'I blacked out.' Notre Dame's Olivia Miles hits OT buzzer-beater to sink Louisville
SOUTH BEND — All by virtue of one shot, Olivia Miles gave Notre Dame its first buzzer-beating women’s basketball win since Arike Ogunbowale hit similar baskets twice at the 2018 Final Four, capped a spine-tingling game that was worthy of its dramatic ending, and exorcised the demonic dominance that Louisville’s streak over the Irish had become.
“I blacked out,” Miles said regarding some of the details to her dagger, which was followed by teammates mobbing her.
“I’m almost speechless,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said.
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Miles’ pull-up 18-footer from the right wing — a spot almost identical to both of Ogunbowale’s legendary launches — lifted ND past the Cardinals 78-76 in overtime before a frenzied crowd of about 5,000 on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.
As a bonus, the No. 10-ranked Irish (21-4, 12-3) jumped back into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference with No. 9 Duke (22-4, 12-3).
The Blue Devils were 61-45 losers at No. 11 Virginia Tech (21-4, 11-4), which stands a game ahead of Louisville (19-9, 10-5), Miami and No. 24 Florida State for third in the league standings.
Kylee Watson unleashed a second straight powerful performance for ND, scoring a game-high and Irish personal high of 20 points that included 8-of-8 shooting from the field.
In a topsy-turvy scrum featuring 14 ties and 13 lead changes, Miles closed a dime shy of her fourth career triple-double at 18 points to accompany game highs of 11 rebounds and nine assists against six turnovers.
Sonia Citron added 15 points and KK Bransford 10.
Hailey Van Lith led the Cardinals with 19 points and all players with five steals. Chrislyn Carr added 15 points.
Louisville had beaten the Irish six straight times — including 73-47 and 86-64 blowouts last season — for ND’s longest active skid against anybody.
“Just unbelievable,” Ivey said of the win. “It was so many moments from so many different players on the team. Such a collective team effort, a collective team win, a confidence builder.”
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► Miles drained a contested shot under time-sensitive duress to cap the comeback win.
After a timeout at 3.8 seconds left in a 76-76 deadlock, Citron inbounded from the right side in the Irish forecourt.
Watson received the pass about 2 feet above the arc, back to the basket, and made an underhanded pitch to an on-the-move Miles in stride.
The sophomore point guard took one dribble toward the right wing, before a pair of Cardinal defenders converged to seal a seam to the basket.
Miles pulled up, her momentum carrying her right and canned her slightly off-balance jumper as the horn sounded.
“The play (sort of) worked out how it was supposed to work out,” Miles said. “It was really for a drive, but the bigs on Louisville always high-hedge, so I kind of had to go around, and then I didn’t have enough time to get to the rim, so I just shot it. So it worked out, but not according to plan exactly.”
“That shot is what you call separation,” Ivey said. “That was unbelievable. The fight from this team — we were down nine (at 7:47 remaining in the fourth quarter), came back and fought through a lot of adversity.”
Just like both of Ogunbowale’s historic shots in 2018, this one came in front of a national TV audience on ESPN. Just like both of those, the game was tied. Just like both of those, this one happened off the dribble and was reasonably defended.
Just like the one in the 91-89 semifinal win over UConn, this game went overtime — there was actually one second left after Ogunbowale’s 19-footer — and just like Ogunbowale’s 21-footer in the 61-58 title-game win over Mississippi State, this one came right as time expired.
► Watson, following up her season-high 15 points in ND’s 73-64 win over Syracuse, was even better, with every drop of her effort needed.
She added five rebounds and four assists against one turnover, even with the official box not crediting her with an assist on Miles’ game-winner.
“I feel like a lot of it’s just mental for me,” the junior forward said of her recent rise in production. “Just come in, play with confidence, not really caring what other people may say and just playing for my teammates and kind of letting the game come to me.”
A transfer from Oregon, Watson finished one point off her career high last season for the Ducks, although those 21 came in a 109-38 demolition of McNeese State, not in a battle to the wire.
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Watson’s inside moves often befuddled the Cards, and she was repeatedly targeted on designed plays as she helped compensate for fellow forward Maddy Westbeld being off her usual offensive game at 2-of-8 from the field and five points (although all five were critical ones over the final 1:13 of regulation).
“I went to her with about a minute left,” Ivey said of calling Watson’s number on a play that put the Irish ahead 74-72 at 1:24 remaining in OT. “She just played so tough, and did exactly what we needed her to do defensively.”
Watson figured in all eight ND overtime points, scoring four and making passes for the other four.
Hounded by Louisville defenders on one block along the baseline, she calmly found an open Cass Prosper for a basket on the opposite block to put the Irish up 76-72 with 15 seconds remaining.
Van Lith scored on a drive at 9.1 seconds to go, narrowing the spread to 76-74, and then after Miles turned the ball over in the backcourt at 6.0 ticks, the Cards’ Olivia Cochran tallied inside to tie the game at 3.8 showing.
Watson then made that final pass to set up Miles’ game-winner.
“I knew Liv was gonna get a bucket if I gave it to her,” Watson said, “and she did.”
► Grad center Lauren Ebo made her return for the Irish after missing the previous five games due to a lower body injury.
Still restricted, she played just five minutes — hitting her only shot and grabbing three rebounds — but having her back was an encouraging development.
“We were so excited,” Ivey said. “It’s so hard watching her on the sideline. She’s our energy, and her being a grad senior, she wants to play, wants to play for this team, so I know it’s so hard, so frustrating for her. So happy that she’s been progressing.”
Added Ivey of the plan going forward for Ebo, who entered the night averaging 9.9 points and 7.0 rebounds, “we’re just slowly trying to give her a little bit more minutes” each game.
Watson from the field. Over her last five games, she’s 17-of-21.
Watson from the line. Over those same five games, she’s 13-of-26, although that includes 10-of-15 over the last two, topped by a pair of makes that tied Thursday’s contest at 72-72 in OT.
The Irish visit Pittsburgh for a 2 p.m. rematch Sunday of ND’s 69-63 home win over the Panthers 11 days earlier.
Suddenly surging Pitt (10-16, 3-12) has won three of its last four, its lone loss during that stretch being the one against the Irish.
No. 10 Notre Dame 78, Louisville 76, OT
LOUISVILLE (19-9): Cochran 3-8 0-0 6, Harris 2-5 0-0 4, Konno 0-2 0-0 0, Robinson 2-6 5-6 9, Van Lith 8-16 0-0 19, Dixon 3-4 0-0 6, Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Carr 6-9 0-0 15, Jones 4-9 1-2 9, Russell 1-2 1-2 4, Totals 31-64 7-10 76
NOTRE DAME (21-4): Watson 8-8 4-7 20, Westbeld 2-8 1-1 5, Bransford 3-4 4-4 10, Citron 6-18 0-0 15, Miles 6-15 5-5 18, Ebo 1-1 0-0 2, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Prosper 3-5 0-1 6, Marshall 1-3 0-0 2, Totals 30-62 14-18 78
3-Point Goals—Louisville 7-12 (Cochran 0-1, Van Lith 3-4, Williams 0-1, Carr 3-4, Russell 1-2), Notre Dame 4-14 (Westbeld 0-2, Citron 3-8, Miles 1-2, Prosper 0-2). Assists—Louisville 16 (Robinson 5), Notre Dame 18 (Miles 9). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds_Louisville 36 (Van Lith 6), Notre Dame 33 (Miles 11). Total Fouls—Louisville 14, Notre Dame 13. Technical Fouls—None. A—5,245.