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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Seeking signature win, Notre Dame hosts No. 5 Louisville

Notre Dame women’s basketball team (7-13, 2-6 ACC) will return home Thursday night to face Louisville (20-1, 9-0 ACC). The Irish, who have lost five of their previous six games, are still seeking a signature win this season, and a victory against the Cardinals would certainly provide that. Ranked fifth in the nation, Louisville has dominated in ACC play this season, winning their nine conference games by an average of nearly 18 points.

The Cardinals are coming off a 83-49 drubbing of Pittsburgh. Six Cardinals scored in double figures, showcasing the team’s balanced offensive attack. Louisville is an experienced group, led by junior guard Dana Evans, who averages 18.8 points per game, and senior guard Jazmine Jones who averages 14.4. Four of Lousiville’s five starters are upper-classmen, including three seniors. 

On the flip side, Notre Dame is a very young and inexperienced team. The Irish are led by freshman forward Sam Brunelle, who has scored more than 20 points in each of her last two games, and sophomore guard Kaitlyn Gilbert. Additionally, the Irish feature graduate transfer guards Destinee Walker and Marta Sniezak prominently, leading to a group that has very little experience playing together, something that has likely contributed to Notre Dame’s struggles this year. 

After last season’s loss in the national championship game, all five of Notre Dame’s starters were selected in the first two rounds of the WNBA draft, including two players in the top five picks.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Notre Dame sophomore guard Katlyn Gilbert splits a pair of defenders in a game against DePaul on December 11 at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish are heading into this matchup looking to shake off a 90-60 loss on the road to Virginia. The Irish let the Cavaliers, also near the bottom of the ACC standings, shoot over 47% from the field. They will certainly have to play much better defensively against a Louisville team which averages more than 75 points per game.

The Irish have also been plagued by injuries this year, losing sophomore guard Abby Proshka to blood clots in her lungs before the beginning of the season, and freshman guard Anaya Peoples was ruled out for the season last week after suffering a torn labrum. Junior center Mikayla Vaughn was also out for much of the season with a right knee sprain before returning for ACC play, forcing head coach Muffett McGraw to use a thin rotation.

The Irish lead the all-time series with the Cardinals 16-6, and have won 6 of 8 games at home. They defeated the Cardinals 82-68 during the regular season last year, and once more, 99-79 in the ACC tournament championship game.

Thursday night’s game tips off at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion, and will be televised on ESPN News.