Women's basketball: Dara Mabrey scores 19 in No. 9 Notre Dame's win over Ball State

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Nov 20, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) talks to guard Olivia Miles (5) in the first half against the Ball State Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Ignited by the deadeye 3-point shooting of Dara Mabrey and further fueled by promising freshman KK Bransford’s best Notre Dame outing yet, the ninth-ranked Irish stormed to a 95-60 women’s college basketball win over Ball State on Sunday evening at Purcell Pavilion.

Mabrey scored all of her game-high 19 points in the opening 18 minutes, helping ND toward a 54-27 lead by halftime.

Bransford tallied 14 of her 16 during the middle two periods as the Irish outscored the Cardinals 49-26 in those quarters for a 76-44 advantage entering the fourth.

More:Notre Dame women add another 5-star guard to recruiting class in Hannah Hidalgo

Sophomore Olivia Miles added a smorgasbord of mesmerizing passes on her way to 13 points and 11 assists — that 11th assist coming before her second turnover.

“We’re just scratching the surface, so that makes me excited,” ND coach Niele Ivey said. “I love that each night is a different rotation that does well together. For me, it’s great just to see different pieces gelling together. Cohesively, I feel like we’re really getting better every day.”

The Irish (4-0) put six players in double figures, including Sonia Citron at 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals; Lauren Ebo with 11 points and game highs of 10 rebounds and three blocks; and Jenna Brown at 10 points in 16 minutes.

BSU (2-2) was paced by sophomore Madelyn Bischoff with 15 points.

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► After becoming the career leader in collegiate 3-pointers among all the Mabrey siblings during her last outing, Dara added five more to her count Sunday — then got a treat near the end of the game when she saw sister Marina walk into the arena.

The two have playfully talked smack at times over the years, but that wasn’t the case when Dara — now at 281 triples between ND and Virginia Tech — recently passed Marina, who finished her Irish career in 2019 at a program-record 274.

“Actually it was all support this time,” Dara said of Marina’s reaction. “It’s a little different because it’s my last go-around, so things are a lot more emotional.”

For both sisters.

“She had a couple tears when I saw her walk in,” Dara said. “She just got off the flight from Italy (where Marina plays in a pro league during the WNBA offseason), and made like the last minute.”

Nov 20, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) pauses on the bench in the second half against the Ball State Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Dara was already expecting to see her sis Sunday, but not before the game was over.

The sooner, the better.

“When I work out in Rolfs,” Dara said of ND’s practice facility, “I see her WNBA banner … and to be able to break her record means a whole lot to me, because behind the scenes, people don’t really know how much she’s done for me. She’s my biggest role model and I literally try to model my game off her.”

Mabrey drained five of her first seven 3-point attempts against the Cardinals on her way to 5-of-10 for the night.

Afterwards, Marina was not the only sibling occupying Dara’s mind.

Nov 20, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting guard Jenna Brown (0) reacts after a basket in the first half against the Ball State Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

She admitted she was anxious to get to a TV to see at least part of brother Ryan Mabrey’s game against Indiana in Indianapolis.

The RedHawks lost to the Hoosiers 86-56. Ryan netted one trey among his seven points off the bench to move his 3-point total to four through five games.

Starting with oldest sibling Roy, who pumped in 264 triples at Saint Anselm in New Hampshire, and including Michaela’s 228 when she played for Notre Dame, the five Mabreys have now converted 1,047 collegiately.

Dara’s still got most of this season to go, and she hopes Ryan is barely getting started.

“So proud,” Dara said of her baby brother. “He’s like my best friend. … He battled a lot of injuries throughout high school and I’m just excited he’s on a big stage now with a lot of support, because that’s what he deserves. He’s a hooper.”

More:Did Notre Dame's women's basketball win its imaginary off-season trade? Probably

► While Bransford has appeared mostly undaunted by the physical aspect of the college game, the two-time Ohio Ms. Basketball has begun her ND career with some struggling moments as well.

Not Sunday, though.

Bransford’s 16 points came on 4-of-8 from the field and 8-of-8 at the line in 21 minutes off the bench. She added a best-to-date five rebounds.

That after being limited to 3-of-13 from the field and 12 points in 56 minutes over her first three games.

