Women's basketball: Dodson, Citron pave way to double bye in ACC tourney for Notre Dame

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Sonia Citron (11) looks to pass as Clemson Tigers forward Hannah Hank (12) and guard Delicia Washington (00) defend in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Triggered by a double jolt of electrifying play from Maya Dodson and Sonia Citron, Notre Dame secured its double bye.

ND’s oldest star in Dodson and newest in Citron both posted sparkling lines as the No. 14-ranked Irish downed Clemson 77-56 on Thursday night to improve to 13-0 at Purcell Pavilion this women’s college basketball season.

Dodson scored 22 points, made 10-of-12 shots from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and swatted away five Tiger tries as ND moved to 21-6 overall, 13-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

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

► More:Women's basketball: Miles, Citron sweep ACC awards

Citron added 21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

With the win, the Irish clinched at least a tie for fourth place in the 15-team ACC.

The top four clubs will receive double byes at next week’s league tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maya Dodson (0) looks to shoot as Clemson Tigers guard Daisha Bradford (2) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

ND can still move to as high as the third seed if it can solve No. 4-ranked visiting Louisville (24-3, 15-2) in Sunday’s regular-season finale, or if No. 23 Virginia Tech (21-7, 13-4) falls at home to No. 3 North Carolina State (25-3, 16-1). The Irish own the tiebreaker over the Hokies.

Olivia Miles scored 11 points, dished nine assists and made three steals in Notre Dame’s latest win.

Junior forward Amari Robinson paced Clemson (9-19, 3-14) with 18 points and was 8-of-10 from the field. Daisha Bradford added 16 points.

Tiger grad-student ace Delicia Washington (averaging 22.9 points over her previous 12 outings) finished with 13, but was just 5-of-16 from the field. Eleven of those points came in the second half, after ND built a 38-20 lead by the break.

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► Dodson delivered throughout, but there was one sequence late in the third quarter that may have been the most breathtaking one by an Irish player this season.

The 6-foot-3 power forward authoritatively rejected a driving layup by Washington to ignite a fast break, then the “rim runner,” as coach Niele Ivey often calls her, busted it to the other end to finish that break with a basket in the paint off a feed from Sam Brunelle.

Then she quickly added a steal to set up her own inside score again, this one off an Anaya Peoples pass, got fouled on the shot and converted the free throw for a 54-37 Irish lead.

To top it off, she rebounded the miss on Clemson’s ensuing possession.

In a span of 51 seconds, that gave Dodson five points, one board, one block and one takeaway.

“I’m just trying to run,” said Dodson, a big who doesn’t mind doing so. “That’s what’s easy for me. It’s easy to go and get easy baskets instead of playing slow and getting double-teamed, triple-teamed. I know that I can play really great defense, and then (at the end of a defensive play), they’re not ready for me to keep running.”

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maya Dodson (0) blocks the shot attempt by Clemson Tigers guard Delicia Washington (00) in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Dodson’s dazzling display came on Senior Night.

Though none are automatically done after this season given their eligibility circumstances, and though Dodson’s already expressed a desire to return, she was one of four ND players saluted in senior ceremonies before the game, joined by Dara Mabrey, Abby Prohaska and Katlyn Gilbert.

Dodson was escorted by her parents, Darryl and Karen, in from Alpharetta, Ga.

“They come here any time they can, and they stay for weeks,” Dodson joked of whether it was unusual for her dad and mom to attend.

“I love it, though,” she quickly added. “I didn’t get to see them as much when I was at Stanford, so I enjoy it. It’s very special for them to be here and see me playing well.”

► Citron played like she possesses an old basketball soul, and a positionless one at that, or maybe an every-position one given the versatility she flashed.

“Gosh, I mean the sky’s the limit for her,” Ivey said of the potential in her 6-1 swing. “She’s so talented, such a high basketball IQ.”

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Sonia Citron (11) goes up for a shot as Clemson Tigers guard Daisha Bradford (2) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

All within the same game, the six-time ACC Freshman of the Week’s 13 rebounds and eight assists were both career highs, her four steals matched a career high and her 21 points were her second-most.

