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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

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Irish begin ACC gauntlet in road showdown against Georgia Tech

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team is coming off their best performance of the season in an 82-67 victory against No. 8 UConn. Going into one of the most hostile environments in college basketball, the Irish dismantled the Huskies behind a dazzling 34-point-10 rebound performance from freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo. The matchup against UConn was Notre Dame’s last non-conference game as they head into a challenging final stretch of the season, one that includes No. 5 NC State, No. 17 Virginia Tech, and twice against No. 16 Louisville, who currently sits atop the conference. They will look to continue building on the win as they go on the road again to face ACC opponents Georgia Tech on Thursday. Every game will be pivotal in deciding seeding for both the ACC tournament and overall NCAA tournament, both only about a month away. 

While Notre Dame has five of their last six games, the Yellow Jackets come in with less momentum, losing four of their last five. They sit ninth in the ACC with a 4-5 conference record and 13-8 overall record. Their strengths lie in the strong backcourt pairing of sophomore guards Kara Dunn and Tonie Morgan. Dunn leads the team in points per game with 15.7, Morgan sitting right behind at 14.9 while leading the team in assists, rebounds and steals. These two have carried most of the load offensively this season and will need to have big games to compete against the surging Irish. 

Notre Dame’s size may pose problems for a Georgia Tech starting lineup without a single player over 6’1. This should provide opportunities for junior forwards Maddy Westbeld as well as Natalija Marshall and Kylee Watson off the bench, all three over 6’3. Westbeld has been particularly dominant down low this season, averaging 14 points and leading the team with nine rebounds per game. Offensively, the Irish will continue to rely on their brilliant backcourt of Hidalgo and junior Sonia Citron, averaging 24 and 18 points per game respectively. Both have also produced on efficient shooting splits: Hidalgo at 49/39/80 and Citron at 47/40/90. In wake of the unfortunate news of Olivia Miles’ injury status, as ruled out for the season, the two guards will have to continue leading the team on this season-defining stretch. 

Entering the game ranked sixth in the ACC and projected to be a six seed in this year’s tournament, Notre Dame will be hungry to prove that they belong in the elite tier of teams. After a relatively easy first half of the schedule, the Irish have started to face consistent tests that will reveal the team’s true identity. Despite overcoming a big one last Saturday, they will need to stay steady this Thursday. While Georgia Tech has not been a threat to ranked teams this season, any game on the road in the ACC is far from straightforward. 

Thursday’s contest in McCamish Pavilion will begin at 7 p.m. with the ACC Network Extra providing the broadcast.