Women's basketball: No. 19 Notre Dame perseveres for overtime win at No. 16 Georgia Tech

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Olivia Miles, shown in this Feb. 10 file photo, scored 18 points Thursday as Notre Dame survived an overtime scare at Georgia Tech.

Call it the gut-check at Ga-Tech.

In its most résume’-enhancing road victory of the women’s basketball season, unrelenting Notre Dame coughed up a 10-point lead over the final 7:17 of regulation, but dug in for a 72-66 overtime win over Georgia Tech on Thursday night in Atlanta.

Freshman Olivia Miles scored 18 points, dished eight assists, made three steals and shook off both a shaky final few seconds in the fourth quarter and some elbow pain as the 19th-ranked Irish broke a tie for fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the No. 16 Yellow Jackets.

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

ND (20-6, 11-4) improved to 2-4 away from home against ranked teams, its only other such win coming in November against a then-No. 16 Oregon State club that long ago fell out of the polls.

Blasting out of a recent slump that stretched into a scoreless first three quarters Thursday, repeatedly clutch Dara Mabrey tallied five points in the fourth period and six in OT for the Irish.

Maya Dodson (11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks), Sonia Citron (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Maddy Westbeld (10 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) each added double-doubles.

Senior guard Lotta-Maj Lahtinen paced all players with a season-high 24 points to go with six assists and four steals for Tech (19-7, 10-5).

Jacket star Lorela Cubaj added 15 rebounds and 10 points, but was just 4-of-15 from the field against an ND defense that slowed her in both zone and man, with Dodson and Westbeld each taking effective turns.

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► The Irish played some of their best ball in overtime — on the immediate heels of giving up their double-digit lead during the stretch drive of regulation.

ND outscored Tech 11-5 in OT, after the Jackets outscored the Irish 15-5 to close the fourth period.

“Oh my gosh, I think it’s so much growth,” ND coach Niele Ivey said of her team’s emphatic reversal. “It’s confidence, it’s believing, it’s trusting the process, because we talk about, ‘Win the fourth, win the fourth,’ and we’ve fallen short of that this season in different games.

“For us to finally get over that hump … I’m hoping that it will continue to propel our confidence in what we’re doing. You have to come in with a higher level when you’re playing a ranked team on the road.”

Miles handed the Irish an OT lead they never relinquished 20 seconds into the session on a fast-break feed from Mabrey.

She also swished a pair of free throws at 24.1 seconds left for a 70-66 count.

Those efforts came after Miles nearly turned the ball over at seven seconds left in the fourth period on a behind-the-back dribble in the forecourt, injured her elbow diving to recover it, then, after a timeout, turned it over anyway at three seconds left.

Though Miles shook her elbow a couple times in OT, and was shuffled in and out a couple times during those extra five minutes, Ivey explained that she was just trying to keep her playmaker “fresh.”

► Mabrey’s slump-shattering breakout wound up essential.

The senior guard, just 2-for-20 from the field over her previous three outings, was careening toward her third scoreless contest in the last four, but remained engaged all the way.

“She stepped up in crunch time,” Ivey said. “I can’t even count all the plays — the three in transition, the pull-up, the and-one — it was huge. It was a time where Maya was getting banged up. We were trying to find different looks to try to get a bucket. She just delivered when we needed her.”

After assisting Miles on the initial basket of OT, Mabrey added a 15-footer for a 65-61 lead. Then her old-fashioned 3-point play came as a result of being fouled on a leaner in the lane, good for a 68-63 spread with 1:23 remaining.

► The Irish were decidedly scrappier on the glass.

They outrebounded Tech 49-35 overall to go with advantages of 11-4 in offensive boards and 12-5 in second-chance points.

Citron punctuated the effort with a possession in which she grabbed one offensive rebound, then kept another alive for Anaya Peoples.

That was the same possession that ended with Mabrey’s basket and free throw for the 68-63 lead.

