How Notre Dame can beat top-seed, No. 3-ranked N.C. State. They've done it before.

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

To secure a spot in the Elite Eight, all Notre Dame has to manage is something it’s already done — beat No. 3-ranked North Carolina State.

ND (24-8) and the Wolfpack (31-3) collide again at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in an NCAA Tournament women’s basketball regional semifinal in Bridgeport, Conn.

How did the Irish pull that stunner the first time around?

Foremost, ND’s Maya Dodson outplayed reigning All-American Elissa Cunane in the post, the Irish took sparkling care of the ball by matching what’s still a season low with eight turnovers and they flourished while playing far more man-to-man defense than typical.

Feb 1, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maya Dodson (0) goes up for a shot as North Carolina State Wolfpack center Elissa Cunane (33) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame went virtually all man during Monday’s 108-64 dismantling of Oklahoma, too, so between that success and the last meeting with the Wolfpack, expect more of the same.

That first go-around with NC State — Feb. 1 on ND’s home court — was also at times a testy game in which the Irish withstood Abby Prohaska, Sonia Citron and Sam Brunelle all sustaining facial or head injuries over the final 2:11 of the second quarter.

The Irish seemed to derive some emotional juice off that, not that it’s how they want to derive it again.

Prohaska wound up needing eye surgery from her injury and didn’t return to game action until last week.

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Citron and Brunelle, who also hurt her leg, were OK’d to play the second half, but the former finished with the worst shooting game of her career at 1-of-12 from the field — albeit with nine rebounds — and the latter played just seven second-half minutes with two points after a sterling first half in which she tallied eight over 10 minutes.

Dodson led all players with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three steals to go with 9-of-14 field goal shooting while also limiting Cunane’s chances. The 6-5 NC State ace still finished with 13 points on 4-of-5 from the field and 5-of-5 at the line.

Olivia Miles scored 13 points, dished five assists and snatched three steals for ND.

Diamond Johnson led the Pack with 16 points, but was woeful from the field at 6-of-23, including 1-of-10 from distance. Her last two misses were desperation tries in the closing seconds as State sought to tie the game.

Ninth-year Pack coach Wes Moore dropped to 2-7 against Notre Dame — his only losing record against an ACC opponent other than Louisville at 6-9.

It was second-year ND coach Niele Ivey’s first matchup against State because the two teams did not meet during the pandemic-abbreviated 2020-21 season.