“Pretty much,” Citron said of whether she’s as comfortable in any role as she appears to be. “I just want to be the most use I can to Coach Ivey, so wherever she wants me to play, whatever she wants me to do, I’m gonna go out on the court and just do the best I can.”

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Niele Ivey signals to her players in the second half against the Clemson Tigers at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Upon specifically citing Citron’s passing, slashing, usage of ball screens, rebounding, defending and ability to break a press, Ivey added that “she’s just scratching the surface.”

► As effective as ND’s offense was — which included 31-of-62 from the field with six 3-pointers — an ample helping of that was set by a clicking Irish defense.

Staying with an assertive 2-3 zone virtually throughout, the hosts made 13 steals to go with eight blocked shots, the combined 21 in those categories matching their second-best of the season.

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Sam Brunelle (33) shoots as Clemson Tigers forward Hannah Hank (12) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

“I thought the defense was really good,” Ivey said. “Just having Maya’s presence inside really helped us. I thought Dara gave us a lot of energy, got some deflections, and Soni, Maddy (Westbeld), there were so many people that contributed.”

“Absolutely,” Ivey said of whether purposeful activity keyed the zone. “The way we (counter) ball screens, and we try to trap in the short corner, try to show different looks in the zone. I was prepared to show something else defensively if (Clemson) got too comfortable, but I felt like we did a really good job.”

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Olivia Miles (5) drives to the basket as Clemson Tigers guard Daisha Bradford (2) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Some of that was slowing Washington, a crafty guard and one of the ACC’s hottest players lately.

“I thought we did a really good job of having awareness of where she was,” Ivey said. “I felt like we did a good job of pressuring her, and I felt like every shot she took was a contested shot until the second half, where she got going a little bit.”

Worth noting

The Irish snapped off their passes with precision and potency.

Their 26 assists, their assist-to-basket ratio of .839 and their assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.85 were all bests over the course of their last 22 games.

Who's hot

Dodson from the field.

Her 83.3% was her best of the season.

Who's not

ND from the line.

Though it didn’t matter, the Irish shot 9-of-16, marking the third straight game they’ve been at 56% or less. Those are three of the team’s four lowest figures on the season.

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are introduced before the game against the Clemson Tigers at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Up next

Sunday’s rematch with No. 4 Louisville is slated for a noon tip.

The Irish will look to cap a perfect regular-season home record, and avenge their 73-47 road loss just 14 days earlier.

Feb 24, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Sonia Citron (11) comes out of the game in the second half against the Clemson Tigers at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 NOTRE DAME 77, CLEMSON 56

CLEMSON (9-19): Robinson 8-10 1-2 18, Hank 0-4 2-2 2, Bradford 7-12 0-0 16, Ott 0-4 0-0 0, Washington 5-16 2-2 13, Blackstock 0-0 0-0 0, Gaines 1-5 2-2 4, Hipp 0-1 0-0 0, Standifer 0-2 0-0 0, Elmore 1-5 0-0 3, Inyang 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 22-60 7-8 56

NOTRE DAME (21-6): Dodson 9-11 2-4 20, Westbeld 3-4 0-0 6, Citron 8-14 5-6 23, Mabrey 3-8 0-0 9, Miles 5-12 1-4 11, Brunelle 2-8 1-2 6, Peoples 1-4 0-0 2, Cernugel 0-1 0-0 0, Cha 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 31-62 9-16 77

Clemson 11 | 9 | 20 | 16—56

Notre Dame 18 | 20 | 18 | 21—77

3-Point Goals—Clemson 5-20 (Robinson 1-1, Hank 0-1, Bradford 2-6, Ott 0-4, Washington 1-2, Hipp 0-1, Standifer 0-2, Elmore 1-3), Notre Dame 6-21 (Westbeld 0-1, Citron 2-3, Mabrey 3-8, Miles 0-3, Brunelle 1-4, Peoples 0-1, Cernugel 0-1). Assists—Clemson 10 (Bradford 4), Notre Dame 26 (Miles 9). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Clemson 35 (Hank 10), Notre Dame 39 (Citron 13). Total Fouls—Clemson 17, Notre Dame 11. Technical Fouls—None. A—3,641.