Women's basketball: Previewing North Carolina's visit to Notre Dame
- Who: No. 21 North Carolina (14-1, 4-1 ACC) vs. No. 20 Notre Dame (12-3, 3-1).
- When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
- Where: Purcell Pavilion (9,149), Notre Dame.
- Tickets: Available.
- Watch: RSN (Marquee Sports Network locally).
- Listen: WQLQ (99.9 FM).
- About North Carolina: The Tar Heels, not among the 39 schools to receive at least one vote in the AP preseason poll, have been one of the nation’s most surprising teams. Third-year NC coach Courtney Banghart’s club has surged to its 14-1 mark off a 13-11 finish last winter — and has done so after graduating last season’s top three scorers and having this fall’s two most prized recruits (ESPN No. 9 Teonni Key and No. 17 Kayla McPherson) suffer season-ending ACL injuries before the season tipped. … Sophomores Deja Kelly (17.6 points per game, 28-of-67 on 3s for 41.8%, 62-of-73 at the line for 84.9%) and Alyssa Ustby (13.9 ppg, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals) are pacing Carolina. … Four other players are averaging 8.5 to 11.2 points apiece. They are junior and ACC Sixth Player of the Year candidate Eva Hodgson (11.2 ppg, 27-of-65 on 3s for 41.5%), grad student transfer from Princeton Carlie Littlefield (9.1 ppg), 6-2 sophomore forward Anya Poole (9.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.5 blocks, 58.8% from the field) and sophomore Kennedy Todd-Williams (8.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg). … The Heels have faced just one ranked team, losing 72-45 at No. 5 N.C. State. They bounced back from that in their most recent outing, three days later last Sunday, with a 71-46 win over Virginia Tech. … In the NCAA NET rankings, a formula used by the tourney selection committee, Carolina is fourth in the nation. ND’s 18th. … The Heels, who have overwhelmed weaker opponents, are No. 1 in the country in both average scoring margin (27.9) and fewest points allowed per possession (0.686).
- About Notre Dame: The Irish are 0-3 against currently ranked teams, two of those losses by a combined six points. They’re also 6-0 at home this season — and will be playing there for the first time in 28 days. … ND, with five players averaging 10.8 to 13.3 points each, remains one of the nation’s most balanced offenses. All five have been the team’s outright scoring leader in a game at least twice this season. Pacesetters include Maddy Westbeld (13.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 58.8% net effective field goal percentage), Olivia Miles (12.8 ppg, 7.8 assists — second in the nation to Ane Olaeta of Cal Baptist at 8.0 — 6.6 rpg; 1.9 steals), Maya Dodson (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 blocks), Dara Mabrey (10.8 ppg, 33-of-87 on 3s for 37.9%) and Sonia Citron (10.9 ppg). Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples have combined to add 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. … Abby Prohaska (concussion recovery) and Katlyn Gilbert (personal reasons) will not be available Sunday, per coach Niele Ivey. .. The Irish and Carolina did not meet during last winter’s shortened season. The host Heels took the most recent matchup 78-73 in January 2020 to close their deficit to 9-3 in the all-time series. ND is 4-0 in meetings at Purcell.
- Quoting: “Just depending on what we need, I can be loose, and then I can turn it around. I’m both. They probably think I’m bipolar, (but) I have to make sure they understand the emphasis. The day before a game, I’m a little more intense anyway, but it just depends on the mood, depends on what I feel like they need, and sometimes it’s extra energy from me.” — Niele Ivey, Notre Dame coach, acknowledging that she was tougher-toned than usual at the end of Saturday’s rigorous practice.
— Anthony Anderson, Tribune correspondent