How Notre Dame matches up with UMass in opening round of women's NCAA Tournament

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Mar 5, 2022; Greensboro, NC, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Olivia Miles (5) shoots past Miami Hurricanes forward Naomi Mbandu (35) during the third quarter at Greensboro Coliseum Complex. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WHO: No. 5 seed Notre Dame (22-8) vs. No. 12 seed Massachusetts (26-6) in NCAA Tournament first-round Bridgeport Region game.

WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET.

WHERE: Lloyd Noble Center (11,528), Norman, Okla.

WATCH: ESPN2.

LISTEN: WQLQ (99.9 FM).

► Durable Dara:Durable Dara Mabrey finally gets her shot at NCAA Tournament

►Three things:Three things to know about Notre Dame women's opponent UMass

ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The 21st-ranked Irish are back in the NCAA Tourney for the first time since they lost 82-81 in the 2019 title game against Baylor to finish a basket short of back-to-back national championships. It capped off 24 straight appearances, the fifth-longest streak in NCAA history. … Individual stat leaders for second-year ND coach Niele Ivey are Olivia Miles (13.7 points per game, 7.2 assists to rank second in the country, 1.9 steals), Maya Dodson (12.4 ppg, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 blocks to rank eighth in the country), ACC Rookie of the Year Sonia Citron (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.6 steals), Maddy Westbeld (11.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 50.2 net effective field goal percentage), Dara Mabrey (9.5 ppg, 2.3 apg, 60-of-175 on 3s for 34.3%) and Sam Brunelle (7.2 ppg, 52.6 net EFG%). … The Irish have faced UMass just twice all-time, winning 90-72 in a 1995 WNIT game in Amarillo, Texas, and 94-50 at home in November 2012.

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

ABOUT UMASS: The Minutewomen, making their first appearance since 1998 and third overall, are seeking their first-ever NCAA Tourney win. They earned an automatic bid by virtue of their first-ever Atlantic 10 Tournament crown. … UMass’ lone matchup this season with a ranked team came in late November against now-No. 10 Iowa State, with the Cyclones holding on for a 76-71 win at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla. … Leaders for the Minutewomen, who have won 11 of their last 12, are 6-1 grad student forward and A10 Player of the Year Sam Breen (16.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.7 spg), junior guard Sydney Taylor (15.9 ppg, 79-of-232 on 3s for 34.1%), senior guard Destiney Philoxy (11.0 ppg, 5.7 apg), sophomore guard Ber’Nyah Mayo (9.9 ppg, 2.3 spg), 6-2 junior forward Angelique Ngalakulondi (8.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and 6-2 sophomore forward Makennah White (6.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg). … Coach Tory Verdi is in his sixth year at UMass with a 101-78 record, following a 72-61 mark over four years at Eastern Michigan. Across both stops, each of his subsequent teams has improved on the previous season’s record every year.

QUOTING: “Defense, transition … everything honestly. This team is just amazing to be around and play with, and we feed off each other so well. Defense is carrying into our offense and we have people who can make incredible plays on both ends. It’s just an incredibly electric team.” — Anaya Peoples, ND junior guard, on how the Irish are better than last season.

PEEKING AHEAD: The ND-UMass winner plays Monday (time TBA) against the survivor of Saturday’s second game in Norman between fourth-seeded host Oklahoma (24-8) and 13th seed IUPUI (24-4) (10 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

OU GLANCE: The No. 22-ranked Sooners are just 4-5 over their last nine games, though three of those losses came to teams ranked in the top 10 of the final AP poll. … OU’s in its first season under coach Jennie Baranczyk following the retirement of Sherri Coale after 25 years. … The Sooners are led by senior guards Madi Williams (18.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Taylor Robertson (17.0 ppg), who is No. 1 in the nation in made 3s per game at 3.66 and No. 5 in percentage at 45.2.

IUPUI GLANCE: The Jaguars, by virtue of winning the Horizon League Tournament, are in the NCAA Tourney for the first time ever (though they also clinched a bid in the 2020 event that was later canceled). … Coach Austin Parkinson’s Jags have won 20 of their last 22 games, including stunning No. 8 host Iowa 74-73 in December. … They’re led by four-time Horizon Player of the Year Macee Williams (18.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg). A 6-2 center, Williams is a graduate of Fountain Central High and one of eight players from Indiana on the IUPUI roster.

— By Anthony Anderson