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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

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Four moments that defined Notre Dame's Sweet 16 loss

Oregon State advances to the Elite Eight, ending Notre Dame's 10-game win streak and season

ALBANY, N.Y. – On Friday afternoon, Notre Dame women’s basketball ended its season with a 70-65 loss to Oregon State in the Sweet 16. Four crucial moments stood out in a game that featured eight ties and 11 lead changes.

Beers and the Beavers challenge the Irish early

Coming into the game, Notre Dame knew center Raegan Beers would pose a unique threat on the inside. Already averaging a double-double for the season, Beers got going right away. Two minutes in, she snagged back-to-back rebounds in the front court, helping the Beavers out to an early 6-1 advantage.

Even though Oregon State couldn’t capitalize on those second-chance opportunities, Beers made sure it would pile up the points later on. After Notre Dame took a 12-8 lead, its largest of the quarter, she found herself in isolated matchups against senior forward Natalija Marshall and scored on three consecutive possessions. Beers would end the first quarter with a game-high eight points and five rebounds, helping the Beavers to a 17-15 advantage through 10 minutes. Her 18-point, 13-rebound double-double also helped Oregon State to a 40-28 scoring edge in the paint.

Westbeld picks up third foul, Irish hold their own without her

Through the first six minutes of the second quarter, momentum swung back and forth. Oregon State briefly widened its lead to 21-17 before five straight points from junior guard Sonia Citron put the Irish ahead by one. After the Beavers restored their advantage at 25-22, Beers drew a crucial foul on senior forward Maddy Westbeld at the elbow. The infraction, Westbeld’s third of the game, forced her to the bench with a team-high nine points until halftime.

But Notre Dame showed minimal give without its leader on the inside, scoring seven straight points upon Westbeld’s exit. Citron, who finished the half with a Notre Dame-high 11 points, put her squad back in front by one with a jumper. Notre Dame then collected three of its 14 first-half fast break points with a triple by graduate guard Anna DeWolfe. Despite pushback from Oregon State, the Irish held steady and entered halftime trailing the Beavers by a 32-31 score.

In the first half, Oregon State committed 12 turnovers to Notre Dame’s one but out-rebounded the Irish badly at 23-9.

Beavers bolt into second half, Irish fight back

During the first half, both teams did incredibly well to limit opposing runs. However, Oregon State broke that trend with an 11-2 surge through the first two minutes and 41 seconds of half number two. At the end of the sequence, the Beavers led by 10, accounting for the game’s largest lead of the afternoon to that point.

After using a timeout to cool the Beavers down, Notre Dame began chipping away at the deficit. Another transition triple from DeWolfe capped off an immediate 7-0 run from the Irish, who pulled within three points with 5:47 to play in the third. Oregon State would widen its lead back to eight, but the Irish then kept it scoreless for over three minutes. Just after that stretch ended, Westbeld connected on consecutive jumpers, tying the game at 50.

Finally, with three seconds remaining until the fourth, Timea Gardiner buried a 3-pointer. On that exclamation point, Oregon State ended a fiery third quarter holding a 53-50 advantage.

Missed opportunities and mistakes seal Notre Dame’s fate

For most of the game, Oregon State made more mistakes and most notably failed to put away the opposition. Not only did the Beavers quickly give up a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but they also committed a whopping 26 turnovers on the day. With Notre Dame only making five for the game, Oregon State needed every bit of its rebounding advantage to stay in the fight. 

But rebounding had little to do with how the tides of the game turned in Oregon State’s favor down the stretch. Instead, Notre Dame let several put-away chances slip away, beginning with a 3-point shot from Hannah Hidalgo. The freshman guard struggled all day in her first Sweet 16 game, making just 4 of her 17 shots for a 10-point game. However, with 3:13 remaining in regulation, she had a chance to right those wrongs in transition. Notre Dame had just taken a two-point lead with a 5-0 run, and Hidalgo kept its momentum alive with a steal. Soon after, the ball found her all alone at the right wing, where her 3 had the accuracy but missed long.

Oregon State would capitalize on the empty shot, getting consecutive 3-pointers from Donovyn Hunter and Lily Hansford. After the Irish trimmed their deficit back down to two, Citron made a massive defensive stop with the shot clock winding down. But only three seconds later, with Notre Dame having a chance to tie or take the lead, the Beavers took it right back from Hidalgo at midcourt.

Oregon State committed 26 turnovers to Notre Dame’s three in the game’s first 37 minutes. It made none to Notre Dame’s two in the final three minutes. After the second, Oregon State's first steal of the game, the Irish never saw another chance to tie with a single bucket on offense.