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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Irish fall to Terrapins in Sweet Sixteen

The Fighting Irish traveled to Greenville, South Carolina to take on the second-seeded Terrapins. After a season plagued with injuries, the Irish were determined to prove their worth. However, it was Maryland who would ultimately pull ahead and win 76-59.

The Terrapins got out on an early lead, with a 5-0 run. Junior forward Maddy Westbeld turned the tide, putting Notre Dame on the board and igniting a 6-0 Irish run. However, this lead would not last long, as Maryland would quickly go back ahead and spend the rest of the quarter in the lead. Similar to their matchup against Mississippi State, the Irish failed to make a three for some time, ultimately finishing the first 10 minutes down 16-14.

Maryland once again got off to a strong start in the second. But Westbeld once again broke through, making three to tie the game 19-19. That appeared to be the spark the Irish needed. Junior forward Kylee Watson added another basket, sophomore guard Sonia Citron got a steal and the Irish were off to the races. Notre Dame went on an 11-point run before the Terrapins called a time-out. The Irish extended their scoring stretch immediately after the stoppage, but Maryland stabilized thereafter. Still, Notre Dame took a 32-31 lead to the locker room, 20 minutes away from reaching the Elite Eight.

However, another hot Maryland start put Notre Dame’s chances in serious jeopardy. Fouling proved to be a problem for the Irish in this game, with both Watson and graduate student center Lauren Ebo tallying their fourth foul midway through the third quarter. Head coach Niele Ivey was forced to reach deep into her already depleted roster which the Terrapins took advantage of. They ripped off a 9-0 run that forced Ivey’s hand and the Irish head coach called a timeout.

Out of the break, Citron was sent to the foul line to get the first point for the Irish in two minutes. Emotions were high and Citron would commit a pair of turnovers and an offensive foul as the Irish struggled to stay grounded. A late shot clock violation gave Maryland another chance to stretch their lead, but the Terrapins were unable to beat the buzzer. Going into the final quarter though, Maryland still held a 57-45 lead.

The fourth quarter would prove to be a challenge too difficult for the Irish to conquer. While Notre Dame started with the ball, a foul would send the ball in the Terrapins’ favor. Turnovers and fouls continue to plague the Irish, allowing Maryland to set the momentum in their favor. While Watson was back in with four fouls, Westbeld was taken out after her fourth. Notre Dame visibly panicked. From miscommunication to shots that did not fall, Notre Dame could not close the ever-growing gap. Ebo’s fifth foul, committed with 4:44 left, destroyed any faint hopes of an Irish comeback.

The Terrapins ultimately won by a 76-59 final. That was in major thanks to their two players Diamond Miller and Shyanne Sellers. Both women ended with 18 points on the night and Sellers held an additional eight assists.

There was a tearful goodbye from Ebo and graduate guard Dara Mabrey, who has been out since January with an ACL injury. While a majority of the Irish will be returning next year, those two will say their final farewell to Notre Dame. With 734 points for the Irish in her three years, Mabrey has made a substantial impact. And while this was her first year with the Irish, Ebo has also made a substantial impact on the court.

Maryland will now go on to the Elite Eight to play the winner of this afternoon’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the University of South Carolina and UCLA.