Triumphant return to court for Notre Dame women at Pittsburgh

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

Maddy Westbeld powered Notre Dame all night long and fellow freshman Olivia Miles provided further fuel off the bench as the Irish returned from a COVID-related hiatus with a 59-48 women’s basketball victory over Pittsburgh on Monday at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.

“It was super relieving,” Westbeld said of Notre Dame getting back into game action for the first time in 15 days after having two contests postponed last week. “I know we were all just dying to play again.”

Westbeld contributed 20 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 39 minutes — each of those figures a game high or co-game high — as the Irish (9-8, 7-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a three-game losing skid.

Miles, a January enrollee who was playing just her third college game and only began practicing with the team four weeks ago, added 10 points and three assists in 21 minutes.

“It’s exciting to know they’re both so young and so talented and learning and growing every day,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said of the two freshmen. “It’s something I’m so grateful for, but I’m mostly grateful for the way they work. They’re so coachable, they’re bought in and they’re great kids.”

The Irish led virtually throughout the game, with the only tie being 3-3.

ND was up 30-20 by halftime and stretched its advantage to a high of 48-31 by 1:02 into the fourth quarter, before the Panthers (5-11, 3-10) went on an 8-0 run to move within 48-39.

That was as close as Pitt would get, though, with Westbeld’s left-corner 3-pointer at 2:52 to go giving ND a double-digit spread for good at 55-43.

“A couple highs and a couple lows,” Ivey said of the game, “but we’ve had a couple different lineups and different rotations, and I just thought we played a better game today, a complete game.”

The Irish won without two of their key players in Sam Brunelle (averaging 8.9 points) and usual starter Abby Prohaska. The two did not accompany the team on the trip for undisclosed reasons, but “will be back with us when we return to South Bend,” Ivey said.

On the flip side, junior Katlyn Gilbert, returning from a foot injury, and freshman Amirah Abdur-Rahim each played for the first time in 10 games.

Gilbert never attempted a shot in 14 minutes, but was plenty active with two rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal while committing no turnovers. Abdur-Rahim added a basket and three boards in eight minutes.

“Sam and Abby definitely play a huge role for us and are super important aspects to the team,” Westbeld said, “and I think Kate and Amirah and DC (Danielle Cosgrove, in her second appearance of the season after returning to the team in late January) stepped up really huge and gave some great minutes for us.”

Usual super sub Destinee Walker, starting for the first time in 11 games, was solid all-around for Notre Dame with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals over 26 minutes.

Dara Mabrey cracked double digits, too, with 10 points.

Junior Jayla Everett was the lone Panther in double figures with 10 points, but she also coughed up eight turnovers.

Pitt played without Dayshanette Harris, its second-leading scorer on the season at 12.4 points. She suffered an ankle injury in the Panthers’ loss to Louisville on Thursday.

The hosts were especially woeful at the free throw line, making 3-of-15 to ND’s 10-of-13.

The Irish shot 37.3% from the field with five triples and Pittsburgh 32.8% with seven.

Pitt’s 48 points marked the fewest allowed by Notre Dame in any game since giving up 44 two years ago, also to the Panthers, during a 100-44 win.

The Irish, who are considered to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble, close their regular season with a pair of home games, Thursday against Florida State (9-6 8-6) and Sunday against No. 6 league leader Louisville (20-2, 13-2).


At Pittsburgh

NOTRE DAME (9-8): Westbeld 7-15 5-5 20, Vaughn 0-4 0-2 0, Mabrey 4-13 0-0 10, Peoples 2-6 1-2 6, Walker 3-7 4-4 11, Cosgrove 0-0 0-0 0, Gilbert 0-0 0-0 0, Miles 5-10 0-0 10, Abdur-Rahim 1-4 0-0 2, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 22-59 10-13 59

PITTSBURGH (5-11): Igbokwe 1-3 0-0 2, Brown 3-9 1-6 7, Everett 4-11 0-0 10, Green 1-2 0-0 3, Hayford 0-5 0-0 0, Ezeja 1-2 0-2 2, Strother 2-7 0-0 6, Clesca 2-5 0-2 5, Exanor 2-6 0-0 5, Hueston 1-3 2-3 4, King 2-5 0-2 4, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 19-58 3-15 48

Notre Dame 13 17 13 16 — 59

Pittsburgh 9 11 11 17 — 48

3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 5-15 (Westbeld 1-2, Mabrey 2-8, Peoples 1-1, Walker 1-3, Miles 0-1), Pittsburgh 7-23 (Everett 2-7, Green 1-2, Hayford 0-2, Strother 2-7, Clesca 1-2, Exanor 1-3). Assists—Notre Dame 12 (Walker 3), Pittsburgh 14 (Hayford 4). Fouled Out—Notre Dame Vaughn. Rebounds—Notre Dame 43 (Westbeld 5-11), Pittsburgh 40 (Brown 3-4). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 12, Pittsburgh 15. Technical Fouls—None. A—500.

Notre Dame’s Destinee Walker brings the ball upcourt during a 59-48 Irish win at Pittsburgh Monday night.
Notre Dame’s Anaya Peoples looks upcourt during a 59-48 win Monday night at Pittsburgh.