how much more Notre Dame needs to improve to hang with the sport's elite again. But the fact that the Irish were in that game for 30 minutes relying mainly Making StrideS Notre Dame is much improved, but still has far to go Freshman guard Sonia Citron, who averaged 12.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in her first 11 games, has been named the ACC Newcomer of the Week three times in the first two months of the season. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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