LOUISVILLE – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team (8-8, 6-6) battled toe-to-toe with No. 1 Louisville (18-1, 11-1) on Sunday. The Irish rallied down 11 points in the fourth quarter and had a chance to take the lead after a Maddy Westbeld steal and fast break pull-up jumper, but the freshman’s shot fell short, as the Cardinals pushed ahead for the 71-65 victory.
“I learned a lot and was inspired by my team today competing and fighting,” Karen & Kevin Keyes Head Coach Niele Ivey stated. “In prior press conferences, you’ve heard me talk about teaching these players to fight and compete and we did that today. It came down to timely rebounds and they hit some big shots. They capitalized on our mistakes and that’s what happens when you play the No. 1 team in the country. I think it was a good measuring stick of where we are and how we are going to continue to get better.”
All seven Notre Dame players who registered points scored eight or more in a very balanced attack. Four players all led with a team-high 10 points, including early enrollee Olivia Miles. Sam Brunelle nearly had a double-double with 10 points and a season high nine rebounds. The other two in double figures were Mikki Vaughn and Maddy Westbeld – both of whom reeled in eight boards.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Trailing 12-6 in the opening minutes, Notre Dame’s defense settled in and forced Louisville to miss eight consecutive shots. As a result, the Irish offense churned out an 11-0 run from 5:25-2:10, getting points from Brunelle, Dara Mabrey, Miles and Westbeld. Louisville did counter with a 9-0 run to end the quarter to recapture the lead at 21-17.
Louisville’s Dana Evans and Elizabeth Balogun combined for 15 of the team’s 21 points in the second quarter, pushing the home team to a 42-34 halftime lead. Both had big and-one’s in the quarter to give the Cardinals some momentum. Evans had 16 points at the half, while Balogun boasted 10.
Notre Dame recorded a 6-0 run early on in the second to tie the game at 25-all, before hitting a 1-for-7 stretch from the field. Six different players once again contributed points in the period to keep it close, including back-to-back buckets from Peoples before the half.
Louisville scored the first three points of the second half to build its largest lead of the game, up 45-34. Brunelle got the offense going with a trey at 8:18, followed by layups from Peoples and Vaughn. A Walker three in front of her bench cut the deficit to 50-44.
A 6-0 Olivia Miles solo run over a 90-second spurt brought the Irish back to life, cutting it to one possession at 52-50 with 3:16 remaining in the quarter. Yet, another strong Cardinals surge down the final stretch of the quarter resulted in a 58-50 advantage heading into the final quarter.
A three from Louisville’s Kianna Smith to start the fourth pushed the Cards lead back to double-digits at 61-50. Ultimately, the Irish missed 12 field goal attempts in a row from 2:46 in the third to 7:50 in the fourth.
A Vaughn layup at 5:43 ended the Irish drought, followed by a Brunelle mid-range jumper. Yet, Elizabeth Dixon converted an and-one at the media timeout to stymie the rally.
Enter Westbeld, who notched back-to-back big buckets to make it 66-62 with 2:20 left. Then Mabrey hit from deep at 1:41 to cut it to a one-point game. The Irish had a chance for the lead after a steal from Westbeld, but the freshman couldn’t hit the pull-up jumper on the other end.
On Louisville’s next possession, Dana Evans hit a three to extend it to 69-65 with 57 seconds left, which eventually led to the 71-65 final. Evans finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
- Notre Dame still leads the overall series 16-9, with a now 5-4 mark at Louisville. The Cardinals have won three straight in the series for the first time.
- The Irish fall to 5-26 all-time against the A.P. No. 1 ranked team. All five wins have been against UConn, with the last being the national semifinal in 2018.
- Today marked the first time Notre Dame has faced a No. 1 ranked team during the regular season since UConn on Jan. 5, 2013.
- All seven Irish players who scored finished with eight or more points in a very balanced attack on Sunday.
- The Irish outscored the Cardinals in the paint, 36-30. Rebounds were tied at 41-all.
- Olivia Miles scored six straight for the Irish in the third and finished with her first double-digit scoring performance of her career with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
- Brunelle’s hot hand continued, recording her third straight game in double figures with 10 points. She has now totaled 39 points over said three-game span.
- Brunelle came one rebound shy of a double-double, reeling in a season and team best nine boards.
- Westbeld earned her sixth straight game in double figures, and 14th overall, with 10 points against the Cardinals. The top scoring freshman in the ACC has only finished in single digits twice this season.
- Walker’s free throw streak continued after going 4-for-4 on Sunday. She has now made 19 in a row.
- Vaughn has made 12 of her last 20 from the field, totaling 27 points over three games. On Sunday, Vaughn earned 10 points and eight rebounds, marking her fifth game in double figures.
The Irish have another chance for a NCAA Tournament resume boost and marquee win in No. 2 NC State on Monday, Feb. 15. Tip inside Reynolds Coliseum is set for 5 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
— ND —