Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2024

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

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42 FEBRUARY 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA I f Notre Dame had a com- pletely healthy roster and you knew freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo would score 32 points, senior forward Maddy Westbeld would score 16 and graduate student guard Anna DeWolfe would score 15 in the Fighting Irish's first ACC game of the season at Syracuse, there'd be no way in your wild- est imagination you'd draw up a loss for Notre Dame. Sixty-three points before even getting to junior guards Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron? Start the bus and make sure the plane is ready. It's back to South Bend. Game over. If only. As it turned out, Syracuse beat Notre Dame 86-81 Dec. 31. "We had a couple moments where I felt like we actually played and were on the same page but not for 40 minutes," Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said. "It's super frustrating just to feel like we didn't play our game." It's tough to play with such a limited lineup. Miles and Citron haven't played in the same game together since Febru- ary. The former has not made her 2023-24 season debut. She's still working back from a major knee injury suffered in the 2022-23 regular-season finale. Citron, meanwhile, went down with a knee in- jury of her own in the third game this year. Ivey has remained coy on their statuses. It's unclear when either of them will re- turn. What is clear, though, is that Notre Dame needs both back in the worst way. Hidalgo is sensational. It's like she was designed in a lab to steal basketballs and put them through the proper hoop. She's as dynamic as it gets on each end of the floor and everywhere in between. But she's only one player. Westbeld and DeWolfe's contributions were satisfactory. They had winning ef- forts. Beyond them? Notre Dame did not get enough. Sophomore guard KK Brans- ford, senior posts Nat Marshall and Kylee Watson and graduate student forward Becky Obinma combined for 18 points. Those are the only other four players Ivey used in addition to Hidalgo, Westbeld and DeWolfe. Freshman combo guard Cass Prosper and freshman guard Emma Risch are also injured with their timetables for return in flux as of early January. Seven-player rotations aren't ideal, but they're not completely uncommon. Syracuse only used seven players as well. But Notre Dame's two bench players, Marshall and Obinma, were not factors in Irish uniforms last season and weren't supposed to be primary players this year, either. Obinma only played 4 minutes. DeWolfe played 40 minutes. Hidalgo played 37. Westbeld got into foul trouble and only played 24. "When one of our best players is in foul trouble, that really affects us," Ivey said. "That's something that we have to fix. It's a mindset. It's something we have to adjust in games and be just really aware of our fouls. Defending without fouling is something I talk about all season long." It's not just the point total that's influ- enced when injuries deplete the roster to this degree. Those who are able to play are asked to do way too much, and it nega- tively impacts production. It also means any segments of sleepwalking, like falling behind Syracuse 7-0 in the first two min- utes, are far more difficult to recover from. Notre Dame did come back to lead for 6:08 of game time, but it always felt like the Irish just weren't equipped with enough weapons to sustain a lead and build upon it. Syracuse had an answer for everything the Irish threw at the Orange. Where Notre Dame goes from here is entirely depen- dent on Miles and Citron returning to action. If they don't get healthy, the Irish's ceiling is lowered consider- ably — even with Hidalgo averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 6.1 steals per game as of Jan. 2. Ivey still won't make ex- cuses, though. "We didn't play well," she said. "We didn't play our game. No matter if we had five people, six people, we didn't play well. That's some- thing I'm going to fix this week. "It's our turnovers, it's our defense, it's our rebounding. Things we can control. We can't control the num- ber on our team, but we can control our defense. That's something that we're going to fix." ✦ Fighting Irish Get Reality Check In ACC Opener Notre Dame lost its ACC opener at Syracuse in large part because the Irish played mostly with a six-player rotation. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER 2023-24 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Time/Result Nov. 6 vs. South Carolina^ L, 100-71 Nov. 12 at NJIT W, 104-57 Nov. 15 Northwestern W, 110-52 Nov. 18 vs. Illinois# W, 79-68 Nov. 21 Chicago State W, 113-35 Nov. 24 at Ball State W, 90-59 Nov. 29 at Tennessee% W, 74-69 Dec. 6 Lafayette W, 96-42 Dec. 17 Purdue W, 76-39 Dec. 21 Western Michigan W, 84-47 Dec. 31 at Syracuse* L, 86-81 Jan. 4 at Pittsburgh* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Jan. 7 North Carolina* (ESPN2) 5 p.m. Jan. 11 Boston College* (ACCNX) 7 p.m. Jan. 14 Miami* (CW) 12 p.m. Jan. 18 at Virginia* (ACCNX) 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at Wake Forest* (ACCNX) 2 p.m. Jan. 25 Syracuse* (ACCNX) 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at Connecticut (FOX) 8 p.m. Feb. 1 at Georgia Tech* (ACCNX) 7 p.m. Feb. 4 Pittsburgh* (ACCN) 2 p.m. Feb. 8 at Louisville* (ESPN) 6 p.m. Feb. 11 at Florida State* (ACCN) 12 p.m. Feb. 15 NC State* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at Duke* (ESPN2) 7 p.m. Feb. 22 Clemson* (ACCNX) 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Boston College* (ACCN) 12 p.m. Feb. 29 Virginia Tech* (ESPN) 7 p.m. Mar. 3 Louisville* (ESPN) 2 p.m. Mar. 6-10 ACC Tournament$ TBD ^ at Paris, France; # Citi Shamrock Classic at Washington, D.C.; % ACC/SEC Challenge; * ACC game; $ at Greensboro, N.C.

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