“It’s definitely a process, the whole kind of transition into college,” Bransford said. “(Tonight) was special for me. I think it was special for my teammates to kind of see what I can bring to the team. They’ve been really big in supporting me, the coaching staff, everybody.”

Gathering for Gaither

Nearly 25 years after her Irish career ended, and accompanied by a couple warm ovations, a visibly touched Katryna Gaither became the eighth individual inducted into the Notre Dame Ring of Honor on the women’s side.

“I’m so emotional right now,” Gaither confessed to the crowd of 3,438 after watching a pregame video tribute on the big board and seeing her spotlighted banner revealed in the rafters with the house lights turned low.

“I didn’t want to cry,” she said through a sob, “(but) here we go.”

Nov 20, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Former Notre Dame player Katryna Gaither is inducted into the Notre Dame Ring of Honor before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ball State Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In a speech that lasted about four minutes as she stood at center court, Gaither saluted many, including her parents.

“My father would have loved to have been here,” Gaither said. “He’s a diehard Notre Dame fan since the age of 4, so this is for him and his dream.”

Gaither thanked her head coach, Muffet McGraw, “for having faith in me, for yelling at me and for (giving me) that mental toughness that we all need.”

Gaither also gave a shout out to assistant Carol Owens, her ex-teammates and to the fans who are “like family.”

An honorable mention All-American, Gaither helped lead the Irish to their first Final Four as a senior in 1997. She finished No. 2 in both career scoring and rebounding, and now stands fourth on both lists.

Who's hot

The Irish on the glass over their last three games.

They outrebounded the Cardinals 50-24 after posting advantages of 42-26 against Cal and 58-32 against Northwestern.

They’ve grabbed 54 offensive boards in those contests while giving up 33.

Nov 20, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Sonia Citron (11) goes up for a shot in the second half against the Ball State Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Who's not

ND with its ball-handling.

Though the Irish have cracked 90 points in each of their last three games, they’ve coughed up 62 turnovers, including 23 Sunday, while opponents have committed 48.

“I think we can do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Ivey said, “and it’s something I’ll continue to look at.”

Up next

The Irish head to the Bahamas for two games as part of the Goombay Splash in Bimini.

ND faces American University (0-3) at 4:15 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day, then meets Arizona State (4-0) either Friday or Saturday.

If the Irish beat American, their second game will be 3:15 p.m. Saturday; if they lose, their second game will be at 4:15 Friday.

Nov 20, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Niele Ivey talks to guard Jenna Brown (0) in the first half against the Ball State Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Notre Dame 95, Ball St. 60

BALL ST. (2-2): Dis Agustsdottir 4-10 0-0 11, Rauch 0-1 0-0 0, Richard 3-8 2-4 8, Clephane 0-3 3-4 3, Muhl 0-0 0-0 0, Kiefer 4-12 2-2 10, Barreto 0-2 0-0 0, Becki 2-12 0-0 4, Bolden 4-6 0-2 8, Shafer 0-0 1-2 1, Bischoff 4-11 5-6 15, Totals 21-65 13-20 60

NOTRE DAME (4-0): Watson 1-1 0-0 2, Westbeld 2-3 2-2 6, Citron 6-11 1-2 14, Mabrey 6-12 2-2 19, Miles 4-7 4-4 13, Ebo 4-8 3-6 11, Bransford 4-8 8-8 16, Brown 4-5 2-2 10, Cernugel 0-0 0-0 0, Cha 0-1 0-0 0, Marshall 1-3 2-2 4, Totals 32-59 24-28 95

Ball State189171660
Notre Dame2727221995

3-Point Goals—Ball St. 5-17 (Dis Agustsdottir 3-5, Rauch 0-1, Clephane 0-1, Kiefer 0-3, Becki 0-2, Bolden 0-1, Bischoff 2-4), Notre Dame 7-17 (Citron 1-3, Mabrey 5-10, Miles 1-2, Bransford 0-1, Cha 0-1). Assists—Ball St. 10 (Dis Agustsdottir 2, Shafer 2), Notre Dame 21 (Miles 11). Fouled Out—Ball St. Rauch, Bolden. Rebounds—Ball St. 24 (Kiefer 8), Notre Dame 50 (Ebo 10). Total Fouls—Ball St. 22, Notre Dame 16. Technical Fouls—None. A—3,438.