Women's basketball: How No. 7 Notre Dame matches up with Virginia

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Virginia's Sam Brunelle, shown January 8, in Raleigh, N.C. Brunelle, a former Notre Dame player, will not make her triumphant return to Purcell Pavilion Sunday after picking up a flagrant 2/fighting foul against Florida State Thursday night. The penalty carries a suspension for the player's next game.

WHO: Virginia (14-5, 3-5 ACC) vs. No. 7 Notre Dame (15-2, 6-1).

WHEN: Sunday, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion (9,149), Notre Dame.

TICKETS: Available.

WATCH: ACC Network.

LISTEN: WQLQ (99.9 FM; link at UND.com).

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ABOUT VIRGINIA: Ex-Notre Dame player Sam Brunelle will not play Sunday for the Cavaliers. The former Irish fan favorite was assessed a flagrant 2/fighting foul with 3:24 left and ejected from Thursday’s 77-68 loss to Florida State. That penalty carries a suspension from a player’s next game. The incident included FSU’s Sara Bejedi being called for an intentional foul. When Virginia coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton was asked afterwards what explanation she received from officials, she said she was told the “Florida State player grabbed (Brunelle’s) leg,” and that “Sam retaliated by kicking her.” … Brunelle, who played three years at ND before transferring last spring, had a career-high five blocked shots against the Seminoles and 11 points. Overall, she’s averaging 11.4 points and leads the Cavs at 33-of-81 on 3s for 41%. … Without Brunelle, Virginia would be minus two of its top three scorers, as junior swing Mir McLean (12.2 points, team-leading 9.6 rebounds) suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Cavs’ 87-62 loss two weeks ago at then-No. 10 North Carolina State. … Senior forward Camryn Taylor is Virginia’s top scorer at 13.0 to go with 6.0 rebounds. Senior guard Taylor Valladay is averaging 9.2 points and 3.7 assists. … The Cavs led 62-50 in the opening minute of the fourth period against FSU, before giving up 18 straight points on the way to losing for the fourth time in five games, the other three defeats coming against ranked clubs … Inheriting a program that went 5-22 last winter, Agugua-Hamilton is in her first season at Virginia after leading Missouri State to a 74-15 record, two NCAA Tourney appearances and a Sweet 16 trip over her three years there. Former Irish star and longtime ND assistant Beth Cunningham succeeded Agugua-Hamilton as Bears coach.

ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Irish have not played Virginia since January 2020, when visiting ND suffered what remains its most lopsided loss to an unranked team in nearly 34 years. Both sides entered at 7-12, with the Cavaliers snapping an eight-game head-to-head skid. … The nearly three years since that contest marks the longest the Irish have ever gone between games against any league opponent. The 2020-21 matchup was among the casualties when Virginia canceled the bulk of its season related to the pandemic. Then last winter, a matchup scheduled for Charlottesville was postponed twice, first due to health protocols within the Cavalier program and the second time without explanation, before Virginia ultimately forfeited. … All-American candidate Olivia Miles continues to lead ND in scoring (15.8), rebounds (7.5), assists (7.2) and steals (2.4), and she’s coming off a season-high three 3-pointers in Thursday’s 57-54 win at Clemson. Fellow sophomore guard Sonia Citron is at 13.2 points, 6.1 boards and 1.6 steals. Though she went 1-for-8 at Clemson, Citron remains the team’s pacesetter in net field goal efficiency at 55.1. Maddy Westbeld is averaging 10.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, Dara Mabrey 9.9 points and 2.5 assists, and Lauren Ebo 9.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. KK Bransford and Kylee Watson have paired for another 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. … The Irish enter Sunday’s game tied with No. 13 Duke for the ACC lead. Louisville and Florida State are a half-game back at 6-2.

QUOTING: “We’re barely scratching the surface. We’re still winning in a game where we were playing our worst, so playing our best is a little scary. Once we get that, touch (things) up a little, work on our start and our pace from the beginning, it’s gonna be scary for sure.” — Olivia Miles, ND guard, after Thursday’s win.

— By Anthony Anderson