108-64! Notre Dame women headed to the NCAA Sweet 16 after blowout of host Oklahoma

By Anthony Anderson
ND Insider

Tradition-gushing Notre Dame had played 92 NCAA Tournament women’s basketball games without ever posting a night this prolific.

With Dara Mabrey scoring 29, Sonia Citron 25 and Maya Dodson 20, the Irish ruled at both ends while setting a program tourney record for points during a 108-64 obliteration of host Oklahoma on Monday.

Notre Dame's Dara Mabrey (1) celebrates a 3-point basket in the first half Monday in Norman.

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

►Opening round:Olivia Miles delivers triple double as Notre Dame opens March Madness with win over UMass

ND became the first men’s or women’s team in NCAA Tourney history to beat a higher-seeded opponent by 40 or more points.

“I thought Notre Dame was phenomenal,” OU coach Jennie Baranczyk said, “and if they can continue to do that, watch out everybody.”

The fifth-seeded Irish (24-8) advanced to a Sweet 16 matchup against top seed North Carolina State (31-3) on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. (ESPN) in Bridgeport, Conn. The second game will feature No 3 seed Indiana (24-8) against No. 2 seed Connecticut (27-5) at 2 p.m. (ESPN).

ND surprised the visiting Wolfpack 69-66 on Feb. 1.

On Monday, they flat squished the fourth-seeded Sooners (25-9).

“We just came out dripping in confidence,” said Mabrey, who poured in 17 first-quarter points, “and when Notre Dame plays confident, we’re really hard to stop.”

The Irish roared to leads of 35-12 through one quarter and 60-25 by halftime to set a program standard for points in one NCAA Tourney half.

They didn’t let up after the break, either.

“We (hadn’t) had a game yet where we were really good on both sides of the ball the entire game,” ND coach Niele Ivey said. “Our offense was exactly how I envisioned it as far as pace. We shot the ball well, we did a great job of shot selection, going inside out, we established the inside game, we ran, and then defensively we raised our level against a really great offensive team.

“We dominated for four quarters and that was the first time.”

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► Mabrey keyed Notre Dame’s ridiculously hot start with some ridiculous first-quarter numbers.

The senior guard netted her 17 opening-period points by the 2:42 mark. At that moment, she was 5-of-6 on 3-pointers and 6-of-7 from the field overall.

By the 3:05 mark of the third quarter, Mabrey stood 7-of-8 on triples, that last conversion for her on the night giving the Irish an 83-41 lead.

After at least one basket, she displayed a Michael Jordanesque shoulder shrug and an aw-shucks smile as if to say she couldn’t help it.

“I felt like I was unconscious at one point,” Mabrey said. “I wasn’t thinking. I just knew when I caught it, I was going to let it go and it was going in.”

Mabrey matched her sister Marina’s record for 3-pointers by an ND player in an NCAA Tourney game, her sibling’s seven coming in a regional semifinal during the team’s march to the 2018 national title.

Though Marina’s currently playing in a league in Australia, Dara was sure big sister was watching Monday’s game, “like always,” and wondered if maybe Marina might even have access to the postgame press conference.

“I’m sure I’ll have some messages from her,” the younger Mabrey said with a smile when asked about the competitive streak among the sisters, “but Marina, if you hear this, I’m gonna break your record.”

Dara’s building toward it anyway. Her 7-of-12 against OU from distance followed a 5-of-8 effort in Saturday’s 89-78 opening-round win over UMass.

Her 29 points for the game were a season high. She added six rebounds and three assists.

► Just as Mabrey was kicking OU’s butt from outside, Dodson was doing likewise inside, while Olivia Miles was distributing with precision for an Irish club that had every part of its offense clicking.

A matchup nightmare for the Sooners, Dodson closed 8-of-11 from the field and grabbed offensive rebounds on all three shots she did miss. The 6-3 grad student center added three blocked shots at the other end.

“Maya’s presence is just so dominant, even when she doesn’t have the ball in her hands,” Mabrey said. “You have to start shifting (before) she catches the ball, because she’s like unguardable at times, so that forces help, and then, of course, we have Olivia as our point guard, so it just makes it easier with the bigs down there.”

