{{ timeAgo('2022-11-20 20:26:13 -0600') }} basketball Edit

No. 9 Notre Dame checks a lot of boxes in 95-60 victory over Ball State

Sophomore Olivia Miles had another double-double on Sunday for the Irish.
Sophomore Olivia Miles had another double-double on Sunday for the Irish. (Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports Network)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Humbled by her selection to Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor and thankful for it too, former women’s basketball star Katryna Gaither also wanted to take a moment to deliver a pep talk of sorts to her one-time teammate, head coach Niele Ivey.

“Take this team to higher heights and greater moments,“ Gaither, who helped lead ND to its first-ever Final Four (1997), said as she left the floor to a standing ovation from a Purcell Pavilion crowd of 3,428, prior to the start of a contest against Ball State late Sunday afternoon.

Given the performance that followed, a 95-60 dismantling of the 2-2 Cardinals, the foundation that the 6-foot-3 Gaither helped build with 2,162 career points (fourth in ND history) and 986 rebounds (third) from 1993-97, appears to be holding firm.

“I think that we're just scratching the surface,’’ said Ivey of her 4-0, No. 9-ranked club that had six players in double figures in probably the most complete performance of the season to date.

Freshman guard KK Bransford had her best game in an Irish uniform, 16 points that included an 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line.

“It's definitely a process, the transition to college,“ Bransford said. “So I think it was special for me. I think it was special for my teammates to kind of see what I could bring to the team. Tonight, I just felt really confident knowing that they had my back. So I felt really good.“


Grad senior Dara Mabrey (1) was hot from the 3-point line for the Irish, Sunday against Ball State.
Grad senior Dara Mabrey (1) was hot from the 3-point line for the Irish, Sunday against Ball State. (Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports Network)


It was actually one of the old hands, grad student guard Dara Mabrey, who went on one of her hot-shooting runs to take away some early Ball State momentum.

She went 3-of-5 from 3-point range for nine first-quarter points, finished 5-for-10 from the 3-point line for the day and totaled a team-high 19 points.

“As a shooter, you know, I let my first one go, and to see it go through the bottom of the net is a great thing,“ Mabrey said. “But you also have to have a short-term memory on those other kinds of days. But I was just feeling it. I was happy that I could go out there and right from the start, just give people confidence to feed off of great energy that carried throughout the rest of the game.’’

The Irish checked a lot of boxes.

Defensively, they limited Ball State to 32.3% from the field, 29.4% from the 3-point line, and shut down 16-point scorer Anna Clephane, allowing three points.

On the boards, Notre Dame had a significant size edge and didn’t waste it with a 50-24 advantage.

Offensively, there was all kinds of unselfishness to produce 21 assists, 54.2% shooting from the field and 41.2% from the 3-point line. What about the line from Kylee Watson, the talented 6-4 transfer from Oregon? She never forced a thing and took one shot — it was good — in 19 minutes.

Free throws? How about 24-for-28 (85.7%)

Bench? Notre Dame got 41 points from non-starters, including 11 from center Lauren Ebo to go along with her 10 rebounds. Ball State had 17 from its reserves.

The lead grew to 54-27 at the half, but the impressive stuff was just beginning.

The start of the second half was surgical.

“One of my keys was either to go inside off (drives and) the bounce pass or off of a pass to the posts,“ Ivey said. “I really wanted to dominate inside in the paint, and we had what, 42 (points) to their 28.? So I was really pleased with that. I thought we really did a great job of getting stops, so we could run. I think we're one of the fastest teams in the country, which was really exciting to see.“

The first seven buckets to start the second half were basically layups — a few coming on fast breaks — and the highlight of the evening was a fourth-quarter, halfcourt pass from Olivia Miles (13 points, 11 assists) to Sonia Citron, who was cutting toward the basket on a break. Citron caught it in mid-air and laid it up off the glass for two of her 14 points.

Crowd loved it.

So did Ivey.

“One of my favorite plays was the lob to (Citron) that just got the whole crowd on their feet, which is what we want,” Ivey said. ”Just an unselfish group, and it was just really great to see them having a lot of fun out there, sharing the ball and just making the right plays and playing the right way.“

The one area that continues to be a trouble spot is turnovers, and the total reached 23 on Sunday.

Chalk some of it up to some high-risk passing and loss of focus, but if you can’t take a few extra chances with a 30-point lead, when can you?

Still, it didn’t go unnoticed.

“Some of them (turnovers) were charges, things of that sort, but you know, I think we can do a better job of taking care of the ball, and it's something I'm gonna continue looking at,“ Ivey said. “That's something that we can clean up.“

The Irish will spend the holiday in the Bahamas, meeting American on Thanksgiving at 4:15 p.m. with a second game to follow against Arizona State, either Friday or Saturday.

Ivey continues to be excited by the growth and the potential.

“I just feel like every game, every practice, I see something else, something positive,“ Ivey said. “So I challenge them. And I just love how they respond. Because you never know how teams are going to respond. I know that they're a special group, and it's exciting to see what the future is going to hold for us.“


Former Notre Dame star Katryna Gaither waves to the Purcell Pavilion crowd Sunday during her Ring of Honor ceremony.
Former Notre Dame star Katryna Gaither waves to the Purcell Pavilion crowd Sunday during her Ring of Honor ceremony. (Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports Network)


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