Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
GREENSBORO, NC – Each team was without their best players, so it was next women up at the 2023 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on Friday.
Regular season champion and top seed Notre Dame (25-4) tipped off against the league’s three-time defending tournament champion, NC State (20-11), while Olivia Miles and Dara Mabrey, and Diamond Johnson each looked on from their respective benches.
In the end, the Fighting Irish topped the Wolfpack by a 66-60 margin and advanced to the semifinal round of play to face the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday.
End of the run
For the Wolfpack, the loss snapped a 10-game winning streak they had compiled in Greensboro since 2020 while claiming a ton of tournament hardware.
“Just frustrating,” NC State head coach Wes Moore said.
“Obviously a six-point game, and there’s so many things you look back at. I don’t know if we had quite the same energy we had yesterday, which is kind of disappointing. Yesterday we did such a great job on the boards and really were able to attack, get to the rim, score in the paint. And obviously give Notre Dame a lot of credit, they made it hard for us to do that.”
Bounding and rebounding
Sonia Citron (28 points) and Maddy Westbeld (15 points) did much of the damage offensively for Notre Dame, but timely and critical scores from Lauren Ebo (8 points) off the bench made a difference in keeping NC State from pulling closer late in the game.
Saniya Rivers (14 points), Aziaha James (14 points) and Jakia Brown-Turner (12 points) led the Wolfpack offense, but a poor shooting performance from the perimeter (2-15, 13%), coupled with ineffective offensive rebounding left many points on the table.
“It’s just when teams are good at rebounding, it’s hard getting offensive boards,” Brown-Turner said.
“But we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to try to go around our player and get those boards, and that’s what were going to try to work on for the next upcoming weeks.”
“it’s definitely hard because that’s one thing we always emphasize coming into games. If we want to beat teams like that, we have to box out. If we want to beat teams like that, we have to defend and we didn’t win that battle tonight, and you see the result.”
NC State now awaits its postseason bid which will be announced during the Selection Sunday show for the 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament on Sun, Mar. 12 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Observations and Notes
1st Quarter: Help-side defense from Jada Boyd (8 points, 1 block) was pivotal in slowing Notre Dame’s transition offense – backing up Camille Hobby (4 points, 1 block) early on.
2nd Quarter: Short benches for both teams were evident as both teams were scoreless for the opening four-and-a-half minutes of the period. While NC State struggled from the field, Notre Dame went on a 7-0 run for the final three minutes and took a 25-22 lead at halftime on Maddy Westbeld’s 3-pointer from the top.
3rd Quarter: Notre Dame put together an early 8-2 run. Offensive rebounds by the end of the period were low from both sides – NC State 4, Notre Dame 9
4th Quarter: Citron and Ebo fueled the final offensive push for the Irish. State tried to even it up with a three from Brown-Turner and a turnover score from Boyd with under four minutes to play. A critical offensive board was claimed by Boyd but the ball couldn’t drop on two tries. State trailed 58-51 with 3:17 left. The Wolfpack couldn’t draw fouls even with how physical both teams played. Notre Dame capitalized on its free throw opportunities, eventually leading 65-58 with 23 seconds remaining. Even while an Ebo intentional foul put Mimi Rogers (2 points) on the line to cut the deficit to five, 65-60, Notre Dame successfully defended the perimeter and denied the Wolfpack any opportunity to stage any final-second heroics.
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