Duke women snag first place in ACC with first-ever win over Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — With no Lauren Ebo for a third straight game, and nearly no offense in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame’s no longer in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, either.

No. 16-ranked Duke outscored the No. 9 Irish 9-6 during the fourth period of a 57-52 women’s basketball win Sunday afternoon before a sellout crowd listed at 9,149 in Purcell Pavilion.

The Blue Devils (20-3, 10-2) moved into sole possession of the top spot in the ACC, while ND (18-4, 9-3) slipped into a second-place tie with Florida State. Four other clubs are just a game back of the Irish at 8-4.

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Maddy Westbled led all players with 15 points and ND with seven rebounds while playing all 40 minutes for the shorthanded Irish. Sonia Citron added 14 points while logging 36 minutes.

By her own lofty standards, All-American candidate Olivia Miles struggled.

Navigating foul trouble most of the day, the sophomore point guard scored 11 points in 31 minutes, but that came on just 4-of-11 from the field and 2-of-4 at the line, to accompany a season-low two assists against three turnovers.

On the other hand, she was also the lone player to tally for ND in the fourth quarter, notching all six of the home team’s points.

Celeste Taylor was the only individual in double digits for Duke with 14 points — she had game highs of eight rebounds and five assists, too — but the deep Devils dominated in points off the bench at 21-4.

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► ND’s six fourth-period points was a season low for any quarter. The output came on just 2-of-13 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 at the line.

The Irish closed with by far their lowest game total at home, the previous low occurring in a 70-47 win over Florida State, and it was their second-lowest overall, narrowly behind a 60-50 loss at North Carolina.

“Some of our opportunities were in transition and we didn’t capitalize with those,” ND coach Niele Ivey said of the final quarter. “Some of our shots (in half-court sets), I thought they were good looks, a little bit short. We felt like we did a good job finding the open person. We just didn’t nail the shots.”

Feb 5, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Niele Ivey watches in the first half against the Duke Blue Devils at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Often that open person was the team’s rawest player in early enrollee Cass Prosper. She went 0-of-5 from the field in the quarter and 1-of-8 for the game.

“I thought we didn’t give easy shots to their players that have been scoring,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said of the final period, “maybe forced some other people to take some shots. … We buckled down and were very disciplined and didn’t foul.”

Miles’ triple pulled the Irish to within 53-52 at 3:15 remaining, but they would never score again.

Off an ND timeout at 55-52, Miles got downhill on a drive into the lane, but Reigan Richardson stole the pass at eight seconds to go.

The Irish had to foul twice after that to get the Devils into the bonus at 5.6 seconds left, at which point Elizabeth Balogun sank two free throws to clinch the outcome.

► The Irish missed Ebo, their grad student center who sat out a third straight game with an undisclosed ailment in the right foot area.

ND’s 1-2 without her, also losing 69-65 a week earlier at North Carolina State.

“Paint presence,” Ivey said of how Ebo’s absence was most felt “Duke outscored us in the paint (26-22, the first time in eight games the Irish haven’t won that category). Ebo does a great job being a great scorer on the block. Her size, ability to rebound and her post defense, we’re lacking that right now.”

Feb 5, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard KK Bransford (14) goes up for a shot as Duke Blue Devils forward Mia Heide (42) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On the season, Ebo’s averaging 9.9 points, and in ACC play, she leads ND at 8.1 rebounds.

A timeline for her possible return has not been made clear.

“Every day, I’m just getting more and more feedback,” Ivey said of input from the team’s medical staff and trainers. “She’s been working really hard with her rehab. I have a great performance team, so every day, they’ll just update me, so it’s kind of day to day.”

► Duke capitalized on its depth — and on ND’s being compromised through the domino-effect losses of Ebo and grad guard Dara Mabrey, whose season-ending injury two weeks ago still remains a relatively new adjustment for the team.

The Devils received 21 points from their bench over 59 collective minutes.

