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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Hannah Hidalgo

Hidalgo leads Irish to vital win over No. 8 UConn

Irish show resilience in 82-67 showing against UConn

Notre Dame women’s basketball notched a vital victory on Saturday night, upsetting No. 8 UConn 82-67 in Storrs, Connecticut. 

The win was a major milestone for the Irish for a number of reasons. In the short term, Notre Dame showed resilience in coming back from a rough loss on Thursday to No. 22 Syracuse, putting together one of their best outings of the season in a difficult road environment. From a longer perspective, the win marked a historic triumph in a long-standing rivalry for Irish women’s basketball.

Notre Dame hadn’t beat UConn, their former Big East rival and perennial force in the women’s basketball world, on the road in ten years. The Irish have now won back-to-back games against the Huskies for the first time since the 2013 season. 

Freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo led the way in the primetime contest, posting a mammoth 34 points, 10 rebounds and six assists — all team highs. The freshman banked in a buzzer-beating three pointer to put Notre Dame up nine heading into the halftime break.

The Irish also got a major outing from junior Maddy Westbeld. The forward poured in 23 points, including several major three pointers in the fourth quarter. Westbeld also added five rebounds as one of three Irish players (Hidalgo and junior guard Sonia Citron were the others) to play all forty minutes on Saturday.

Notre Dame won the game in large part thanks to a pair of well-timed runs, one at the end of the first half and the other in the fourth quarter. The first of such stretch saw the Irish pour in 26 points over a seven minute span to UConn’s five, erasing a Husky lead that at one point was as high as 12. A similar stretch came in the back half of the fourth quarter, with Notre Dame going on a 22-7 run to put the game out of reach. UConn was held without a point for the final two minutes of the contest.

The victory did come with a bittersweet ending for Irish faithful, though. After the game, a team spokesperson confirmed that junior point guard Olivia Miles will not be playing this season. Miles has been out of action since suffering a torn ACL against Louisville in Notre Dame’s 2022 regular season finale. Miles will preserve a year of eligibility as a result, but the much awaited-pairing off Miles and Hidalgo in the Irish backcourt will be on hold until next fall.

With the future prospects of Miles and Emma Risch confirmed, the only injury question mark remaining on Notre Dame’s roster is Risch’s fellow freshman Cassandre Prosper. Prosper has been sidelined since early in the season with a lower body injury, and her return would add some much needed length to an Irish frontcourt that has often been a weak point in the team’s biggest games.

The win over the Huskies sets Notre Dame up nicely as they continue to navigate the most difficult portion of their schedule. The trip to Connecticut was the first in a stretch of four road games in five contests. The team will now head down to Atlanta for a showdown against Georgia Tech on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 7pm and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.