Women's basketball: No. 20 Notre Dame stays perfect at home with win over Syracuse

By Anthony Anderson
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame placed six scorers in double figures and again wore down depth-depleted Syracuse, pulling away late to beat the Orange 83-62 in women’s college basketball Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.

Freshman Olivia Miles missed her second triple-double by one assist, collecting a team-high 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine dimes for the Irish.

No. 20-ranked ND improved to 15-4 overall, 6-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 8-0 at home.

Sam Brunelle scored 15 points off the bench for the winners.

Maya Dodson and Sonia Citron notched 13 apiece, with Citron also grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Dara Mabrey tallied 12 points and Maddy Westbeld 10.

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

► Notre Dame women's basketball: A decent midseason report card for Ivey's Irish

The Irish led just 62-56 at 5:43 to go, but outscored Syracuse 21-6 the rest of the way.

That came after ND also outpointed the host Orange 21-0 over the final 8:06 of an 82-56 victory when the teams met Nov. 14.

Jan 27, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Olivia Miles (5) dribbles as Syracuse Orange guard Teisha Hyman (5) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Teisha Hyman of Syracuse (8-10, 1-7) led all players in the rematch with 22 points and seven steals to go with eight assists.

The slick junior played all but 38 seconds, while three other members of the Orange played the entire 40 minutes.

That appeared to cost the visitors late. They pressed the Irish much of the way, helping to lead to 23 ND turnovers over the first 33 minutes, yet the hosts never committed another one across the final seven.

Jan 27, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Teisha Hyman (5) goes up for a shot as Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maddy Westbeld (34) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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► Brunelle — a junior who started all 31 games as a freshman and has never started one since — demonstrated her growing comfort in what’s become a super sub role.

Her 15 points Thursday on 7-of-12 from the field were accompanied by six rebounds, three blocked shots, three assists and two steals.

ND finished plus-24 in scoring during Brunelle’s 26:40 on the floor, a difference of nearly a point a minute and the best ratio of anybody who played.

“I like coming into the game and being able to be a spark plug for the team,” Brunelle said, “because if I come in and maybe we’re in a lull, I can be that person to pick us up. … That’s really a neat spot to be in, to be that person who can control that.”

Jan 27, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Sam Brunelle (33) shoots over Syracuse Orange guard Naje Murray (10) in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Brunelle upped her averages over her last five games to 11.8 points and 22.6 minutes.

“She’s just our glue player, gives us so much energy … ” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “She’s my offensive spark coming off the bench, and I feel like we feed off her.”

Brunelle started the season hot, averaging 14.0 points in just 19.0 minutes across ND’s first three games, yet then hit a prolonged cold spell, averaging just 4.3 points and 13.8 minutes over her next 10 games.

She appears to have righted herself.

“I got into a place where I got a little unconfident in myself,” Brunelle said. “(Over Christmas break), I went home and took that time to really reflect, and I was like, I can’t do this the rest of the season. I know I’m a much better player than that. The ceiling’s really high, my potential, and I want to live up to that, so I came back from Christmas break, and I was like, I’m just gonna shoot the ball and do my thing and it’s gonna come.”

► The Irish pulled an abrupt about-face on the turnover issue that plagued them much of the contest, and then pulled away because of it.

The 23 cough-ups they committed across the game’s first 32:54 accounted for their second-highest total of the season, behind only the 25 in their overtime loss against Georgia, yet they never gave up another one after that.

“I think we over-complicated things,” Ivey said. “We just had to keep it simple, and we finally did that more in the second half, and definitely in the fourth quarter.”

Jan 27, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Sonia Citron (11) goes up for a shot as Syracuse Orange guard Teisha Hyman (5) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame kept hunting transition opportunities, even amid its prolonged stretches of shaky ball-handling.

Syracuse threw both zone and man presses at the Irish most of the way — despite the visitors’ also barely using their bench (nine minutes, all by one player).