Miles, coming off the first-ever triple-double by a freshman, male or female, in an NCAA Tourney game, was even slicker and more efficient with her passes Monday.

She closed at 12 assists, several of the leave-you-breathless variety, while committing just two turnovers, to go with nine points and seven rebounds.

“In transition, they kind of (cheated) into the paint,” Miles said of the Sooner defense, “so that’s how I was finding Dara, finding Sonia and Maddy (Westbeld). When we pushed in transition and I was able to see the floor, we were able to spread them out. ... I just kept hitting the hot hand.”

There were plenty of those. The Irish wrapped up at 54% from the field overall and 10-of-25 on 3-pointers.

► While ND’s offense was record-setting, its defense was electric, keying a 34-8 advantage in fast-break points.

The Irish held the Sooners — the No. 2 team in the country in pace of play — 19.2 points below their season average that ranked third in the nation going into the game.

ND limited OU to 32.3% field-goal shooting, 11.7 below the hosts’ percentage going in, and forced a whopping 28 turnovers, 9.5 more than the Sooners’ norm there.

Defensive transition was an emphasis.

“We had to take it to another level,” Ivey said. “We’re normally a 2-3 zone team, but tonight we played all man-to-man. We had to adjust to our opponent, and I thought (our players) rose to that challenge.

“This was a high-octane type of team,” Ivey said of OU. “They know each other really well, so the fact that (we) responded and came out with a really great defensive intensity that we spoke on, I’m super proud. That’s a lot of growth for this group.”

Notre Dame’s defensive focus was on Sooner stars Madi Williams and Taylor Robertson.

Williams, averaging 18.3 points going in, finished with nine.

Robertson, averaging 17.1, scored 19, but was held to 3-of-10 outside the arc. She entered the night leading the nation in made 3s per game at 3.7 and ranked fifth in percentage at 45.0.

Worth noting

Miles moved to 23 assists over her first two career NCAA Tourney games, the most by anybody on the women’s side since at least 2000.

Who's hot

Notre Dame guard Sonia Citron (11) shoots a layup over Oklahoma guard Madi Williams (25) in the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Monday, March 21, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/ Mitch Alcala)

Who wasn’t?

But with Mabrey’s eruption and Dodson’s efficiency, as well as Miles’ flirtation with another triple-double, all touched upon above, Citron’s numbers get kind of overshadowed on a night they would’ve made her the star of the game in most instances.

The freshman’s 25 points included 11-of-11 from the line to go with 7-of-13 from the field, and she added a game-high four steals to accompany six rebounds and three assists.

Notre Dame 108, Oklahoma 64

At Norman, Okla.

NOTRE DAME (24-8): Dodson 8-11 4-6 20, Westbeld 6-10 0-0 13, Citron 7-13 11-11 25, Mabrey 11-19 0-0 29, Miles 4-9 0-2 9, Brunelle 2-5 0-0 5, Peoples 2-4 0-2 4, Prohaska 1-5 1-2 3, Cernugel 0-0 0-0 0, Cha 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 41-76 16-23 108

OKLAHOMA (25-9): Scott 2-8 7-12 11, Robertson 5-12 6-8 19, Tot 0-3 0-0 0, Tucker 0-2 2-2 2, Williams 4-8 1-2 9, Lampkin 0-8 0-2 0, Gregory 1-2 0-0 2, Vann 5-10 0-0 11, Washington 2-5 0-0 5, Perkins 2-7 0-0 5, Totals 21-65 16-26 64

Notre Dame | 35 | 25 | 25 | 23 — 108

Oklahoma | 12 | 13 | 22  | 17 — 64

3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 10-25 (Westbeld 1-3, Citron 0-3, Mabrey 7-12, Miles 1-4, Brunelle 1-3), Oklahoma 6-21 (Robertson 3-10, Tot 0-2, Tucker 0-1, Williams 0-1, Lampkin 0-1, Vann 1-1, Washington 1-1, Perkins 1-4). Assists_Notre Dame 24 (Miles 12), Oklahoma 14 (Tucker 4). Fouled Out_Notre Dame Prohaska. Rebounds_Notre Dame 42 (Westbeld 9), Oklahoma 45 (Vann 9). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 22, Oklahoma 15. Technical Fouls_None. A_3,258.