The Irish received four over 36 from theirs, and 29 of those minutes belonged to Prosper, who netted two points.

Without Mabrey and Ebo, ND’s seven most utilized players Sunday included three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen, while Duke had a grad student and a pair of seniors logging regular action.

“A lot of our different lineups are players that have not been in this moment,” Ivey said, referring particularly to late-game situations. “Normally, those moments were with Dara, who has been around five years, and Ebo.”

Added Ivey, “You just have to be in it, learn a lot, and just have the confidence in those moments. (The younger players) are gaining that. Even with a loss, they’re gaining my trust. They know that I trust them, and those opportunities are going to present themselves again, and they’ll have been in those moments, so it’s going to help us down the road.”

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► Westbeld drew high praise from both sides in the first 40-minute game of the junior’s career.

“I thought Maddy was amazing,” Ivey said. “Gave me everything, left it on the floor. Soni as well had to do a lot. I required both of them to do a lot, so I really appreciate the way they led us.”

“We struggled to guard Westbeld,” Lawson said. “Boy, was she terrific, and Citron. They’re just hard to guard, and my brain hurts.”

Feb 5, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Maddy Westbeld (21) shoots over Duke Blue Devils guard Taya Corosdale (5) in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Who's hot

Westbeld and Citron combined to go 13-of-27 from the field with a 3-pointer apiece, while the rest of the team closed 8-of-25 with one triple.

Who's not

Prosper’s 1-of-8 from the field left her just 8-of-42 over ND’s last seven games, including 3-of-18 from distance.

Worth noting

The sellout was Notre Dame's second home one of the season — Connecticut being the other — and the first for an ACC game since March of the 2018-19 national runner-up season.

Ivey was intentional and effusive in first addressing that after the game.

“I’m just really appreciative of the energy,” she said. “Our fans, they’re just so amazing. Everywhere we go on campus and in the community, they just love this group. They embrace me and they embrace this group, so I’m just so grateful to have such an incredible atmosphere. Unfortunately, we fell short today, but I know it’s part of our growth, part of our journey.”

Feb 5, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Cassandre Prosper (4) Duke Blue Devils guard Celeste Taylor (0) and Duke Blue Devils center Kennedy Brown (21) reach for a rebound in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Up next

The Irish play the second of four straight home games when Pittsburgh (8-15, 1-11) visits for a 6 p.m. tip Thursday.

The host Panthers snapped a 10-game losing streak Sunday with a 60-51 win over Virginia.

No. 16 Duke 57, No. 9 Notre Dame 52

DUKE (20-3): Brown 1-4 0-0 2, Balogun 3-9 2-2 9, Day-Wilson 3-11 3-5 9, Richardson 1-3 0-0 2, Taylor 5-13 2-2 14, Corosdale 3-5 1-1 8, Heide 2-2 1-2 5, de Jesus 0-2 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Oliver 4-6 0-0 8, Totals 22-55 9-12 57NOTRE DAME (18-4): Watson 0-0 2-4 2, Westbeld 7-14 0-2 15, Bransford 2-5 2-2 6, Citron 6-13 1-2 14, Miles 4-11 2-4 11, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Prosper 1-8 0-0 2, Marshall 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 21-52 7-14 52

Duke1213239— 57
Notre Dame1615156— 52

3-Point Goals_Duke 4-16 (Balogun 1-2, Day-Wilson 0-3, Richardson 0-1, Taylor 2-7, Corosdale 1-2, de Jesus 0-1), Notre Dame 3-11 (Westbeld 1-3, Citron 1-2, Miles 1-4, Prosper 0-2). Assists_Duke 13 (Taylor 5), Notre Dame 7 (Miles 2, Westbeld 2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Duke 37 (Taylor 8), Notre Dame 33 (Westbeld 7). Total Fouls_Duke 12, Notre Dame 16. Technical Fouls_None. A_9,149.