Women's basketball: Notre Dame gets 'emotional' in stunning win over N.C. State
SOUTH BEND — It was “emotional” throughout and “euphoria” afterwards as Notre Dame held on to stun No. 3-ranked North Carolina State, 69-66, in women’s college basketball Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion.
Maya Dodson, often matched against Wolfpack All-American senior center Elissa Cunane, scrapped her way to game highs of 20 points, 10 rebounds and three steals as the No. 20 Irish conquered a top-10 team for the first time in eight tries since their 2019 national semifinal win over No. 2 Connecticut.
Dodson called it an “emotional” contest, and used that same word when asked about seeing three of her teammates — Sam Brunelle, Sonia Citron and Abby Prohaska — each suffer head or facial injuries during the first half.
►More:One game at a time: A journey through Notre Dame's 2021-22 women’s basketball season
Citron was fine, Brunelle played limited minutes in the second half and Prohaska, who sustained a bloodied nose, did not return.
“Oh my gosh, (it’s) euphoria for me,” second-year ND coach Niele Ivey said of her first victory over a top-10 opponent. “That was an amazing win to be able to beat NC State, one of the best teams in the country. I’m just so proud of this group. It was a huge challenge.”
Olivia Miles scored 13 points, dished five assists and matched Dodson’s three steals as the Irish moved to 17-4 overall, 8-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 10-0 at home.
The Wolfpack (19-3, 10-1) not only suffered their first ACC loss to tighten up the league race, but their first defeat away from home.
ND saw its 57-45 lead with 7:35 remaining melted to just 65-63 at the 1:42 mark.
Then, however, Citron and Miles, both freshmen, each went 2-of-2 at the line to make the count 69-63 at 0:54 showing.
Cunane scored inside and added a free throw at 0:43.
Citron then missed a floater at 0:14 to cap a 1-of-12 night from the field, before State’s Diamond Johnson misfired on a pair of 3-point chances in the final six seconds.
Johnson led the Pack with 16 points, but closed just 6-of-23 from the field, including 1-of-10 on 3s, against an Irish club that opted for man-to-man defense most of the night.
► Dodson, the player teammates call “Grandma,” was simply grand.
The 6-3 grad student transfer from Stanford made 9-of-14 shots from the field, relentlessly fought her way to seven offensive rebounds and appeared at times to fluster the 6-5 Cunane, who still had 13 points.
When Dodson was done, she was almost overcome as she reflected.
“I remember when I wanted to be out here playing and I’m finally out here,” Dodson said, choking up while making reference to last winter, when she opted out of her fourth season at Stanford for multiple reasons, including her injury history, family concerns related to the pandemic and an interest in focusing on social justice initiatives.
“It just means so much to me,” Dodson said of being able to return to the game, “so I just fight for my teammates, fight for my coaches, because you never know when it’s going to end.”
“I thought Dodson obviously was the big factor in the game,” Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. “She killed us on the offensive boards.”
Dodson matched NC State’s team total with her seven offensive rebounds, helping to power the Irish to edges of 18-12 in second-chance points and 45-38 in overall rebounding.
“She’s exceeded my expectations,” Ivey said of Dodson’s play this season, “and I mean, my expectations were always high for her.”
► The Irish got beat up, but not beat.
The injuries to Brunelle, Prohaska and Citron all occurred over the final 2:11 of the second quarter.
Brunelle hit her head and tweaked her ankle falling backwards on a lean-in basket by Cunane, and stayed down for a couple minutes.
Prohaska then stayed down even longer upon being hit in the nose by State’s Jada Boyd in the closing minute of the half while fighting for a rebound.
Citron then took a shot to the face on Boyd’s drive at the other end.
The Prohaska and Citron plays were both reviewed by officials, but each was ruled incidental contact.
“It was very emotional, I’m not gonna lie,” Dodson said. “It’s hard to see three of your players going out, and you know how hard they work, and they’re in pain, but we knew we had to focus and we had to lock in, and the best way to do that was to win the game for them. (Let’s not) have them get hurt for nothing, and that’s what we wanted to do, and that’s what we did.”
Prohaska’s injury came just nine days after she returned from a month in concussion protocol. Ivey said she was not immediately sure of the senior guard’s status for Thursday’s game against Virginia Tech.
Brunelle, a recent force off the bench for ND, played seven minutes and scored two points in the second half after playing 10 and scoring eight in the first half.
“She fought,” Ivey said. “She was playing on one leg, (but) she was determined.”
► Typically a zone-first defensive team, the Irish went man-to-man almost all night.
They held NC State — the third-ranked 3-point shooting team in the country at 39.9% with 8.2 makes per game — to 25% on 5-of-20.
“We threw in a little bit of zone just to try to throw them off a little bit,” Ivey said, “but I was worried about their outside shooting. They have so many scoring threats and go so deep within their bench, and I just really wanted to get after it and be aggressive and guard one-on-one.”
She notched her 10th straight double-digit scoring game and is averaging 15.5 points during that span.
Most notable, her field goal efficiency has skyrocketed. She’s at 54.8% from the field over those 10 games, after shooting 31.6% over the previous 10.
For a night anyway, Citron.
Her 1-of-12 from the field followed 19-of-33 over her previous four games.
Even amid that struggle, though, she swished those two aforementioned free throws for a 67-63 ND lead at 1:12 remaining and grabbed nine rebounds.
The Irish not only matched their season low with eight turnovers, but did it against the nation’s No. 3 club, one that had turned its opponents over 15.6 times per game while facing one of the country’s stiffest schedules.
The Irish cap their four-game homestand over a span of eight days when they host Virginia Tech (15-5, 7-2) at 8 p.m. Thursday.
No. 20 NOTRE DAME 69, No. 3 N.C. STATE 66
NC STATE (19-3): Jones 4-7 0-1 9, Cunane 4-5 5-5 13, Brown-Turner 4-6 2-3 11, Crutchfield 3-10 0-0 8, Perez 1-4 0-0 2, Boyd 2-5 1-1 5, Hobby 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 6-23 3-4 16, Totals 25-63 11-14 66
NOTRE DAME (17-4): Dodson 9-14 2-4 20, Westbeld 2-7 3-3 7, Citron 1-12 2-2 4, Mabrey 3-8 0-0 7, Miles 5-16 2-2 13, Brunelle 3-7 2-2 10, Peoples 2-4 2-2 6, Prohaska 0-0 2-2 2, Totals 25-68 15-17 69
NC State | 13 | 15 | 15 | 23 — 66
Notre Dame | 17 | 15 | 20 | 17 — 69
3-Point Goals—NC State 5-20 (Jones 1-3, Brown-Turner 1-1, Crutchfield 2-5, Perez 0-1, Johnson 1-10), Notre Dame 4-19 (Westbeld 0-1, Citron 0-4, Mabrey 1-5, Miles 1-5, Brunelle 2-4). Assists—NC State 6 (Johnson 3), Notre Dame 12 (Miles 5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds_NC State 38 (Boyd 8), Notre Dame 45 (Dodson 10). Total Fouls—NC State 18, Notre Dame 17. Technical Fouls—None. A—5,566.