Notre Dame women beat N.C. State to set up ACC Tournament semifinal rematch with Louisville
For a second straight game, Sonia Citron’s performance in Olivia Miles’ absence was as loud as her demeanor is quiet.
That performance bordered on deafening as the Notre Dame sophomore led the Irish to a 66-60 win over North Carolina State in Friday’s Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals at Greensboro, N.C.
Citron scored 28 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished five assists and made two steals as top-seeded and No. 10-ranked ND (25-4) advanced to a noon semifinal Saturday against Louisville (22-10).
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The unflinching Irish overcame Miles, their season-long floor general and the ACC player of the year runner-up, missing the game due to the second-quarter knee injury she suffered in last Sunday’s 68-65 victory over Louisville.
“This was just an amazing win under the circumstances,” coach Niele Ivey said after the Irish knocked off the three-time ACC Tourney defending champion Wolfpack. “We’ve had a lot of challenges, a lot of adversity, but one thing I know about my team is that we are tough, and I think that was on full display today.”
Ivey did not address following the game how soon Miles could return, but indicated Thursday night on ESPN that it might not be at least until the NCAA Tournament, saying “we won’t really know until probably after the weekend.”
Junior Maddy Westbeld scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for ND. Lauren Ebo, who did not play in the team’s 69-65 regular-season loss at NC State due to injury, added eight points and six boards.
Saniya Rivers and Aziaha James paced the Pack (20-11) with 14 points apiece.
NC State was playing its fifth straight game without junior guard Diamond Johnson, its leading scorer on the season at 12.3 points.
► Citron was dazzling again with Miles sidelined.
She had scored 17 of her then-season-high 27 points in the second half on Sunday as the Irish rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit for their 68-65 win over Louisville, then one-upped that total against the Pack.
“I know my team needs me and I’m going to try to contribute in any way I can,” Citron said. “I guess being the point guard since Liv is out, I’m still learning a lot, but I have a lot of help from my teammates and my coaches.”
Citron became the first ND player since All-American Arike Ogunbowale in February 2018 to score at least 25 points in back-to-back outings.
“She’s the most unselfish player I think I've ever been around,” Ivey said. “She’s so coachable, she loves this team and she’s playing for this team. She’s like, ‘Whatever you need from me coach, I'm gonna do it,’ so when you have anybody unselfish like that, things like this happen.”
NC State coach Wes Moore, coming off his 800th career win in Thursday’s second-round win over Syracuse, came away impressed with Citron.
“She’s a great player, great scorer,” Moore said. “We had a hard time trying to beat her to spots. She was able to turn the corner. She got to the foul line quite a bit (going 11-of-15). We gotta learn when you’re guarding somebody like that, you have to really cheat to the ball and try to lead them instead of chasing them. She’s really good at reading it coming off picks. She presents a lot of challenges. She’s got the length to be able to get her shot over people as well, but a very talented player and (she’s) done a great job of kind moving over to the point spot and taking over.”
► Westbeld shook off a frigid start to put the Irish ahead for good when she erupted for the final seven points of the second period, capped by a right-wing 3-pointer for a 25-22 halftime count.
“I personally started a little slow, so I was just kind of letting the game come to me,” said Westbeld, who missed her first five shots and was scoreless until the 2:47 mark of the second quarter.
She finished 3-of-6 from outside the arc, draining one more triple than the Pack converted in 15 attempts as a team.
“We’re not gonna hit shots all the time, so we have to rely on something, and great teams always fight back on defense,” Westbeld said, “so that’s where I tried to set the tone with my team and just let that fuel us on the offensive end.”
Westbeld (1,014) cracked 1,000 points for her career, becoming the 42nd player to do so in an ND uniform and the first since Jessica Shepard and Jackie Young added their names during the 2018-19 season.
► The Irish, as Westbeld referenced, relied heavily on their defense, including giving up just four points in the second quarter.
“Whenever we’re in huddles, I always say, ‘Let’s focus on the defense and that will turn into offense,” Ebo said.
