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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame basketball plays back-to-back nights in important ACC matchups

Women face No. 6 NC State; men look for second win against Georgia Tech this season

As basketball season enters the stretch run, Irish men’s and women’s basketball both welcome ACC opposition to Purcell Pavilion this week.

Women’s Basketball

Coming off of a thrilling double overtime victory on the road against Florida State, the Irish women’s basketball team sets their sights on No. 6 NC State for what should be a marquee home matchup. The Wolfpack are fresh off an 83-47 demolition of Pittsburgh which took them to 21-3 on the season and 9-3 in ACC conference play. They sit at No. 6 in the rankings and have proven all season that they belong in the elite tier of teams. But all three of their losses have come in ACC play, placing them third in the conference with Notre Dame lurking just one game behind. This matchup has massive implications for seeding in the ACC tournament, now looming less than a month away. 

NC State is led by Aziaha James, who is leading the team with 15.4 points per game. That said, the Wolfpack spread the love on offense, with Saniya Rivers, Madison Hayes and Mimi Collins averaging double-digits in points per game. River Baldwin and Zoe Brooks are close behind at 9.9 and 9.4 per game, respectively. This lineup gets on the glass as well. Among those players, only James is under 6-foot and the team ranks ninth in the country in rebounds per game. 

Freshman sensation Hannah Hidalgo has been the story of Notre Dame’s season. She came up big again with 27 points in the double-overtime victory over the Seminoles and will need another brilliant performance to take down this Wolfpack team. On the season, Hidalgo is averaging just over 25 points per game and has scored under 20 in only two games this season. She does it with good efficiency as well, putting up 48%/37%/80% splits on high shooting volume, all while adding 5.6 assists, 5.1 steals and an impressive 6.2 rebounds per game despite standing at 5-foot-6. Hidalgo is a legitimate Wooden Award candidate in her first season and is one of the biggest reasons for Notre Dame’s success.

She hasn’t done it alone, however. Junior guard Sonia Citron has had a great season averaging 16.4 points per game and senior forward Maddy Westbeld is nearly averaging a double-double with 13.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Both will also need big contributions on Thursday. The pivotal ACC matchup starts in Purcell Pavilion at 6 p.m. with ACC Network providing the broadcast.   

Men’s Basketball

Having just snapped a seven-game losing streak against Virginia Tech on Saturday night, the Irish Men’s basketball team will look to build some late-season momentum as they face Georgia Tech at home on Wednesday night. The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, will look to snap a three-game losing skid and avenge an overtime loss in their previous matchup this season. 

Despite a disappointing 3-10 conference record, Georgia Tech has pulled off marquee wins against No. 7 North Carolina and No. 9 Duke this season, showing the potential for a high ceiling in any game. Much of their success falls on the shoulders of Miles Kelly, who leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game. He had a big night against the Irish earlier this year, scoring 25 points on efficient shooting splits to go with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He will match up with Notre Dame’s lead guard Markus Burton, who also leads his team in scoring with 16.2 points per game.

Both teams play without a true center, making the matchup on the glass, particularly between 6-foot-9 Baye Ndongo for Georgia Tech and 6-foot-9 Tae Davis for Notre Dame, one to watch. Ndongo leads his team in rebounds at 8 per game while Davis contributes 5.1 per contest with help from 6-foot-7 forward J.R. Konieczny, who averages 5.4. Sophomore forward Kebba Njie also averages 5.7 boards and stands at 6-foot-10. Controlling the glass will be important in a matchup between two teams who have struggled to rebound the ball this season, the Irish and Yellow Jackets ranking 139th and 72nd in the country in that category, respectively.

In a generally disappointing season on paper, head coach Micah Shrewsberry has willed this team to some good wins and strong performances, the last Georgia Tech game being one of them. Despite not being handed a great deck of cards talent-wise, Shrewsberry has gotten a lot out of this group and will want them to finish the season strong. Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Louisville sit in a three-way tie at the bottom of the conference, so this game will be key in determining seeding for the ACC tournament, each team’s final hope of extending their season. The contest in Purcell Pavilion will begin at 7 p.m. with the ACC Network providing the broadcast.

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