Women's basketball: Irish to face No. 3 N.C. State on short rest

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s matchup with No. 3-ranked North Carolina State might’ve been best-served by first having extra time to savor an emotional win, extra time to recover and extra time to prepare.

Let alone normal time for those things.

The Irish, however, will have none of that when they welcome the Atlantic Coast Conference-leading Wolfpack to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. tip Tuesday.

It’s the make-up of a game postponed just over three weeks ago under COVID protocols, and it thus becomes ND’s quickest-turnaround league outing of the season following Sunday’s 74-61 payback victory over Boston College.

“We’re actually getting massages right now,” freshman sensation Olivia Miles said shortly after ringing up a career-high 30 points against the Eagles. “We’re working on our bodies right now, because we played a tough game and we gotta turn around and play one of the best teams in the country.”

► More:One game at a time: A journey through Notre Dame's 2021-22 women’s basketball season

It’s a profoundly pivotal showdown for the No. 20 Irish (16-4, 7-2), who with a win could thrust themselves further into the thick of the ACC race, or frankly with a loss relinquish any realistic shot at the league crown.

The big, bad Wolfpack (19-2, 10-0), after all, sure don’t appear like they’re going to lose three conference games if they win this one.

Furthermore, ND’s brutally back-loaded docket still includes No. 4 Louisville (18-2, 8-1) twice, tackling another two-game-three-day scenario when Virginia Tech (15-5, 7-2) arrives Thursday and a visit to No. 12 Georgia Tech (17-4, 8-2).

Conversely, NC State’s already done with Louisville and Georgia Tech, having beaten each. The only fellow contender remaining for the Pack is Virginia Tech.

If the Irish are daunted by NC State, they don’t necessarily sound it.

Jan 30, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Olivia Miles (5) drives to the basket as Boston College Eagles forward Maria Gakdeng (5) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re right there,” Miles said. “We’re gonna fight. We believe that we can win, and that’s all I have to say about that game.”

“It’s gonna be a hard turnaround,” ND coach Niele Ivey said Sunday, “but I think we’re prepared with our schedule.”

She cited the fact that the Irish played on back-to-back days Thanksgiving weekend when they lost to now-No. 14 Georgia in overtime, then bounced back to beat then-ranked Oregon State.

“My performance staff, we’ve done a great job preparing this team for these types of moments,” Ivey said. “We’re gonna get our rest, walk through, watch some film.

“We worked on (NC State specifically) a little bit last week,” Ivey acknowledged, “and we’re just gonna take advantage of being at home.”

So far this season, the Irish have taken advantage of being at home every time.

They’re 9-0 at Purcell, but here’s a kicker — the Pack are a shimmering 8-0 away from home.

NC State stayed perfect outside of Raleigh on Sunday when it rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to beat rival North Carolina 66-58.

That means the Pack, too, will play Tuesday evening on short rest, and they’ll be the group doing so on the road no less.

As it so happens, identical to ND, one of their losses this season came in OT against Georgia, while the only other blemish came in their season opener against No. 1 South Carolina, 66-57.

Jan 30, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) and forward Sam Brunelle (33) celebrate after a basket with guard Sonia Citron (11) in the second half against the Boston College Eagles at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish, meanwhile, have won nine of their last 11 games, with the two defeats coming by a combined four points at Duke and Boston College.

Having a player who is making a case for national freshman of the year has been the lead propeller lately.

During Sunday’s win, Miles became just the second ND freshman in at least the last 23 years to pair 30 points with at least six assists, joining Skylar Diggins-Smith in 2010.

She also closed 12-of-19 from the field with a career-high four 3-pointers and regularly found gaps on drives, mid-range and outside the arc.

“Our game plan coming in was to use the ball screen, go high-low,” Miles said. “I feel like they were taking away a lot of our high-low looks, so I just went to work and was aggressive and found my spots and just got open off of that.”

Now, though, comes an NC State defense that has given up just 33.1% during ACC play across all field goal tries, best in the league, and 28.7% on 3-pointers, third-best.