After regular-season loss to Notre Dame, N.C. State coach plans to keep eye on Maya Dodson
Maya Dodson was the recurring theme for North Carolina State coach Wes Moore on Friday as he discussed why Notre Dame conquered his team last time and what the top-seeded Wolfpack have to do to reverse the result this time.
“Dodson is who really, I thought, hurt us in that game in particular,” Moore said of ND’s grad student center. “We didn’t really have an answer for her. I think she got seven offensive rebounds. We have to do better in that regard.”
Dodson did have seven such boards, and she had game highs of 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots overall as the host Irish stunned the No. 3-ranked Wolfpack 69-66 a little over seven weeks ago at Purcell Pavilion.
N.C. State (31-3) and fifth-seeded ND (24-8) clash again at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in an NCAA Tournament Bridgeport (Conn.) Region women’s basketball semifinal on ESPN.
The Pack have won 12 straight since slipping against ND.
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Moore says he likes the way his club is playing, but adds that the Irish are better now than they were when the teams met on Feb. 1.
“I think they’ve just continued to grow,” Moore said. “(Coach Niele) Ivey has done a great job bringing them along, and they’ve got so many weapons.
“Olivia Miles makes them go, just transition, penetrate and kick,” Moore said. “(Dara) Mabrey, if you give her the smallest gap, she’s going to knock down a 3. (Sonia) Citron, to me, is one of the best freshmen in the country, somebody that you really have to account for. (Maddy) Westbeld, (Sam) Brunelle those two at the four position, both deadly, and like I said, Dodson is the one that really hurt us the first time.”
Moore says “transition D will be critical,” especially after the Irish torched Oklahoma in up-tempo fashion during their 108-64 second-round win over the host Sooners on Monday.
That game was the 100th of Dodson’s college career. She happened to score 20 points, the same figure she put on the Pack.
Saturday’s will be the 10th of her NCAA Tourney career, including the first seven at Stanford, tops among Irish players.
Running into top tournament seeds
Notre Dame is seeking its 10th all-time win over a No. 1 seed. The Irish stand 9-8 in such games.
The last time ND encountered a top seed as early as the Sweet 16 was in 2004, when the fifth-seeded Irish fell 55-49 to Penn State.
Of course, ND’s often been a No. 1 seed itself, thus precluding the team from facing No. 1s anytime before the Final Four in those years.
Saturday’s matchup will be the first time Notre Dame faces a league opponent during the NCAA Tourney since 2014.
In what happened to be Maryland’s last year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ND’s first, the No. 2-ranked Irish beat the No. 8 host Terrapins 87-83 during the regular season, then as a top seed whipped the fourth-seeded Terps 87-61 at a Final Four semifinal in Nashville, Tenn.
Close to home
Two Irish players will be about an hour each from their New York hometowns for Saturday’s game.
Citron hails from Eastchester, and injured sophomore Nat Marshall from Queens.
That’s in addition to Mabrey and Miles being less than three hours from their New Jersey hometowns of Belmar and Phillipsburg.
Looking ahead for Notre Dame
If the Irish win, they’ll face the survivor of Saturday’s 2 p.m. game between second-seeded Connecticut (27-5) and third seed Indiana (24-8). Either opponent will involve plenty of familiarity.
There’s nobody ND’s faced as often as UConn in NCAA Tournament play, standing 5-3 against the Huskies, nor anybody the Irish have faced as often overall, standing 13-39.
Host UConn beat ND 73-54 on Dec. 5.
As for potential in-state foe IU, the Irish haven’t met the Hoosiers since beating them 87-70 in the second round of the 2016 tournament.
Indiana, though, features point guard Ali Patberg, who transferred from ND in 2017.
Patberg, in her seventh college year overall and her fifth one playing, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 assists for the Hoosiers.
Monday’s regional final is set for 7:30 p.m.