ND women's basektball: ACC lead on the line when Irish host Duke

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Duke head coach Kara Lawson brings her Blue Devils to town Sunday afternoon with the Atlantic Coast Conference lead on the line when Notre Dame hosts at Purcell Pavilion at 1 p.m..

WHO: No. 16/15 Duke (19-3, 9-2 ACC) vs. No. 9/8 Notre Dame (18-3, 9-2).

WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

TICKETS: Available.

WATCH: Regional Sports Network (Marquee/202 on Comcast).

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

AT STAKE: Winner takes sole possession of the ACC lead, albeit with six more league games remaining. Florida State (9-3) and North Carolina (8-3) are right behind.

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ABOUT DUKE: The Blue Devils seek their third straight win over the Irish, prevailing 72-70 last winter and 50-47 in 2019-20, with both games in Durham, N.C. There was no meeting in 2020-21, when Duke suspended its season due to the pandemic. … The deep Dukies feature 11 players averaging at least 12.7 minutes (one has been out since late December) and could press throughout, per ND coach Niele Ivey. … Individual leaders for the Devils include senior guard Celeste Taylor (11.9 points per game, 2.2 assists, 2.1 steals), senior forward Elizabeth Balogun (10.3 ppg, 5.5 rebounds), who is playing at her third ACC school after time at Georgia Tech and Louisville, sophomore guard Shayeann Day-Wilson (9.6 ppg, 2.5 apg), 6-6 junior center Kennedy Brown (7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 blocks) and sophomore guard Reigan Richardson (6.8 ppg). … Keyed by its defense, Duke is holding opponents to 39.0% net effective shooting from the field, eighth-best in the nation of 361 Division I teams (ND’s ninth at 39.1), while also turning opponents over 24.0% of the time, 29th-best in the country (ND’s just 225th in that one at 18.6). Offensively, the Devils are 123rd in net EFG at 47.1, while the Irish are 37th at 50.8. Both clubs are robust in rebound rate, with Duke 19th at 55.5% to ND’s fifth at 57.9. … The Devils are 2-3 against ranked teams (the Irish 3-3). … Just like ND at No. 6, Duke at No. 10 is a few notches higher in NET ranking, a metric relied on heavily by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, than in the AP and coaches’ polls listed above.

ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Irish open a four-game homestand, matching last winter for their longest in conference play since 1993-94. Last season’s, however, materialized due to a scheduling tweak. The ’93-94 stretch happened while ND was in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. … Olivia Miles — 15.3 points per game, seventh in the ACC; 7.7 rebounds, seventh; 7.1 assists, first; and 2.2 steals, fourth — besides leading Notre Dame in each of those categories, is the only player in the conference to rank in the top 10 in each. Only one other league player (Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair) stands top 10 in as many as three of those measures. … Fellow sophomore guard Sonia Citron is averaging 14.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Citron (23) and Miles (22) are coming off a combined 45 points in Thursday’s 72-59 win at Boston College, matching November’s 92-58 win at Northwestern for their most combined in a game. … Junior Maddy Westbeld’s at 10.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 1.5 blocks; Lauren Ebo 9.9 ppg and 7.0 rpg; KK Bransford 8.1 ppg; and Kylee Watson 6.1 ppg. … Ebo missed a second straight game Thursday. The grad center was on the sideline with a walking boot on her right leg and continued to be termed “day to day.” … The above-mentioned two Duke wins over the Irish sandwiched around the one cancellation means the Devils represent ND’s longest active dry spell against any league opponent in terms of calendar time. The Irish, in the last matchup they hosted, won 89-61 on Feb. 21, 2019, taking a 17-1 lead in the series at the time.

QUOTING: “Normally you have the opportunity to get three years under your belt and then you kind of step into that role, but they’re really forced to be in that role right now. I know they’re learning every day to be a little more vocal, and they know from what we have right now, they have to do more.” — Niele Ivey, Notre Dame coach, on increased responsibilities for Miles, Citron and Westbeld with grad players Ebo and Dara Mabrey sidelined.

— By Anthony Anderson