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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Irish fall on buzzer-beater to No. 20 Maryland

Notre Dame women’s basketball dropped an instant classic on Thursday night, falling to Maryland 74-72 at Purcell Pavillion. 

In a game where it felt like the team holding the ball when the buzzer sounded would get the last word, it was Diamond Miller who provided the marquee moment for Maryland. The senior guard got the ball with 15 seconds left and promptly went to work. Eventually, she found her shot, nailing a perfectly timed buzzer-beater to walk the game off for the Terrapins.

Though Miller’s dagger capped the game off, the 39-plus minutes that preceded it lived up to the hype of a top-20 clash. The two teams traded blows from the first tip. Neither side ever led the game by more than eight points.

Sonia Citron led the way for the Irish. The sophomore combo guard continually beat the Maryland defense both in the paint and from deep. Citron finished with a team-high in both points and rebounds, posting 24 and 10, respectively.

Notre Dame was hampered by the limited use of star sophomore point guard Olivia Miles, who was hampered by foul trouble early on and only played 25 minutes. Miles made her impact in the time she was on the court, though. She managed 14 points, including a late and-one layup in transition to give the Irish a brief lead. Miles also registered a game-high seven assists.

With Miles rotating in and out of the lineup, Notre Dame had to turn to other players to hang around. One such player was freshman guard KK Bransford, who played a season-high 26 minutes. And while Bransford didn’t explode off the stat sheet with eight points and a pair of rebounds, the rookie guard looked composed in the biggest game she’s played so far in an Irish uniform.

After the game, Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey praised Bransford for rising to the occasion with her minutes increased.

“Heading into halftime, I thought we found her,” Ivey said. “She made some big buckets … She really gave us a boost. She’s been growing, every game looking a little bit more confident, looking a little bit more comfortable with what we’re doing. I’m so pleased with what she’s given us — defensively, she’s getting deflections, got one in the backcourt today. I can’t say enough about what she’s given, bringing a great spark off the bench on offense and defense.”

For Maryland, it was the backcourt duo of Miller and Shyanne Sellers that led the way throughout. Sellers' 10 first-quarter points paced the Terrapins early on. Those 10 points represented over 60% of Maryland’s total scoring in the first frame. But as the Irish keyed in more on Sellers, Miller took over. The senior lit up the stat sheet, with her 31 points and 12 rebounds both representing game highs.

After the game, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said Miller’s game-breaking performance was simply the type of moment she expects from her senior.

“We knew the ball was going to go to Diamond,” Frese said. “She had the hot hand … And she executed to perfection. That’s what your All-American, your senior [does]. I have so much trust in Diamond, she wants to make those plays in the big moment.”

Sellers said after the game even though the defense likely knew where the game-winning play was going, she still had faith in Miller to find the winner.

“I have a lot of confidence in Diamond,” said Sellers. “Diamond hits that [shot] all the time in practice … Even if you know it’s probably going to Diamond … You have a less than 5% chance of stopping her.”