Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 91 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL coached at the college and NBA level, so she has seen what it takes to get to the top," Bransford said of Ivey. "That passion and fire she brings, she puts it in the players. It's contagious. All the suc- cess she's had and barriers she's broken, you just look at her in awe and try to fol- low in her footsteps. "You have to soak up as much as you can from her." Bransford gave credit to Ivey's as- sistants, too. She called associate head coach Carol Owens the "mom of the g ro u p." A ss i s ta n t coa c h M i c h a e l a Mabrey could pass as a sister. She played for Notre Dame as recently as 2016, and her actual sister, Dara, is a current senior and sharp shooter on the Irish roster. Like sister, like sister. Coquese Washington, another asso- ciate head coach, is essentially Brans- ford's aunt, meanwhile. Bransford even calls her "Auntie Quesie." Washington grew up in the same school system as Bransford's mother in Flint, Mich. They played basketball together through high school. The families are still inseparable. Those are the kinds of connections that matter in recruiting. Relationships with future teammates matter, too. Bransford is all set on that front. She played on the U-16 USA Na- tional Team with current Irish freshmen Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron. She was roommates with the latter. Bransford also became close with other players like junior guard Anaya Peoples, junior forward Sam Brunelle and Mabrey through recruiting vis- its and frequent messaging on social media. It'll be a few more months un- til Bransford is officially a part of the Notre Dame roster, but it's almost as if she already is. "I feel like I'm a part of the team in a way," Bransford said. When it is official, Bransford ex- pects to hit the ground running. Cit- ron told Bransford the transition from high school to college has been a breeze because of guidance received from coaches and teammates. Citron en- tered the starting lineup on a regular basis by the end of January. That move could have come a lot sooner; she had the fourth-most minutes played on the team as of Feb. 4. Citron averaged 11.0 points per game through Notre Dame's first 22 contests. Miles averaged a team-high 14.0. Both are integral parts of what the Irish have done this season. Bransford could be in the same boat this time next year. "It's been great to watch and see the improvement and growth," Bransford said. "I can tell they're really develop- ing, which gives me confidence that once I get there the coaching staff will know what to do with me and my game." Until then, she'll continue excitedly watching from afar — maybe with pizza and wings so long as the Irish keep win- ning when those items are consumed by the Bransford family. "They are improving and can win those big games," Bransford said. "I'm really excited to see what they're going to do the rest of this season. I feel like they're really starting to click and start- ing to figure out what coach Ivey wants. You could really see it in that NC State game." ✦ 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 Jan. 2 at Duke* L, 72-70 Jan. 13 at Wake Forest* W, 74-64 Jan. 16 North Carolina* W, 70-65 Jan. 20 at Boston College* L, 73-71 Jan. 23 at Pitt* W, 77-63 Jan. 25 at Virginia* Ppd. Jan. 27 Syracuse* W, 83-62 Jan. 30 Boston College* W, 74-61 Feb. 1 NC State* W, 69-66 Feb. 3 Virginia Tech* W, 68-55 Feb. 6 at Florida State* L, 70-65 Feb. 10 Miami* (RSN) 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at Louisville* (ESPN) 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 Notre Dame Takes 'Protecting Purcell' Seriously NC State guard Diamond Johnson had two open attempts at a game-tying three-point shot against Notre Dame Feb. 1. Neither of them fell. It was as if more than 5,500 fans inside Purcell Pavilion collectively joined forces in spirit and harmoni- ous vocal cacophony to will the ball off the rim not once, but twice. "They got some good looks," Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said. "Thank goodness they were away and they were on our court." Purcell hasn't been a friendly court for foes all season. The ball has bounced the way of the Irish more times than not inside the friendly confines of their own arena. Notre Dame improved to 10-0 at Purcell Pavilion by beating NC State and 11-0 two days later with a 68-55 victory over Virginia Tech. Graduate student forward Maya Dodson was the catalyst against the Wolfpack with 22 points, 10 rebounds and an all-out defensive effort. Freshman point guard Olivia Miles was the shining star against the Hokies with 24 points. She scored a career-high 30 in a 74-61 win over Boston College Jan. 30. "We just feed off the energy of our crowd," Ivey said. "Bringing these talented teams into our house, we feed off of being home. It's a huge advantage." Including a Feb. 10 matchup against Miami, Notre Dame has three home games left this season. The Irish also host Clemson Feb. 24 and Louisville Feb. 27. The last of those three is by far the biggest; the Cardinals have been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll for most of the season and have beaten Notre Dame four straight times. The two teams will meet once before then in Louisville, but Notre Dame could have an impressive streak and a piece of history on the line in the second meeting if it takes care of Miami and Clemson. The Irish have not gone undefeated at home since recording a 15-0 mark during the 2017-18 national championship season. Any time the Irish can draw comparisons to that team, it's a heck of a feat. "Our crowd is electric here," senior guard Dara Mabrey said. "We love playing at home." — Tyler Horka

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