ND held NC State to just 22-of-60 shooting from the field for 36.7%, including the 2-of-15 from distance. The Irish countered with 22-of-50 for 44% plus four treys, helping them to overcome their 19 turnovers to the Pack’s 13.
ND alternated between zone and man-to-man defensive looks, with NC State appearing slow at times to adjust.
“The game kind of dictates what we do,” Ivey said, citing a preference for man when more shooters are in and a preference for zone for countering bigs or for getting “wind back,” a necessity for the shorthanded Irish.
Freshman KK Bransford played 39 minutes, Citron 38, Westbeld 36 and freshman Cass Prosper 31, hers coming off the bench.
ND’s depth took another hit when Nat Marshall was inadvertently elbowed in the eye by Prosper with three minutes to go in the second quarter and never returned.
“I’m not sure,” Ivey said of whether Marshall would be available Saturday.
Meanwhile, assistant coach Charel Allen was not at the game for personal reasons.
Miles and the likewise hobbled Dara Mabrey, out for the season with her knee injury, assumed spots next to the coaching staff rather than the more customary far end of the bench for sidelined players.
They were regularly up and about giving teammates direction and support.
ND’s semifinal against Louisville will be the teams’ third matchup in 17 days.
The Irish prevailed 78-76 in overtime on Miles’ 18-footer at the buzzer on Feb. 16, then added the 68-65 road win last Sunday.
This will be the first time the sides meet three times in the same season.
The Cardinals are 7-2 over their last nine games, the two losses both coming against ND.
No. 10 Notre Dame 66, NC State 60
NC STATE (20-11): Boyd 4-6 0-0 8, Hobby 2-3 0-0 4, Brown-Turner 3-9 4-4 12, James 6-14 2-2 14, Rivers 5-18 4-5 14, Collins 0-2 2-2 2, Baldwin 1-4 0-1 2, Hayes 1-4 2-2 4, Totals 22-60 14-16 60
NOTRE DAME (25-4): Ebo 3-7 2-2 8, Watson 2-3 1-2 5, Westbeld 5-13 2-2 15, Bransford 2-4 1-2 5, Citron 8-18 11-15 28, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Prosper 2-5 1-1 5, Marshall 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 22-50 18-24 66
|NC State||18||4||15||23||— 60|
|Notre Dame||14||11||19||21||— 66|
3-Point Goals_NC State 2-15 (Hobby 0-1, Brown-Turner 2-7, James 0-2, Rivers 0-4, Collins 0-1), Notre Dame 4-9 (Westbeld 3-6, Citron 1-3). Assists_NC State 11 (Rivers 5), Notre Dame 14 (Citron 5). Fouled Out_NC State James, Notre Dame Watson. Rebounds_NC State 28 (Collins 5, James 5), Notre Dame 39 (Westbeld 10). Total Fouls_NC State 17, Notre Dame 20. Technical Fouls_None. A_6,151.
ACC Women's Basketball Tournament
At Greensboro (N.C) Coliseum (All time EST)
First Round – Wednesday, March 1
- No. 12 Wake Forest 68, No. 13 Virginia 57
- No. 10 Clemson 71, No. 15 Pitt 53
- No. 11 Boston College 62, No. 14 Georgia Tech 57
Second Round – Thursday, March 2
- No. 12 Wake Forest 65, No. 5 Florida State 54
- No. 8 N.C. State 83, No. 9 Syracuse 58
- No. 7 North Carolina 68, No. 10 Clemson 58
- No. 6 Miami 84, No. 11 Boston College 69
Quarterfinals – Friday, March 3
- No. 4 Louisville 74, No. 12 Wake Forest 48
- No. 1 Notre Dame 66, No. 8 N.C. State 60
- No. 2 Duke 44, No. 7 North Carolina 40
- No. 3 Virginia Tech vs. No. 6 Miami, 8 p.m. (ACCN)
Semifinals – Saturday, March 4
- No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 1 Notre Dame, Noon (ACCN)
- ACC Semifinal No. 2, 2:30 p.m. (ACCN)
Championship – Sunday, March 5
- Championship, 1 p.m. (ESPN)