Third time's a charm for Louisville in ACC semifinal rout of Notre Dame Saturday
With the final piece on Notre Dame’s pre-NCAA Tournament résumé doubling as the ugliest piece, the Irish now await news on Olivia Miles’ availability, and the selection committee’s interpretation of who the Irish are and where they should be slotted should they not have their sophomore superstar.
Riding a suffocating defensive display, Louisville shredded ND 64-38 in an ACC Tourney women’s basketball semifinal Saturday afternoon at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum.
The top-seeded and 10th-ranked Irish (25-5) matched the second-lowest point total in their 46-year history, behind only a 71-34 loss to San Diego State in March 1981 — the program’s first season in Division I.
Quarterfinal:Notre Dame women beat N.C. State to set up ACC Tournament semifinal rematch with Louisville
“We’re day to day,” ND coach Niele Ivey echoed of a previous statement on whether the injured Miles will be available for the NCAA Tourney. “We won’t know anything (until after) we get back to South Bend.”
The fourth-seeded Cardinals (23-10) scored 12 straight points to turn an 8-7 lead late in the first quarter into a 20-7 spread early in the second.
Louisville led 29-15 by halftime, 50-24 through three quarters and by a high of 62-28 with 7:11 left in the fourth on its way to emphatically avenging 78-76 and 68-65 regular-season losses to the Irish.
Nobody reached double digits for ND — a first this season — with Maddy Westbeld scoring nine points, Sonia Citron eight and Nat Marshall six.
Hailey Van Lith tallied 15 points, Olivia Cochran 12, Mykasa Robinson 10 and Chrislyn Carr 10 for the Cardinals.
► The Irish — their overall body of work glistening enough to warrant a No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament — nonetheless posted a result that might give the selection committee pause should it be determined that Miles won’t play in the tourney.
The committee is charged with considering not only bodies of work, but the makeup of available rosters. Pairings will be revealed March 12.
“I would tell them to look at the end of the (previous) Louisville game and the last game versus NC State,” Ivey said of what she’ll want the committee to weigh if the Irish wind up minus Miles. “That shows who we are. We have had to adjust without having Liv, but (not just) the body of work, but also our last two performances, not counting today, (show) what we’re capable of.”
More:Niele Ivey named ACC coach of the year after leading Notre Dame to regular-season title
Miles, the ACC Player of the Year runner-up and among 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, was sidelined by a right knee injury in the second quarter of ND’s regular-season finale against Louisville.
Without her, the Irish rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Cardinals by three, then topped North Carolina State 66-60 in Friday’s ACC Tourney quarterfinals.
That’s back-to-back wins without Miles over a pair of clubs considered to be locks for the NCAA Tourney.
ND’s a lock, too, but if the Irish slip below a No. 4 seed (meaning a top-16 team overall), then they lose a coveted chance to host in the first two full rounds.
While Louisville coach Jeff Walz didn’t mention seedings, he was emphatic right after hammering the Irish about how special ND’s season remains, highlighted by an outright ACC regular-season crown.
“I think it’s the toughest league in women’s basketball, top to bottom, and to do it over a two-month period, to win the league, is extremely impressive to me,” Walz said. “I have always (thought) the regular-season champion should get the automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament, because that’s the team who showed over two months that they’re the best team, and all of a sudden, a kid sprains an ankle, somebody gets hurt and you lose in a semi or final.”
► Louisville’s defensive work was the runaway difference in a runaway win, assisted by the already thinned-out Irish having to navigate foul concerns.
“They set the tone from the beginning,” Ivey said of the Cardinals. “They went after us, got us into some foul trouble and they pressured us for 40 minutes. We turned the ball over 22 times and didn’t get a chance to really get into a flow offensively.”
Those 22 turnovers, one off ND’s season high, might as well have been more. The Irish committed 19 in the first 27 minutes, at which time, their turnover total was just behind their point total while trailing 45-21.
ND also finished just 16-of-51 from the field for 31.4%, its second-lowest marksmanship of the season, and hit 1-of-10 on 3s, matching a season low.
“What an unbelievable effort we had at the defensive end of the floor,” Walz said. “Our communication was outstanding. We made things extremely difficult for Notre Dame to get into an offense, and I thought it started with the ball pressure.”
Compounding the problem, Irish center Lauren Ebo picked up three first-half fouls, two of them in the first 92 seconds, and wound up playing just 18 minutes.
“We already don’t have a (deep) team,” Citron said, “so we rely on our bigs a lot. We have a great bigs presence, so we definitely try to look to pass it in, so that foul trouble, it was tough for sure just adjusting to that.”
► After Citron poured in 55 points over ND’s previous two games, 45 of those over the six quarters that Miles has missed, the sophomore was bottled up most of the way against Louisville.
The Cards alternated individuals assigned to Citron, attempted to deny her the ball, often doubled her and were particularly physical against her.
Citron finished 3-of-7 from the field with no 3-pointers and 2-of-3 at the line. She’d gone 15-of-31 from the field with four 3s and 21-of-29 at the line over her previous two games.
“I think this game we were there for 40 minutes,” Van Lith said, contrasting her team’s latest effort against Citron to the second halves of the previous two meetings. “We made everything tough. We were staying on handoffs, we were in her body. When she came off screens, we didn’t get screened, we were right back in the pocket, so we didn’t give her any space. She was gonna have to make really tough 2s over us. We just played the percentages there, but she’s a great player and I expect her career to really take off from here.”
The Irish await their assignment in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals face No. 8 Virginia Tech (26-4) in Sunday’s 1 p.m. ACC Tourney championship.
The third-seeded Hokies routed second-seeded Duke 58-37 in Saturday’s second semifinal for their 10th straight win.
Louisville 64, No. 10 Notre Dame 38
LOUISVILLE (23-10): Cochran 5-6 2-4 12, Harris 1-3 4-6 6, Carr 4-13 1-1 10, Robinson 5-7 0-0 10, Van Lith 4-14 7-7 15, Dixon 0-2 0-0 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 2-7 1-2 5, Konno 1-3 0-0 2, Mobley 0-0 0-0 0, Russell 2-4 0-0 4, Totals 24-60 15-20 64
NOTRE DAME (25-5): Ebo 1-5 2-3 4, Watson 2-4 1-4 5, Westbeld 4-12 0-0 9, Bransford 1-7 0-0 2, Citron 3-7 2-3 8, Brown 1-3 0-0 2, Prosper 1-8 0-0 2, Marshall 3-5 0-0 6, Totals 16-51 5-10 38
|Notre Dame||7||8||9||14||— 38|
3-Point Goals_Louisville 1-13 (Carr 1-5, Van Lith 0-4, Williams 0-1, Konno 0-1, Russell 0-2), Notre Dame 1-10 (Westbeld 1-4, Citron 0-2, Brown 0-1, Prosper 0-3). Assists_Louisville 13 (Robinson 5), Notre Dame 9 (Bransford 3, Citron 3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Louisville 42 (Cochran 8, Robinson 8), Notre Dame 30 (Ebo 5, Prosper 5). Total Fouls_Louisville 18, Notre Dame 17. Technical Fouls_None. A_0.