Women's basketball: Dodson dominant as No. 20 Notre Dame fends off DePaul 91-86

By Anthony Anderson
ND Insider
Notre Dame's Maya Dodson, shown in this Nov. 9 file photo, scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a win at DePaul Wednesday night.

With dazzling Maya Dodson erupting for a career-high 28 points — including 10 over the final 4:24 — and with Notre Dame turning DePaul to dust in second-chance points, the No. 20-ranked Irish held on to end the high-octane, late-charging Blue Demons’ seven-game winning streak with a 91-86 women’s basketball victory Wednesday night at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena.

Dodson finished 13-of-21 from the field and 2-of-2 at the line to go with eight rebounds.

Maddy Westbeld added 22 points (7-of-10 from the field, 8-of-10 at the stripe), while national assist leader Olivia Miles tallied 20 points and dished eight dimes.

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It marked the first time ND’s had three 20-point scorers in the same game since Jessica Shepard, Jackie Young and Brianna Turner teamed on the trick during a 99-79 whipping of No. 3 Louisville in the 2019 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship.

The Irish, who squished the Demons 29-1 in multi-chance points, improved to 11-2 with their fourth straight win and passed last season’s victory total when they closed 10-10.

Freshman sensation Aneesah Morrow, pitted against Dodson most of the night, paced DePaul (11-3) with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but fouled out with 2:51 remaining.

Four other players, including Lexi Held with 18, netted at least 13 for the Demons, who had cracked 100 in five of their last six games and were leading the country going into the evening at 92.2 points per outing.

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► A recently slumping but unrelenting Dodson devoured the Demons when it mattered most, scoring on an assortment of interior moves.

“I think the biggest thing was my teammates were looking for me inside,” Dodson said. “They trusted that I’m going to make those plays and I trust myself to make those plays. (It was) just being confident and knowing I can be that anchor inside.”

► More:From Stanford to Notre Dame: Inside Maya Dodson's winding journey to the No. 22 Irish

After DePaul roared from a 72-59 deficit through three quarters to as close as 78-77 at 5:16 to go, Dodson scored each of ND’s next 10 points.

Her personal spree included four layups, one a putback of a teammate’s miss and the next two on sweet left-handed plays, and then she added a pair of swished free throws at 26 ticks left with the Irish up just 86-84.

“That’s a good word — wickedly,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said regarding one description of Dodson’s play. “She was really good.”

A grad student transfer from Stanford, Dodson notched a career-high 25 points in her regular-season Irish debut six weeks ago and soon added three other games of at least 13, but over her last five outings heading into Wednesday, she’d gone just 12-of-40 from the field and averaged 6.0 points.

“I think the biggest thing always for me is having the reps,” Dodson said. “Even in those games where I didn’t have the best field goal percentage, I worked on those shots, so I knew that the next game I’d get there. It’s just a culmination of working on my finishing the past couple weeks.”

Even through her struggles, Dodson had clearly remained a prime option in Ivey’s offense, particularly early and particularly in set plays.

“Her field goal percentage in some games wasn’t as high as she wanted, but she’s been working,” Ivey said. “She’s been working on her finishes. She is in the gym early regardless. She’s always working on her game, and I’m just so happy to see it come to life today. I really wanted to pound the ball inside, that was one of our game plans, and I felt like she was amazing tonight.”

► ND’s 29-1 thrashing of the Demons in multi-chance points bordered on absurdity, and pretty much all of that edge proved necessary, too.

Overall, the Irish outrebounded DePaul 51-26, including 24 offensive grabs to the Demons’ five.

“That’s awesome we did that,” Ivey said. “That’s a credit to (the players) just having the mentality to crash and stay aggressive on the boards.”

Junior Anaya Peoples, playing in her home state for the first time in her college career, led ND on the glass at nine rebounds to go with seven points.

Miles, Sonia Citron and Abby Prohaska added a half-dozen rebounds each.

The Irish entered the night at plus-8.5 per game in rebound margin, yet the Demons had been sound as well at plus-5.9.

ND’s board effort helped the visitors overcome hitting just 2-of-17 on 3-pointers to DePaul’s 5-of-20, and 18 turnovers to the hosts’ 13.

► The Irish twice coughed up most of second-half, 13-point leads, yet steadied themselves enough to keep the Demons from drawing even.

Besides a 70-57 advantage through three periods melting to 78-77 in the fourth, ND also allowed DePaul to climb from a 50-37 deficit early in the third quarter to within 57-54 a few minutes later.

“I thought we responded when they made their runs,” Ivey said. “We blew a couple double-digit leads, but the thing I love about this group, and I think is the way we’re growing, is we put our heads down. We still competed. We battled. We scored 91 points. It’s a credit to how much we’re growing and trusting.”

The Irish improved to 3-1 in games decided by five or fewer points after going 2-3 in such contests last season.

“We’re starting to gel,” Dodson said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to get to playing 40 minutes. I’m excited to see when we play 40 minutes of great basketball.”

Who's hot

Besides clearly Dodson, and besides Miles continuing her recent run of head-spinning numbers (16.0 points, 9.3 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals over her last four games), Maddy Westbeld was efficiently dominant for the Irish.

She made 7-of-10 shots from the field and 8-of-10 at the line on the way to a season-high 22 points, all over the final three quarters.

“Just incredible, Maddy coming in clutch,” Ivey said. “She had a size advantage. They were playing four guards and I kept two bigs in, and I thought she did a tremendous job looking for her shots. She took great shots and got to the free throw line 10 times.”

Who's not

Senior Dara Mabrey, ND’s premier long-range shooter on the season, hit just 1-of-12 tries, including a career-worst 0-for-9 outside the arc.

She entered the evening 14-of-31 from distance over her previous five games, though, and had converted at least one 3-pointer in every contest this season.

Up next

Following their holiday break, it’s all Atlantic Coast Conference games the rest of the regular season for the Irish, beginning with Thursday, Dec. 30, at Virginia.

ND is 2-0 in the ACC to stand as the early co-leader with No. 5 North Carolina State.

No. 20 NOTRE DAME 91, DEPAUL 86

NOTRE DAME (11-2): Dodson 13-21 2-2 28, Westbeld 7-10 8-10 22, Mabrey 1-12 0-0 2, Miles 8-14 2-4 20, Peoples 3-7 1-3 7, Brunelle 3-6 0-0 6, Citron 1-5 0-0 2, Prohaska 2-4 0-0 4, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 38-79 13-19 91

DEPAUL (11-3): Morrow 8-16 3-5 19, Church 5-10 3-3 13, Held 7-9 2-3 18, Morris 7-13 1-1 15, Rogers 6-12 0-0 14, Purcell 0-3 0-0 0, Collier 3-5 0-0 7, Ammons 0-1 0-0 0, Holmes 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 36-69 9-12 86

Notre Dame 20 | 24 | 28 | 19 — 91

DePaul 22 | 11 | 26 | 27 — 86

3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 2-17 (Mabrey 0-9, Miles 2-5, Brunelle 0-2, Citron 0-1), DePaul 5-20 (Morrow 0-4, Church 0-1, Held 2-2, Morris 0-3, Rogers 2-6, Purcell 0-2, Collier 1-2). Assists—Notre Dame 20 (Miles 8), DePaul 10 (Held 4). Fouled Out—DePaul Morrow. Rebounds—Notre Dame 51 (Dodson 7-8), DePaul 26 (Team 2-2). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 16, DePaul 22. Technical Fouls—None. A—1,904.