Basketball: Notre Dame women, Dodson dominant in exhibition win over Emporia State

By Anthony Anderson
ND Insider correspondent
Notre Dame's Maya Dodson (0) during the Notre Dame women's basketball media day Oct. 15, 2021 at the Rolfs Athletics Hall in South Bend. Dodson was impressive Monday night in her Irish debut, scoring a game-high 24 points in an exhibition win against Emporia State.

SOUTH BEND — Maya Dodson put her proverbial right foot to the pedal, but most important in making it happen was how comfortable she felt putting her actual left foot to the Purcell Pavilion floor boards.

With Dodson running the court more quickly and effectively than any Notre Dame women’s basketball post player the previous two seasons, and repeatedly finishing with fluidity and a soft touch inside, the Irish sped past Emporia State, 104-46, in Monday night’s exhibition.

“Running’s my game,” the graduate student transfer from Stanford said after scoring a game-high 24 points, making 11-of-14 field goals, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking a game-high five shots before sitting out the fourth quarter.

“It’s always been my game since high school, and I’m starting to get back to that after the injuries,” Dodson said. “I think with more games, it’s going to be even (better). Right now, I’m just getting used to the pace of getting back into a game, but running’s what I want to do, and use my size and my athleticism.”

“This is just a snippet of what she can do,” ND coach Niele Ivey said of Dodson.

The 6-foot-3 Dodson opted out of basketball altogether under last season’s pandemic-altering circumstances.

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Before that, she hardly posted gaudy numbers over the final two years she did play for the powerhouse Cardinal — 6.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 49.7% on field goals in just 20.2 minutes per game across 35 contests — but she also missed 34 games over those two years with a recurring left-foot injury.

“Better than ever, I’d say,” Dodson declared of how her foot’s doing now. “I’m ready to go. Right now, I just gotta get my conditioning there, but regarding my foot, I’m 100%, so I’m happy.”

Ivey’s happy to have Dodson.

The second-year Irish head coach and former ND recruiting coordinator shared, with a playful glance toward Dodson, that she “missed out the first time around” while trying to land the Alpharetta, Ga., product out of high school.

Dodson teased back, “I’m here now.”

“Tremendous,” Ivey assessed of Dodson’s first game in an Irish uniform, even if it was an exhibition against a Division II program. “I think she gives us everything as far as her presence inside, her leadership on and off the court. She’s our hardest worker, she demands a lot of respect from our team and she carries a lot of experience coming from a really great program at Stanford.”

Notre Dame, 13-18 and 10-10 over the last two seasons, is trying to get back to being really great, too, and nothing about Monday was particularly discouraging in that regard.

The Irish led 53-27 by halftime and 75-38 through three quarters.

Dodson was joined by four teammates with at least 12 points apiece.

Freshman guard Sonia Citron finished with 15 and six boards in just 19 minutes, 13 of those points coming after halftime. She made 4-of-5 field goals with a 3-pointer and 6-of-7 free throws.

“She’s a Swiss Army knife,” Ivey said of Citron. “She has so many tools in her bag. She’s a great rebounder, a great defender, she can score, she’s very efficient. She brings a ton of energy, she’s got size (6-1), so I’m looking forward to having her give us that spark off the bench. She’s unselfish and plays so hard.”

Freshman point guard Olivia Miles chipped in 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Junior forward Sam Brunelle scored 12 points and dealt five assists in 17 minutes off the bench, Senior guard Dara Mabrey blended 12 points, on 4-of-6 shooting outside the arc, with a game-high 10 assists against just one turnover.

“I felt like we had incredible balance,” Ivey said. “I was really pleased with 29 assists to 14 turnovers. That’s something we’ve been working on, taking care of the ball and executing offensively, and, holding them to 46 points (bettered) a team goal of ours. Really pleased with the effort. … Felt like this was a really good test to see where we’re at.”

The Irish hit 41-of-65 field goals for 63% to just 17-of-70 by the Hornets for 24%.

ND dominated in paint points, 62-22, and in rebounds, 55-27, against distinctly smaller Emporia. Sophomore Maddy Westbeld, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year, contributed a game-high nine boards, eight points and three blocks.

“The game plan was winning the rebounding battle,” Ivey said, “because I want to run, I want to push pace and establish our inside presence. I knew we had a size advantage and that’s something we’ve been working on, so I’m glad we tried that game plan for 40 minutes.”

The Irish open their regular season Tuesday, Nov. 9, at home against Ohio.

A year ago, the same Bobcats — and they will be largely the same — ended visiting ND’s streak of 25 consecutive season-opening wins with an 86-85 victory over the Irish.