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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

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Irish fade late against Syracuse, prepare for rivalry matchup at UConn

Notre Dame women’s basketball suffered a third ACC defeat on Thursday, falling 79-65 to Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion.

The Orange dominated in the post, out-rebounding the No. 15 Irish 50-34. More glaringly, No. 22 Syracuse racked up 19 offensive boards and notched 23 second chance points to Notre Dame’s 4. After the game, head coach Niele Ivey minced no words about her team’s struggles down low.

“[Syracuse] are relentless on the boards, they do a great job of finding their spots,” said Ivey. “Rebounding, it’s not even a technical thing. It’s just having the energy to go get it. And I feel like [Syracuse] had that energy, you could tell that’s something they’re good at … something we’ve been working on for the past couple weeks is you’ve got to compete for boards.”

As the Orange poured in second chance points, Notre Dame struggled to get their own offense going. The Irish shot 33% from the field as a team, including a 4-17 outing from the team’s standard No. 2 scoring option, junior guard Sonia Citron. Hampered by foul trouble, Notre Dame entered the fourth quarter locked in a tie ball game. Syracuse, though, took control following the opening whistle of the final frame. 

With Irish defensive stalwart freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo forced to the bench with 4 fouls and senior forward Maddy Westbeld already sitting with 4 to boot, the Orange came out of the gates in the fourth quarter with a 16-5 run. All told, Notre Dame was outscored 28-14 in the fourth.

The road ahead won’t get any easier for Ivey’s team. The Irish will look to bounce back on Saturday night in a one-off bout against No. 8 UConn, perennially one of the nation’s top squads.

“We gotta get back to work,” Ivey said. “We gotta move on to UConn … we don’t have much time. We only have 24 hours to prepare, to be able to fix tonight.”

Citron will likely once again receive the call to defend a star come Saturday. After holding Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair to 25 points, which could have been much worse, she’ll face Paige Bueckers in another hard matchup. Citron played 39 minutes against Syracuse, still wearing a brace for support after an early-season leg injury.

UConn comes into the game undefeated in Big East play, although the team has been riddled by injuries. Five of the Huskies’ players are out for the season, adding extra weight on Bueckers who herself has returned from a prolonged absence last year.

Notre Dame’s schedule doesn’t get easier after UConn, either. Four of their next five games are on the road, and four of their next six are against teams currently ranked in the AP top 25.

Saturday’s matchup has broad implications for the women’s college basketball and women’s sports as a whole. The game will be broadcast in primetime on Fox. Primetime, weekend regular season games on a big four network don’t come around often, even for a big brand like Notre Dame. The action tips off at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.

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