After a nervous victory over Clemson Thursday, Notre Dame got back to their comfortable winning ways on Sunday, taking down Virginia 76-54.
Yet, the tone of the day became somber early on. Graduate student guard Dara Mabrey fell to the ground after being fouled on a transition layup attempt. Mabrey barely put weight on her right leg as Irish staff helped her off the court. A Notre Dame spokesperson later confirmed it was a knee injury that caused her to exit the game.
The Irish responded well to the difficult scene of seeing Mabrey leave the game. She had started 70 straight games for the Irish heading into Sunday. After not scoring for the first two minutes of the contest, Notre Dame ripped off an 18-2 run in the six minutes after Mabrey’s injury.
After the game, head coach Niele Ivey discussed how pleased she was with how her team played after seeing one of their leaders go down:
“Talking about our toughness, our togetherness… things about our identity that’s not a stat. I feel like that really helped us today. Dara’s our heart and soul, she’s our leader and our senior,” she said. “I feel like everyone really responded to making sure that we had to stay together and play the game for her. I think that’s what it means when you have one of your teammates go down. The way you pick her back up is playing for her.”
One player in particular who stepped up for the Irish was sophomore guard Sonia Citron. Citron didn’t look like herself on the road against Clemson, scoring just two points and finishing 1-8 shooting from the field. But against the Cavaliers she thrived, catching fire for 20 points and a 6-7 clip from three-point range. She also chipped in down low with nine rebounds, showing the range of her game that made her such an asset down the stretch of her rookie campaign in 2021.
When asked whether she preferred the team-high she put up in points or the one she put up in rebounds, Citron simply laughed the question off:
“I love getting boards and passing it to Liv to start the fast break, but hitting threes and scoring feels good too… so I don’t know”
Added Coach Ivey, “She doesn’t want to answer that.”
Irish eye under-the-radar challenge
The nature of the win, in which the Irish led for 20+ points for most of the second half, was more important than usual. Notre Dame will face Florida State on Thursday. It's an under-the-radar test against a Seminole squad that has powered their way through non-conference and ACC play without much national attention.
With Ivey able to get her starters some rest down the stretch against the Cavaliers, she gave her team a boost in two ways. For one, the Irish will now have everyone entering the Florida State game on fresh legs. Both Citron and Miles played 35+ minutes in each of the team's previous two games. And perhaps more importantly, Ivey was able to give more minutes to graduate guard Jenna Brown and freshman guard Cassandre Prosper. Both are rotational pieces who could see their roles grow in the coming weeks as the Irish deal with the potential long-term loss of Mabrey.
Notre Dame women’s basketball is back in action this Thursday against Florida State at Purcell Pavillion. The game tips off at 8 pm and will be broadcasted on regional sports networks.
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