Worth noting I

Dodson, a grad transfer from Stanford, finally played a college game in her home state of Georgia, doing so one day after her 23rd birthday.

A message on Dodson’s shoe indicated that she had a 20-point, 10-rebound game in mind for the occasion at McCamish Pavilion, about 30 minutes from her hometown of Alpharetta.

While she didn’t reach those 20 points, her passionate play ignited the Irish and her deft handling of foul trouble helped seal the win.

“I thought Maya was fantastic,” Ivey said. “She started the game with great presence, getting blocks. We went to her, she had some great scores inside. It’s a tough battle going against two of the really good post players in this league (in Cubaj and Nerea Hermosa), and she got us started on both sides of the ball.”

Dodson picked up her fourth foul at 7:42 left in the fourth quarter, with the Irish up 54-46, and headed to the bench.

By the time she returned at 4:23 left in regulation, her team’s lead was already down to 58-57.

Dodson then played all of the last 9:23 without ever picking up her fifth foul.

Instead, she scored at 29 seconds to go in the fourth period for a 61-59 Irish lead, then made the steal at the 3:27 mark of OT that led to Mabrey’s bucket for a 65-61 spread.

Worth noting II

Sam Brunelle, coming off a shoulder sprain four days earlier at Louisville, was cleared to play and provided the Irish four points, two rebounds and an assist in 16 minutes.

While Brunelle sported a harness that appeared somewhat cumbersome, “she wasn’t sore” during the game, according to Ivey.

Who's hot

Peoples, especially effective in transition, delivered eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.

It was her second-highest scoring performance in her last 21 games, bettered only by her season-high 10 on Dec. 12 against Purdue Fort Wayne.

Who's not

Westbeld finished just 4-of-13 from the field and 1-of-3 at the line.

The irony in those numbers is that she also calmly banked in a half-court shot off the dribble just before the second-quarter horn while maintaining traditional shooting form.

Up next

The Irish continue their pursuit of a top-four league finish — which would net them a double bye in the ACC Tournament — when they host Clemson (9-17, 3-12) next Thursday.

Speculation remains, though, that their twice-postponed game at Virginia (4-20, 1-14) could be made up as soon as Tuesday, if at all.

ND’s only other remaining regular-season contest is at home on Feb. 27 against No. 3 Louisville (22-3, 13-2), a game expected to feature the return of ex-Irish superstar and reigning gold medal Olympian Skylar Diggins-Smith.

No. 19 NOTRE DAME 72, No. 16 GEORGIA TECH 66, OT

NOTRE DAME (20-6): Dodson 5-14 1-4 11, Westbeld 4-13 1-3 10, Citron 4-11 1-2 10, Mabrey 4-9 2-3 11, Miles 7-13 2-2 18, Brunelle 2-5 0-0 4, Peoples 4-5 0-0 8, Totals 30-70 7-14 72

GEORGIA TECH (19-7): Cubaj 4-15 2-3 10, Hermosa 1-7 1-2 3, Bates 4-8 0-0 12, Lahtinen 9-18 3-4 24, Love 2-8 4-6 8, Strautmane 3-7 1-2 9, Wone Aranaz 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 23-63 11-17 66

Notre Dame 17 | 13 | 19 | 12 | 11—72

Georgia Tech 10 | 10 | 19 | 22 | 5—66

3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 5-18 (Westbeld 1-3, Citron 1-2, Mabrey 1-6, Miles 2-5, Brunelle 0-2), Georgia Tech 9-24 (Cubaj 0-1, Bates 4-8, Lahtinen 3-8, Love 0-1, Strautmane 2-6). Assists_Notre Dame 19 (Miles 8), Georgia Tech 16 (Lahtinen 6). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds_Notre Dame 49 (Citron 11, Dodson 11), Georgia Tech 35 (Cubaj 15). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 14, Georgia Tech 12. Technical Fouls—None. A—3,099.