Women's basketball: What to know as Notre Dame hosts Syracuse
Olivia Miles saves the day as shorthanded Notre Dame staves off last-placed Pittsburgh
WHO: Syracuse (16-9, 7-7 ACC) vs. No. 10 Notre Dame (19-4, 10-3).
WHEN: Sunday, 4 p.m.
WHERE: Purcell Pavilion (9,149), Notre Dame.
WATCH: ACC Network.
LISTEN: WQLQ (99.9 FM; link at UND.com).
ABOUT SYRACUSE: Scrambling to earn their way into the 68-team NCAA Tournament, the Orange were listed among “the first four out” in ESPN’s latest bracket projections Friday. They enhanced their case Thursday with a 75-67 home win over No. 14 North Carolina, their first victory against a ranked club in five tries this season (they also own a two-point loss to then-No. 6 North Carolina State). … Syracuse features senior guard Dyaisha Fair, the only player besides ND’s Olivia Miles to rank in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring (second at 20.1), assists (fourth at 4.4) and steals (second at 2.5). Fair, at 2,538 in four years, is second among all NCAA active players in career points, behind only fifth-year player Ashley Joens (2,792) of Iowa State. Fair averaged 23.1 across three seasons at Buffalo before joining three fellow Bulls in transferring to Syracuse after Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack was hired by SU last March. … Other leaders for the Orange include sophomore guard Georgia Woolley (11.6 ppg, 2.1 steals), also over from the Bulls; junior guard Teisha Hyman (11.3 ppg, 1.9 steals); 6-1 grad center Dariauna Lewis (9.4 ppg, 9.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks), who arrived this season from Alabama State; and 6-2 grad forward Asia Strong (8.7 ppg, 5.5 rebounds), in from Wichita State. … Strong, a South Bend Riley graduate, has missed the last four games after suffering a lower leg injury during SU’s Jan. 26 win over Virginia. According to a team spokesperson Saturday, Strong “has slowly been returning to action in practice.” Legette-Jack said in a recent media availability that Strong’s return to game action this season will depend on pain tolerance. … Syracuse ranks 74th in the nation among 361 teams in offensive efficiency and 131st defensively (the Irish are 27th and 15th). … Among reserves for the Orange, in town on a Super Bowl Sunday, will be freshman Lexi McNabb, the daughter of ex-NFL star Donovan McNabb, who quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl 18 years ago. Philadelphia, which lost 24-21 to New England that day, is also in this year’s game, against Kansas City.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Irish were deemed the overall No. 10 seed (making them a No. 3 by region) when the NCAA Tourney selection committee released its first top-16 early reveal Thursday night. One more nonbinding reveal is planned for Feb. 23, before actual selections are announced Sunday, March 12. … ND, which needed a fourth-quarter surge to top last-place Pittsburgh 69-63 in ACC play Thursday, downed host Syracuse 72-56 on Jan. 15, but that’s back when they had Dara Mabrey, since sidelined for the season by a leg injury, and Lauren Ebo, who has missed the last four games with a lower body issue. The Irish have gone 2-2 in those four games, with coach Niele Ivey saying after Thursday’s win that Ebo’s progressing, but remains “day to day.” … Olivia Miles had 23 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in the first meeting against the Orange. On the season, she’s at 15.0 points, an ACC-leading 7.2 assists, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals, making her the only player to rank in the league’s top 10 in all four figures. Her 13 assists against Pitt were three more than all other players on both sides combined. … Other ND leaders include Sonia Citron (14.4 ppg, 6.0 rebounds), Maddy Westbeld (11.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.5 blocks) and KK Bransford (8.0 ppg). … Sunday will serve as Notre Dame’s annual “Think Pink” game, designed to heighten awareness and encourage donations in the battle against women’s cancers. Survivors of cancer will be honored on the court. … ND is 38-4 all-time against Syracuse, including 18-0 at home. … This marks the fifth straight year the Irish will play on Super Bowl Sunday. They’ve lost on that occasion the last two seasons, though both times were on the road against top-3 Louisville clubs. All-time, ND’s 10-4 on Super Sunday, including 8-0 during Muffet McGraw’s 33 years.
QUOTING: “That’s what I expect. I know every night we’re gonna get everyone’s best game. We’re their Super Bowl. That’s the expectation. That’s what we inherited being here at Notre Dame.” — Niele Ivey, Irish coach, on Thursday’s close call against Pitt.
— By Anthony Anderson