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Sunday, June 16, 2024
The Observer

Irish comeback falls short in 69-65 loss to Wolfpack

Sunday afternoon Notre Dame women’s basketball suffered their third loss of the season, falling 69-65 to North Carolina State on the road in Raleigh.

The Irish started and ended well, outscoring the Wolfpack in both the first and fourth quarters. But their efforts were undone by poor performances over the middle two periods.

Head Coach Niele Ivey was shorthanded from the start. Graduate student center Lauren Ebo was a late scratch from the rotation due to an undisclosed injury. While Ebo did travel with the team to Raleigh, she was reportedly in a boot and unable to play. Notre Dame struggled to establish themselves down low in Ebo’s absence. Their makeshift frontcourt platoon of usual starter Kylee Watson and rotational forward Natalija Marshall combined for just seven points and five rebounds.

The Irish did get a boost thanks to a breakout performance by early enrollee freshman Cassandre Prosper. Prosper had perhaps the best showing of her short career in South Bend, playing a career-high 26 minutes. The freshman notched 11 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter to cut the Wolfpack lead down to three. Prosper also continued her usual activity elsewhere on the stat sheet, adding four rebounds, a block and a steal.

Maddy Westbeld was another major contributor to the Irish effort. She played nearly the entire game and came away with a double-double for her efforts. Notre Dame relied on Westbeld more in the paint than usual against the Wolfpack with Ebo unavailable, and the junior grabbed 13 rebounds. Olivia Miles finished second behind Westbeld’s team-high 19 points with 13 points of her own. She also dished out 5 assists. In what could be a sign of things to come in the Irish rotation post-injury to graduate student guard Dara Mabrey, Miles played 37 minutes. Westbeld and Miles were off the court for a combined 5 minutes and 45 seconds.

Looking ahead the Irish will now head up to Chestnut Hill for the second of their two game road swing against Boston College on Thursday. Notre Dame has already faced the Eagles once this year, an 85-48 victory on New Year’s Day in South Bend. 

Regardless of prior contests, the major storyline until Thursday will be Lauren Ebo’s health and availability. The Irish demonstrated Sunday they could still hang around with a ranked opponent without her in the rotation. However, they also clearly are a weaker team when she’s not on the floor. With the exception of Jenna Brown and Natalija Marshall who both played minor roles in the loss to the Wolfpack, Ivey only rotated 6 players on and off the court without Ebo available.

And even if the Irish are able to handle the Eagles without her, they’ll then stare down a test against No. 16 Duke on Sunday. That matinee clash at Purcell could very well be a matchup between the top two teams in the ACC standings. If so, it will likely loom large with regard to seeding in both the conference and national tournaments. 

Notre Dame will next play Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.