basketball Edit

Ivey can't ignore the bigger picture as Notre Dame WBB falls to Syracuse

Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair (2) angles for a shot as Notre Dame's Sonia Citron defends during the Orange's 79-65 upset on Thursday night.
Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair (2) angles for a shot as Notre Dame's Sonia Citron defends during the Orange's 79-65 upset on Thursday night. (Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports Network)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — More than 30 minutes after Syracuse had walked off the Purcell Pavilion Court on Thursday night with its first women’s college basketball victory in 20 tries at the venue, Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey finally emerged from the Irish locker room.

And tried diligently to focus on the smaller picture when she met with the media.

But the way in which the 22nd-ranked Orange coaxed No. 15 Notre Dame into unraveling in the fourth quarter of an ugly 74-59 ACC cratering sounded big-picture alarms.



More Content

Notre Dame football depth chart projection ahead of 2024 spring practice

How Notre Dame’s junior day left mark on 2025 WR Jerome Bettis Jr.

The five most-compelling Notre Dame position battles already percolating

Micah Shrewsberry sends message with benchings in Notre Dame loss to Miami

Chat Transcript: Dishing on Notre Dame's recruiting methodology, momentum



The problems that accompanied those aren’t necessarily unfixable, but they’re certainly daunting. And they provide a repeatable template that the league’s top-tier teams — and Saturday night’s non-conference road opponent, ascending eighth-ranked UConn (16-3) — can turn to until the Irish (14-4, 5-3 ACC) concoct an antidote.

“Just having poise. Just trying to execute,” Ivey said when asked about her fourth-quarter message that saw the Irish go 5:39 without a field goal after starting the period tied 51-51 and down just three (58-55) when they fell apart.

Poise and execution were in short supply.

And so was rebounding prowess. Against admittedly one of the better rebounding teams nationally (23rd in rebound margin, seventh in offensive rebounding), the Irish got dominated in the stat category of second-chance points 23-4.

Syracuse (17-2, 7-1) outrebounded Notre Dame, 50-34, and had 19 offensive rebounds to ND’s 12 — a similar theme in the Orange’s 86-81 come-from-behind home win over the Irish on Dec. 31, except more dominant in Notre Dame’s house.

And the Irish provided plenty of opportunities for rebounds with a collective .333 showing from the field, its third-worst shooting mark of the season.

“I think that they are just relentless on the boards,” Ivey offered of Syracuse. “They do a great job of finding their spots. Rebounding is not even a technical thing. It’s having the energy to go get it, and I feel like they had that energy.”

The biggest question about how Notre Dame goes about clarifying its NCAA Tournament résumé is no longer when or even if guards Olivia Miles and Cass Prosper rejoin the team this season. It’s how does Ivey keep Top 25-caliber teams from exposing the Irish front court.

Six of ND’s remaining 11 regular-season games are against ranked teams, as well as notably a road test at a surging unranked Duke team that recently clobbered No. 19 Virginia Tech by 17 and beat No. 23 Florida State Thursday night by 42 points.

Senior forward Maddy Westbeld, still playing in a protective mask, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for the Irish, but fouled out with 2:45 left and was on the bench with four — along with point guard and leading scorer Hannah Hidalgo — when the Orange started to pull away for good.

Junior forward/default center Kylee Watson chipped in seven points, six rebounds and three blocks, but the Irish need her to be more of an offensive threat if they want to keep opponents from sloughing off her and crowding Hidalgo, Sonia Citron and the other ND guards.

Pepperdine grad transfer Becky Obinma has fallen out of the rotation, though she was never really a fixture. Nat Marshall, who surged during November and December, has cooled off since the calendar turned to 2024. The 6-5 forward played nine scoreless minutes on Thursday night.

“Just try to have conversations, [watch] film,” Ivey said when asked how to get Marshall reignited. “She’s smart. She understands what she needs to bring. So, she just has to do it, and she will.”

Five-star center Kate Koval, a recently coronated McDonald’s All-American and a 6-5 star on the nation’s No. 2 high school team — Long Island Lutheran, is still 10 months away from being able to provide reinforcements for the Irish.

Thursday night marked the first loss in the five games since Westbeld and Citron started playing in the same lineup since the first three games of the season — Westbeld with a brief absence due to a concussion, Citron missing 7 ½ weeks with a sprained knee.

The 6-1 All-ACC guard didn’t play in the first Syracuse loss this season, and had the task of chasing that nation’s No. 2 active career scorer — 5-5 senior guard Dyashia Fair — up and down the court and through relentless waves of ball screens on Thursday night.

That might explain Citron’s 4-of-17 showing from the field, though she brushed off the question as a contributing reason, while Fair still lit the Irish up for a game-high 25 points.

“It wasn’t my day. I let my team down,” said Citron, who finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists in 39 grueling minutes. “The only thing I can do is look forward to the next game and bounce back.”


Even Hidalgo has some bounding back to do, despite her typical stat-sheet stuffing — 23 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. She missed some open drives to the bucket she normally finishes and got uncharacteristically frustrated when she picked up foul No. 3 late in the third quarter in a scrum. Then No. 4 followed 37 seconds into a tie game in the fourth, which landed her on the bench next to Ivey.

“Obviously having Olivia [Miles], who’s a junior and who has the experience in the ACC would be different,” Ivey said of her All-America point guard, who hasn’t played in a game since last February because of a knee injury, “because you’d have another veteran guard.

“I think Anna DeWolfe and Soni do a great job, and KK [Bransford], sometimes have taken the pressure off of Hannah to try to run the point, get us into the offense. Soni had to do it last year when Liv went down, but this is what we have. And Hannah, being a freshman, she’s just learning through it.”

Learning is Ivey’s recurring theme when the Irish lose this season, but what is the lesson?

Saturday night’s potential non-league teacher, UConn, has won 12 in a row and each of the last 11 of those 12 by 24 points or more. That includes an 86-62 takedown of No. 18 Louisville, a team hovering near the top of the ACC standings.

“You’ve got to learn from this, but we don’t have very much time,” Ivey said of the home loss. “We only have 24 hours to prepare to be able to fix tonight or dwell on tonight, and then we’ve got to move on.”

At some point moving on has to include a reinvention of sorts, finding a way to coax more out of the healthy-but-struggling part of the Irish roster, the ND bigs.

And soon.



• Talk with Notre Dame fans on The Insider Lounge.

• Subscribe to the Inside ND Sports podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean or Pocket Casts.

• Subscribe to the Inside ND Sports channel on YouTube.

• Follow us on Twitter: @insideNDsports, @EHansenND, @TJamesND and @cbowles01.

• Like us on Facebook: Inside ND Sports

• Follow us on Instagram: @insideNDsports