Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM FEBRUARY 2022 41 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA M aya Dodson might have set the bar too high. The first glimpse of Dodson in a Notre Dame jersey during competitive action came during an exhibition against Em- poria State last fall. She scored 24 points in 24 minutes. Then she scored 25 points in 27 minutes in a season-opening Irish blowout victory over Ohio. Dodson attempted 30 shots in those two games. She made 22 of them (73.3 percent). It only took two games for the 6-foot-3 Dodson to drill into the minds of Fighting Irish women's basketball sup- porters that they had something the pre- vious roster didn't: a true paint-clearing, dominant around the rim post player who could put up points against anybody. "She gives us everything as far as her presence inside and her leadership on and off the court," head coach Niele Ivey said of Dodson. "She's our hardest worker, she demands a lot of respect from our team, and she carries a lot of experience being a senior and coming from a really great program at Stanford." Ivey said those first two appearances were "just a snippet" of what Dodson can do. Ivey would have loved to see plenty more snippets going forward, but they showed up fewer and farther between. That trend spawned rather quickly. Dodson scored only 14 points against Western Illinois in the second game of the season. And seven against Syracuse. And five against Fordham. She averaged 10 rebounds per game over the course of those three contests, but her offensive game disappeared. The low point of the season for Dod- son was a stretch of three games against Michigan State, UConn and Valparaiso from Dec. 2-8. She managed four points in 31 minutes against MSU and six points in 36 minutes against the Huskies while shooting 2 of 11 from the floor. That led to her lowest minute total of the season three days later; she played just eight minutes against Valpo. She scored two points and collected one rebound. Describing Dodson's drop-off as a downturn might have been too kind. She flat out wasn't contributing offensively. But she recorded six blocks against the Spartans — a sign that though every sta- tistical category might not have been in her favor, she was still locked in. Against DePaul and Duke, she proved it more than ever. Dodson exploded for a career-high 28 points against the former. Notre Dame beat the highest scoring team in the coun- try 91-86 on the road Dec. 22. The Irish fell 72-70 at No. 15 Duke Jan. 2, but Dodson scored 26 points and collected nine re- bounds. Without her, the Irish would have lost handily. With her, they nearly pulled out their first ranked win in a true road game since March 1, 2020 at Florida State. The Dodson from early November had returned, better than ever. But she re- ally never went anywhere. Not mentally, anyway. Not physically in practice either. "I think the biggest thing always for me is having the reps," Dodson said. "Even in those games where I didn't have the best field goal percentage, I worked on those shots, so I knew that the next game I'd get there. It's just a culmination of working on my finishing the past couple weeks." For Dodson, the key will be showing she can consistently produce those kinds of performances against unfavorable match- ups. What happens when she has to go against teams wanting to pound the post? It's important to note Dodson only played in nine games at Stanford in 2019-20 while battling a foot injury. She opted out of the 2020-21 season en- tirely. It was always going to take some time for her to get her legs back and to feel comfortable on the floor again. Now that she has put forth back- to-back outings that were even better than those first two, it could be a sign that the player who was rated the No. 11 overall prospect in the class of 2017 has finally gotten closer to reaching her peak potential as a graduate student. "She works so hard," Ivey said. "It's great for her to perform against great opponents. She's really showing every game what she can do. Sitting out for two years, she's really hungry. I just love what she's doing for us." ✦ 2021-22 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 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 W, 94-35 Nov. 26 vs. Georgia# L, 71-67 (OT) Nov. 27 vs. Oregon State# W, 64-62 Dec. 2 at Michigan State% W, 76-71 Dec. 5 at UConn L, 73-54 Dec. 8 at Valparaiso W, 73-56 Dec. 12 Purdue-Fort Wayne W, 78-41 Dec. 19 Pitt* W, 85-59 Dec. 22 at DePaul W, 91-86 Dec. 30 at Virginia* Ppd. Jan. 2 at Duke* L, 72-70 Jan. 9 NC State* (ACCN) 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at Wake Forest* 7 p.m. Jan. 16 North Carolina* (RSN) 1 p.m. Jan. 20 at Boston College* (RSN) 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at Pitt* 2 p.m. Jan. 27 Syracuse* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Jan. 30 Boston College* (ACCN) 2 p.m. Feb. 3 Virginia Tech* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 6 at Florida State* (ACCN) 2 p.m. Feb. 10 Miami* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at Louisville* (ESPN/2/U) 2 p.m. Feb. 17 at Georgia Tech* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 24 Clemson* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 27 Louisville* (ESPN/ACCN) TBA Mar. 2-6 ACC Tournament$ TBA *ACC; # Daytona Beach Invitational in Day- tona, Fla.; % ACC-Big Ten Challenge; $ at Greensboro, N.C.; ACCN — ACC Network; ACCNX — ACC Network Extra; RSN — Regional Sports Networks Graduate Student Maya Dodson Is Rounding Into Form For The Irish Dodson scored a career-high 28 points in a 91-86 win over DePaul Dec. 22 and followed that up with a 26-point performance in a 72-70 loss to Duke Jan. 2. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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