Notre Dame women fall to North Carolina, snap three-game win streak

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Led by “spectacular” performances from grad-student guards Stephanie Watts and Petra Holesinska, and outscoring Notre Dame 15-3 over the final 4:16 to erase a seven-point deficit, North Carolina beat the Irish 78-73 in women’s college basketball Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena.

“I think we lost our composure,” coach Niele Ivey said after ND’s season-high three-game winning streak was snapped. “We missed shots and missed free throws and we turned the ball over. I think it makes us tight defensively. We didn’t get the stops we needed defensively.”

Watts flirted with a triple-double for the Tar Heels (8-5, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), scoring a season-high 25 points to go with 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocked shots.

She was 4-of-9 on 3s. Holesinska, a transfer from Illinois, added a season-high 24 points and drained 6-of-11 on 3-pointers.

The duo’s combined 49 points came after they entered the day averaging a combined 21.1.

“They did a great job of attacking off the bounce (and) they really shot well from the 3-point line, and when they needed a bucket, they got it,” Ivey said of the pair. “I thought they were offensively spectacular today.”

Dara Mabrey led the Irish (8-6, 6-4) with 23 points and seven assists against one turnover. She converted 5-of-10 shots outside the arc and 4-of-4 at the line. Anaya Peoples added 12 points, nine rebounds and a game-high four steals.

With ND down 75-73, Peoples missed on a drive at 13 seconds to go, but Mikki Vaughn got the offensive rebound. Maddy Westbeld, however badly missed a spinning shot with the second chance.

Watts clutched the rebound and was fouled at 7.0 seconds to go. She made both free throws to help clinch the game at 77-73.

“I think we executed, (but) we didn’t make the shot,” Ivey said of the possession in front of Watts’ free throws. “We did exactly what I wanted to do. We got a layup. We missed it. I barely even have to draw the play up, because they know how to run the play and we have multiple (options off it).”

A bit of the late pressure came off of Carolina at 1:18 to go when Peoples missed the second of two free throws, leaving the game tied at 73. Until that miss, the Irish had been 14-of-14 at the line.

Holesinska then hit two free throws at 1:04 to give the Heels the lead for good at 75-73, before Alyssa Ustby stole the ball from Westbeld at 38 seconds remaining to cost ND one of its late possessions.

Westbeld, ND’s leading scorer and rebounder on the season, finished with 10 points and nine boards, but the freshman was just 4-of-15 from the field to go with four turnovers.

Notre Dame fell behind 36-22 at 3:34 to go in the second quarter, but charged back for a 70-63 lead at 4:36 to go in the game.

The rest of the way, though, the Irish were just 1-of-6 from the field and 1-of-4 at the line (Peoples missed a pair at 3.3 seconds left) to go with two turnovers.

While nowhere near the collapse that ND’s meltdown was in its only other loss over its last seven games — a 64-61 defeat at Boston College after leading 60-48 with three minutes to go — it was remindful.

Now the Irish begin a stretch of having a full week or more between games barring schedule changes. They visit No. 23 Syracuse next Sunday, then follow that with road games at No. 1 Louisville on Feb. 7 and No. 2 North Carolina State on Monday, Feb. 15.

NOTRE DAME (8-6): Westbeld 4-15 2-2 10, Vaughn 4-6 0-0 8, Mabrey 7-15 4-4 23, Peoples 4-10 4-7 12, Prohaska 1-3 2-2 4, Brunelle 4-11 0-0 10, Walker 2-6 2-2 6, Hayes 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 26-66 14-17 73

NORTH CAROLINA (8-5): Tshitenge 2-7 0-0 4, Bailey 5-10 2-4 12, Kelly 0-3 1-4 1, Ustby 6-9 0-1 12, Watts 8-15 5-6 25, Poole 0-2 0-0 0, Holesinska 8-14 2-3 24, Todd-Williams 0-5 0-0 0, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 29-65 10-18 78

Notre Dame;16;19;23;15 — 73

North Carolina;17;22;15;24 — 78

3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 7-22 (Westbeld 0-4, Mabrey 5-10, Prohaska 0-1, Brunelle 2-4, Walker 0-3), North Carolina 10-28 (Kelly 0-2, Ustby 0-2, Watts 4-9, Holesinska 6-11, Todd-Williams 0-4). Assists_Notre Dame 19 (Mabrey 7), North Carolina 22 (Watts 9). Fouled Out_Notre Dame Vaughn. Rebounds_Notre Dame 38 (Peoples 3-9), North Carolina 42 (Tshitenge 6-8). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 17, North Carolina 15. Technical Fouls_None. A_0.

Notre Dame fell to North Carolina Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Dara Mabrey, shown against Wake Forest on Jan. 14, led the Irish with 23 points.