Women's basketball: Notre Dame pulls away, earns ACC win over Syracuse

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

Highly efficient and typically electrifying, Olivia Miles put the ball on a string and Syracuse on its heels while leading strong-closing Notre Dame to a 72-56 women’s basketball road win over the Orange on Sunday afternoon at the JMA Wireless Dome.

The sophomore point guard scored 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and dealt seven assists against just two turnovers to go with a pair of steals as the No. 7-ranked Irish moved to 14-2 overall, 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Dara Mabrey — who entered the day in the worst three-game long-distance shooting stretch of her five-year college career at 1-of-18 on 3-pointers — added 15 points and swished triples on back-to-back possessions during the final 5:13 as ND pulled away.

Jan 15, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) shoots the ball as Syracuse Orange guard Dyaisha Fair (left) looks on during the second half at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish made 31-of-64 shots from the field for 48.4% with seven treys while their defense limited the Orange (13-5, 4-3) to 24-of-67 for 35.8% with four 3-pointers.

Syracuse led 40-38 late in the third quarter, before ND outscored the hosts 34-16 over the final 13:32, the dominance triggered by a Mabrey 2-pointer.

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► Continually finding seams in transition and against Syracuse’s matchup zone, all five of the ever-slick Miles’ first-half baskets came on layups, before four of her six second-half buckets versus the wary Orange came from farther distances.

“I felt like she did a great job of just managing the offense, managing the team,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “She was really feeling it offensively, but she also did a great job of pushing pace in transition. … I just think the game is totally slowing down for her. She’s really comfortable, and against a matchup zone with such athletic guards, I thought she did a really good job of picking her spots.”

Miles’ 23 points and seven assists each led all players. Her seven boards were one behind Lauren Ebo for team-high honors.

Jan 15, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Olivia Miles (5) drives to the basket against the defense of Syracuse Orange guard Teisha Hyman (4) during the second half at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

► Mabrey’s shooting woes looked like they might continue through another game as she missed her first four long-range attempts.

She never turned shy over it, though, her fifth such try giving ND a 29-25 lead at 1:21 left in the second quarter.

“It sucks being in a shooting slump, but I knew the only way to come out of it was to literally shoot myself out of it,” Mabrey said. “I never lost my confidence. I knew at some point it was gonna be over … but I have to credit my teammates as well, because they keep throwing me the ball through this slump I’ve been in, and that really says a lot about our team collectively.”

Mabrey finished 3-of-11 outside the arc — and she added 3-of-6 inside it for her best scoring game in her last 11 outings.

Her final triple, putting the Irish up 67-52 with 4:13 remaining, was the 300th of Mabrey’s career. She’s at 300-of-784 now for 38.3%.

► Notre Dame, after laboring in the turnover department lately, committed just 11, easily its best figure in its last six games, and did so against a team that was forcing an average of 18.9.

“It was so much better,” Ivey said of ND’s ball security against the Orange. “One of our goals is to have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (Sunday’s 18-11 was the team’s best in its last seven contests).

“It’s something we acknowledge that we need to get better at,” Ivey said of lowering the turnover count. “We’ve worked on it all week. We’ve been working on it all year actually, but we had a really good week of practice working against a really good practice squad that I think has really prepared us.”

Syracuse entered the day averaging 10.9 steals, 20th in the nation, but came away with just seven, and only three across the final three quarters.

► The Orange were averaging 77.9 points, including 87.7 over a three-game winning streak going in, but the defensively stout Irish held them to their second-lowest output of the season — barely bettered only by the 54 then-No. 6 North Carolina State allowed.

“Syracuse has two of the top scorers in the conference,” Ivey said, referring to veteran guards Dyaisha Fair and Teisha Hyman. “I thought we did a great job holding them below their averages.”

Fair, who stood at a 19.9 scoring norm, finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 from the field. Hyman, averaging 13.1, was limited to just four on 2-of-11 shooting.

Worth noting

Jan 15, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maddy Westbeld (21) and Syracuse Orange forward Asia Strong (15) battle for a loose ball during the first half at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Asia Strong, a 2018 Riley High graduate, scored 11 points, second only to Fair’s 14 for the Orange.

The grad center forward added three blocked shots, matching Ebo for game-high honors, and grabbed six rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.

Strong became the second South Bend-grown player to go against the Irish this season, joining Washington graduate and Maryland freshman Mila Reynolds, who logged three minutes in the Terrapins’ 74-72 win at ND on Dec. 1.

Who's hot

Citron, in a sneaky way.

After not attempting a shot until the second quarter and not scoring until her 3-pointer put the Irish up 50-45 entering the final period, the sophomore guard still finished with eight points on 3-of-4 from the field.

Who's not

Maddy Westbeld shot 2-of-8 from the field, but it felt ironic, because she was the core to much of ND’s early success.

The junior forward still wound up with seven points, six rebounds and four assists.

Up next

The Irish return to the road for a 7 p.m. game Thursday at Clemson (12-7, 3-4), then welcome Virginia (14-4, 3-4) to Purcell Pavilion next Sunday.

No. 7 Notre Dame 72, Syracuse 56 

NOTRE DAME (14-2): Watson 2-5 0-0 4, Westbeld 2-8 2-2 7, Citron 3-4 0-0 8, Mabrey 6-17 0-1 15, Miles 11-15 0-0 23, Ebo 2-6 0-0 4, Bransford 4-6 1-2 9, Prosper 1-3 0-0 2, Totals 31-64 3-5 72 

SYRACUSE (13-5): Lewis 1-3 0-1 2, Wood 4-6 0-0 8, Fair 6-16 0-2 14, Hyman 2-11 0-0 4, Woolley 4-14 0-0 9, Strong 4-10 3-4 11, Rice 3-7 1-2 8, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 24-67 4-9 56 

Notre Dame16151922— 72 
Syracuse16101911— 56 

3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 7-18 (Westbeld 1-1, Citron 2-2, Mabrey 3-11, Miles 1-2, Bransford 0-1, Prosper 0-1), Syracuse 4-21 (Fair 2-7, Hyman 0-3, Woolley 1-6, Strong 0-2, Rice 1-3). Assists_Notre Dame 18 (Miles 7), Syracuse 11 (Hyman 5). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Notre Dame 42 (Ebo 8), Syracuse 39 (Wood 9). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 13, Syracuse 7. Technical Fouls_None. A_3,736.