“I knew they were battling some injuries and some of their forwards didn’t even travel,” Ivey said, “so that was an area we kind of talked about, that we wanted to make sure we continue to get out and run, because their numbers were low.”

Some of ND’s running was fueled by its utterly dominant rebounding performance.

The Irish doubled up the Orange in rebounds, 58-29, including 20 offensive ones, keying a 17-6 advantage in second-chance points.

“We talk about running, talk about our pace, and we can’t start our pace if we don’t get the rebounds,” Ivey said, “so that’s something we really focus on, in man and zone.”

Jan 27, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Niele Ivey high fives guard Olivia Miles (5) as she leaves the court in the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

► It was an eventful night for Miles, though the good certainly outweighed some bad.

“She almost had a quadruple-double, actually,” Ivey said with a laugh in response to a question about Miles’ near triple-double while referencing the point guard’s seven turnovers.

Miles committed three of those in the first 2:51 of the third quarter as Syracuse trimmed a 39-31 halftime deficit to 43-40.

She came out for the next three minutes, and then when she returned with the Irish up 47-44, she promptly drilled back-to-back 15-footers to expand her team’s lead to seven.

Bottom line, per Ivey, “I think it’s phenomenal what she’s doing as a freshman.”

Worth noting I

Sophomore forward Nat Marshall will miss the rest of the season with a medial meniscus tear in her knee, according to Ivey.

Without Marshall and with sidelined Katlyn Gilbert missing a seventh straight game, the Irish were down to eight available scholarship players.

Marshall never played during her freshman season while rehabbing an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in December of her senior year in high school.

She appeared in 13 games this season, averaging 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 8.5 minutes.

Worth noting II

The Irish made a rare change to their lineup, starting Citron over Anaya Peoples.

With the exception of one November game in which Peoples was unavailable, ND had featured the same lineup in every contest this season.

“I just wanted to shake things up,” Ivey said. “Soni’s been playing really well. I feel like I have (more than five) starters.”

Who's hot

Mabrey from 3-point land.

She drained 4-of-9 outside the arc, leaving her at 18-of-38 over her last six games on the heels of a career-worst 0-for-9 against DePaul.

Jan 27, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) goes up for a shot as Syracuse Orange forward Alaysia Styles (4) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Mabrey’s been especially lethal in ACC play at 25-of-50.

Who's not

Peoples from the field.

Her 0-of-3 left her at 1-of-13 over her last six games, though in fairness to the junior, she’s not counted upon for scoring nearly to the extent she is for defense.

Up next

The Irish look to avenge their 73-71 loss 10 days earlier when they host Boston College (14-6, 5-4) at 2 p.m. Sunday.

NOTRE DAME 83, SYRACUSE 62

NOTRE DAME (15-4): Dodson 5-8 3-4 13, Westbeld 4-11 2-4 10, Citron 5-8 2-2 13, Mabrey 4-10 0-0 12, Miles 6-12 3-3 17, Brunelle 7-12 0-0 15, Peoples 0-3 0-0 0, Prohaska 1-3 0-0 3, Cernugel 0-0 0-0 0, Cha 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 32-67 10-13 83

Syracuse 21 | 10 | 17 | 14—62

Notre Dame 19 | 20 | 14 | 30—83

3-Point Goals—Syracuse 3-20 (Styles 0-2, Christ.Carr 1-4, Chrisl.Carr 1-4, Hyman 0-2, Murray 1-8), Notre Dame 9-22 (Westbeld 0-2, Citron 1-2, Mabrey 4-9, Miles 2-5, Brunelle 1-2, Prohaska 1-2). Assists—Syracuse 11 (Hyman 8), Notre Dame 15 (Miles 9). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Syracuse 29 (Hyman 8), Notre Dame 58 (Citron 12). Total Fouls—Syracuse 19, Notre Dame 8. Technical Fouls—None. A—4,493.