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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Irish win OT thriller over Cardinals

In a game full of twists and turns, Notre Dame women’s basketball had the last say in a thriller Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. Sophomore guard Olivia Miles picked up a handoff from junior forward Kylee Watson at the top of the key, charged forward and splashed a buzzer-beating fadeaway to give the Irish a 78-76 overtime victory.

Miles’s fadeaway provided her final points in a mammoth 18-point, 11 rebound, nine-assist performance. Playing 43 minutes, Miles was everywhere for Notre Dame in a game where the Irish needed their star guard at her most dominant.

Such a performance was anything but a surprise. The Irish have played six opponents currently ranked in the AP top 25 this season. In three, Miles has led Notre Dame in points. She has led the team in assists in all of them. On the season, she’s the Irish’s per-average leader in points, rebounds and assists.

But before Notre Dame was able to get the ball into Miles’ hands, they had to inbound to the game’s surprise star, Kylee Watson. Watson followed up her best game of the season against Syracuse with another all-around excellent performance against the Cardinals.

Irish sophomore guard Olivia Miles drives to the basket in Notre Dame's 78-76 overtime win over the Louisville Cardinals at Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 16, 2023.
Mary Votava
Irish sophomore guard Olivia Miles drives to the basket in Notre Dame's 78-76 overtime win over the Louisville Cardinals at Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 16, 2023.

The junior finished a perfect 8-8 from the floor with a game-high 20 points. She had half of Notre Dame’s total points in overtime. After the game, Irish head coach Niele Ivey lauded Watson’s efforts as crucial to the teams’ success.

“It starts with Kylee,” Ivey said. “Kylee for the second game in a row. She went 8-8, I went to her with a minute left and that’s what put us up… she just played so tough. She did exactly what we needed to do defensively. Just unbelievable.”

Watson, for her part, gave a large share of credit to her teammates’ efforts when asked about her recent strong run of play.

“I feel like a lot of it is just mental for me,” said Watson. “Coming in, playing with confidence… playing for my teammates. Just kind of letting the game come to me. Playing with such good guards, and everyone else on the team, they make it really easy for me. And [opposing teams] need to play them so I get a little bit more open space to go to work.”

Aside from Miles’ brilliance and Watson’s eruption, the Irish were aided by solid contributions from everywhere else on the floor. Sophomore guard Sonia Citron couldn’t find her usual rhythm shooting, but she played every minute but one. Citron made some crucial defensive plays against a Cardinal offense that was having its way early on. 

Junior forward Maddy Westbeld had a quiet night until the final minute of the second half. But she came up big in the clutch with five key points in the late minutes. Westbeld’s hook shot-and-one, as well as her layup with 44 seconds left, represented all but one of Notre Dame’s points in the final three minutes. Freshman guard KK Bransford was highly efficient in a 22-minute showing. She finished 3-4 for the day as well as 4-4 from the free throw line.

Ivey stressed the win was as much of a product of such a strong all-around effort as well as Miles’ heroics.

“It was so many moments from so many different players on the team,” Ivey said. “Such a collective team effort, a collective team win. A confidence-booster. We’re still working on our identity… but it was such an amazing moment to be a part of. I’m so proud.”

Notre Dame will now hit the road for a weekend trip to Pittsburgh. The Panthers proved a tough out for the Irish two weeks ago in South Bend, with the Irish winning by just six. Though the Panthers sit at the bottom of the ACC standings, they’ve won three of their last four games. The contest will tip off at 2 p.m. Sunday and is available to watch on the ACC Network.