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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

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Beers, Gardiner dominate as Irish fall in Sweet 16

Two Beavers go for double-doubles as Oregon State eliminates Notre Dame

ALBANY, N.Y. – Notre Dame women’s basketball lost in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year on Friday, falling 70-65 to Oregon State.

The Beavers grabbed an offensive rebound on their first offensive possession, an early indicator of the discrepancy that would decide the game. Oregon State, specifically through center Raegan Beers and forward Timea Gardiner, challenged Notre Dame to stop it beneath the basket. The Irish, playing a fourth consecutive game without starting senior center Kylee Watson, could not find an answer.

Beers finished the contest with 18 points and 13 rebounds on 9-for-12 shooting. Gardiner tallied 21 points of her own to go with 11 rebounds. As a team, the Beavers won the rebounding battle 42 to 24, outscoring Notre Dame in the paint by a 40 to 28 margin. 

Junior guard Sonia Citron spoke about Beers’ effectiveness against a variety of different defensive approaches after the game.

“We tried a couple different things on her,” Citron said. “Whether it was fronting her and trying to be in help or playing behind her and trying to trap, we tried to throw a couple things at her -- credit to her, she’s a phenomenal player.”

Irish head coach Niele Ivey also gave plaudits to Gardiner, who posted a game-high 12 second-half points:

“She’s incredible,” said Ivey. “She hit us with some dagger plays. The 3 going into the fourth quarter with five seconds left. Her size, her presence – she’s very poised [and] plays with a ton of confidence… I thought she had a fantastic game today.”

Oregon State guard Talia von Oelhoffen didn’t light up the scoreboard, finishing with six points, but she pulled the strings for the Beavers' offense – good for a game-high nine assists. She also notched a quartet of clutch free throws to expand Oregon State's lead late in the game.

Despite the Beavers’ early assertion of dominance in the low post, the Irish didn’t relent. The game seemed to teeter on the brink of falling out of reach early on in the third quarter as Oregon State amassed a 10-point lead, but Notre Dame battled back. The Irish managed to take a pair of brief, fourth-quarter leads, an effort spearheaded by relentless defense. Notre Dame forced 26 total turnovers, nine of which came in the final frame. 

With success down low not coming easy, the Irish knew they needed to find their offensive rhythm from farther out. Notre Dame drained a few crucial 3-pointers in the first three frames to keep itself within arm's reach of the Beavers throughout the game, but such timely offense dried up down the stretch. The Irish went 0-for-5 from deep in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame finished the game shooting 36% from the field, most of which came on mid-range or 3-point attempts. The Irish were outscored 13-6 across the final three minutes of the game.

The Irish were led by the combination of Citron and senior forward Maddy Westbeld, who registered 22 and 19 points, respectively. Both players had to work around some foul trouble, each ending the game with four.

Speaking to the media following the final whistle, Ivey reflected on her squad’s status entering the offseason. In her eyes, the loss might be a boost for some of the younger players on the roster come next fall.

“We have great firepower coming back, and you can’t teach experience,” Ivey said. “That’s what my entire team has received this year. I’m excited next year to bring back [junior guard] Olivia Miles -- we’re going to be healthy. We have an incredible post coming in. It’s going to be exciting. These types of moments are part of our journey.”

It’s difficult to fault Ivey for looking ahead to next year. Her squad ended the campaign with four expected contributors having been ruled out for the year, three of which didn’t play in 2024. She’ll also be adding highly-touted freshman Kate Koval to the roster, potentially filling the exact weaknesses Oregon State pounded away at on Friday.

For now, Notre Dame will likely take a brief rest after a whirlwind end-of-season stretch saw the Irish win 10 of their final 11 contests as well as an ACC Tournament title. 

“We’ll regroup, refocus on our vision and get to work,” Ivey said.