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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Irish women's basketball uses strong fourth quarter to take down Pitt

After a shaky opening three quarters, Notre Dame women’s basketball found their stride in the final frame to down Pittsburgh 69-63 at Purcell Pavillion on Thursday night. 

Double-doubles by Olivia Miles and Maddy Westbeld helped lead the way for the Irish. Westbeld had 17 points, and more importantly for the Irish, added 10 rebounds. The junior forward has flourished in a versatile role as Notre Dame continues to try to find post presence by committee in the absence of graduate student center Lauren Ebo. 

And while Miles added 11 points of her own, her impact was most notable as a creator. Notching 13 assists, the sophomore guard saved her best play for the fourth quarter. With the Irish looking to put the Panthers away for good, Miles dished out seven assists to help Notre Dame score 22 fourth-quarter points. 

After the game, Miles, who played all forty minutes for the Irish, highlighted the difference between her full-game performance Thursday and her stop-and-start minutes against Duke the game prior.

“Staying in the game just helps me stay in the flow with my team, [helping] push us into runs and whatnot,” Miles said. “Foul trouble has been tough for me this year. I need to get better before March especially, but I was pretty smart on defense [today] for sure.”

Notre Dame also got 20 points from Sonia Citron, who continued her strong run of play in an expanded offensive role. With Irish head coach Niele Ivey utilizing her unique blend of size, speed and shooting touch all over the court, the sophomore guard was able to cash in on a couple of three-pointers as well as some easier buckets in the paint. 

Perhaps the most important contribution the Irish got on Thursday, at least in Ivey’s eyes, may not have come from a starter. Junior forward Natalija Marshall has rarely eclipsed more than 10 minutes on the floor in any given game this year. She played 16 minutes against the Panthers, including a crucial seven in the fourth quarter.

After junior forward Kylee Watson picked up her fourth foul heading into the final frame, Ivey opted to give an extended run to Marshall instead of risking Watson fouling out. And even though Marshall’s statline may not pop out on a box score (posting three rebounds and one assist), she repaid her coaches’ faith.

With the Irish trying to protect a one-score lead early in the fourth quarter, Pitt tried to pick on the rotational forward by attacking the rim. But Marshall stood tall, drawing an important charge to put the Irish once again on the attack. On the next Pitt possession, Marshall would bring down her second board of the game. That led to a Westbeld layup that put the Irish in control with a two-score advantage.

Ivey complimented Marshall’s work off the bench after the game.

“The play of the game was her charge,” said Ivey. “I thought she was just really solid defensively. She has a great motor. Her size, her athleticism, it really helps us. On the boards, she got a couple 50/50 balls. She did a lot of the little things we needed. I thought her energy was great, we fed off it. In particular that charge, she saved that play, which could have really changed the game.”

Notre Dame will continue a four-game homestand on Sunday, with Syracuse coming to South Bend. The Orange sit in the middle of the pack in the ACC standings, with a perfectly even 7-7 record. Though the two teams’ first meeting in January ended in a comfortable Irish victory, Syracuse trailed by just five heading into the fourth quarter. Notre Dame’s 16-point cushion at the final whistle was their largest lead of the game. Sunday’s rematch will tip-off at 4 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.