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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

Irish persevere through injuries, defeat Wolfpack 66-60

Fans gathered to watch the top-seeded Notre Dame face off against NC State. All eyes were on all-star sophomore guard Olivia Miles who was injured in Notre Dame’s Sunday matchup against Louisville. However, Miles was not warming up with her teammates. 

The Irish were slow to start and early, they were unable to pull ahead. Out of the 14 Irish points in the first quarter, it was sophomore guard Sonia Citron who scored nine of them. Pressure was on Citron in this match as she stepped up to fill the shoes of her teammate Miles. However, the Irish did not look like the No. 1 seed in the first ten minutes of play. NC State pulled ahead and led 18-14 in the second quarter.  

The second quarter began with Irish possession, although they again were unable to do something with it. Citron dove for a turnover before the ball changed possession four more times in a matter of seconds. Finally, with 5:30 left in the second, junior forward Maddy Westbeld caused a turnover and moved into a fast break. Prosper missed the layup, but Citron grabbed the rebound and break the scoring curse in the second. NC State would answer immediately. 

Another injury plagued the Irish when Prosper crashed the rim, accidentally hitting Marshall in the face. However, even without Marshall and Miles, Notre Dame outscored NC State 11-4 in the second quarter. Westbeld made her first three of the game in the last few seconds, pulling Irish ahead for the first time since early in the matchup.             

Unlike the previous quarter, the Irish were able to score within the first minute of the third quarter. The Irish were hot to start, with a defensive rebound and fast break layup from Citron to advance their lead to 31-24. The Irish and the Wolfpack went back and forth with scoring opportunities, and Notre Dame would call a timeout with a 41-35 lead. 

Post timeout the Irish opened up with another Westbeld three-pointer. Westbeld, who surpassed 1000 career points in this game, is the only player to make a three on either side of the court in the first three quarters. The Irish ended the quarter with a 44-37 lead. 

Notre Dame again came out hot in the final quarter; the Irish ripped off an 11-4 streak to pull Notre Dame to their largest lead in the game. With four fouls on Watson, the Irish were forced to play with a tired and short roster. NC State made a three before forcing a turnover and scoring off of it. However, the Irish, despite the raucous cheers and tight defense from the Wolfpack, did not allow NC State to go on a run. 

With a little under two minutes left in the final quarter, Citron was sent to the free-throw line. In the last two minutes, seven of the nine made baskets were from the charity stripe, with only one NC State jumper finding the net. 

With only 28.1 seconds left, Watson fouled out and Ebo took her spot. But, with a seven-point lead, Ebo fouled after the shot and the Wolfpack were sent to the line on a technical. Even with the added foul, NC State was unable to pull ahead and Notre Dame won 66-60. 

“With Olivia [Miles] out today, everyone has to step up,” said Citron on her performance. “It’s tough to figure out how to play without her and I think my team stepped up and everyone individually stepped up.” 

Citron definitely stepped up for her team with 28 points and 5 assists on the night. And, she marked the first player since Arike Ogunbowale to score 25 points in back-to-back games for the Irish. 

“I know my team needs me and I am going to try to contribute in any way I can,” said Citron.

Westbeld also played a bigger role as a guard in this game. She finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “Shoot your shot, she has such a good shot and I think sometimes she thinks too much,” Citron said about her teammate. 

The Irish advance and look to face No. 4 seed Louisville on Saturday. In their last matchup, where Miles was initially injured, the Irish pulled through 68-65. Their first matchup of the season also went into overtime, but the Irish won 78-76.  

“It’s gonna be a game,” said Citron.