Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 18, 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM NOV. 18, 2023 49 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA N iele Ivey told Blue & Gold Illustrated in September that it would only take a possession or two for people to realize Hannah Hidalgo is the best basketball player on every court she steps onto. She definitely was not proven wrong Oct. 30. There were nine other ladies on the floor with Hidalgo when Notre Dame took on Purdue Northwest in an exhibi- tion game that night. None of them were better than Hidalgo, and she showed why in the first minute. Hidalgo, all 5-6 of the five-star fresh- man, grabbed a defensive rebound and scurried up the court to find junior guard Sonia Citron — who, in a ranking of those other nine players, was defi- nitely No. 2 — for a three-point attempt. Citron missed but grabbed her own re- bound. She dished out to Hidalgo to let her take a crack at a long ball. Bang. Hidalgo scored 23 points, dished out 7 assists, secured 6 rebounds and wrestled away 5 steals in her tune-up for the regular season, a 110-48 blowout of Purdue Northwest. Her performance, laden with dazzling dimes and tantalizing tenacity, confirmed what was already suspected; Notre Dame is in good hands until junior point guard Olivia Miles comes back from rehabbing her surgically repaired knee. Hidalgo was made for this kind of moment. "It's a great experience," she said. "I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else. It's truly nothing like I ever imagined. I knew it was going to be great, but I didn't know it was going to be this good. It's truly a blessing to be with my team- mates and my coaches." With the uncertainty surrounding Miles' availability, Hidalgo is the right player at the right time for Ivey. Citron is fantastic. A baller. The best player on a lot of courts when there isn't Miles or Hidalgo bumping her to No. 2 or No. 3. The Irish got exposed last spring when Ivey was forced to move her to the point in the wake of Miles' injury. Citron isn't a point guard. She's at her best on the wing. That's where she started against Pur- due Northwest, and that's where she'll stay barring further injuries. When Miles comes back, Ivey's starting guards are going to be as good as anyone's in the country with her at the one, Hidalgo at the two and Citron at the three. "I'm excited for the lineups," Ivey said. "I'm excited for Liv to be able to play with Hannah. I'm excited for see- ing different rotations within our of- fense. … It shows the depth but also how far along we are in this program. We have so much talent on this team." A ton of talent, yes. But also some question marks. Miles wasn't the only Notre Dame guard who didn't play in the exhibition game on the penultimate day of Octo- ber. Freshman Emma Risch, sophomore KK Bransford and graduate student Jenna Brown were sidelined with minor ailments. As a result, fans didn't get a true look at what those lineups Ivey alluded to are going to entail. Ivey only went nine deep in a 62-point victory in a game that didn't even count. That's unusual. At full strength, Notre Dame's guard depth is tough to beat. But knowing how detrimental injuries can affect the end goal is all too real. With Miles and backcourt mate Dara Mabrey available last season, the Irish would have stood a solid chance of ad- vancing past the Sweet 16. They gave Maryland all it could handle for a while down two starters. Technically, this season starts with Notre Dame down a starter in Miles. But there's a major difference between 2022-23 and 2023-24; the former squad did not have Hidalgo. She neutralizes Miles being out — and then some, perhaps. She's still going to need some help. Fordham transfer Anna DeWolfe got off to a rocky start in her Notre Dame de- but. She shot 2 of 10 from the field and 0 of 3 from three-point range in the exhi- bition. She's Hidalgo's sidekick starting at shooting guard until Miles returns. Sophomore Cass Prosper struggled to shoot against Purdue Northwest as well. She was 0 of 5 from three-point range. Notre Dame only made 3 triples as a team, and Hidalgo had 2 of them. She's a superstar, but all the talent around her that Ivey mentioned has to show up or Hidalgo's mastery won't matter. Nobody is pressing the panic button because two role players didn't have a great game in a glorified scrimmage. It was comforting to see five other players in addition to Hidalgo reach double figures in scoring, too, highlighted by Citron's 22. Senior forward Maddy Westbeld had 17, Prosper had 15, Pepperdine post transfer Becky Obinma had 12 and se- nior forward Nat Marshall had 11. "It shows the balance we will have this year," Ivey said. Hidalgo seems like she's going to get hers every single night. As long as she has a few follow her, Notre Dame will be in business with that balance — espe- cially when Miles comes back. ✦ Hannah Hidalgo Is The Right Player At The Right Time Hidalgo stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals in Notre Dame's 110-48 exhibition victory over Purdue Northwest Oct. 30. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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