{{ timeAgo('2023-01-22 17:52:19 -0600') }} basketball Edit

Notre Dame cruises past Virginia despite uncertainty of Dara Mabrey injury

Notre Dame guard Sonia Citron, left, made six 3-pointers in a 76-54 victory over Virginia.
Notre Dame guard Sonia Citron, left, made six 3-pointers in a 76-54 victory over Virginia. (Matt Cashore-USA Today Sports)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — No. 7-ranked Notre Dame wasn’t expected to be challenged by a shorthanded Virginia team in Purcell Pavilion Sunday afternoon, but its stability took a hit when its emotional leader — “our heart and soul” as head coach Niele Ivey put it — was injured two minutes into the game.

Early in the 76-54 victory over the Cavaliers, after her steal in the backcourt, Dara Mabrey took off and drove to the basket. She was met there by Yonta Vaughn and was fouled. She fell awkwardly and was down on the floor for several minutes.

She eventually was helped off the floor in tears and returned to the sidelines later in the game with crutches and wearing a brace on her right knee.

The severity of the injury is uncertain at this time and Mabrey will undergo further evaluation on Monday.

“It was a little bit emotional for us and I’m proud of the way we responded,” Ivey said. “I’m proud of our grit, our poise.”

Mabrey, a grad student, is averaging 9.9 points and 31 minutes a game with a team-high 33 3-pointers. She entered the game second on the club with 43 assists.

“Obviously, it’s really hard to watch not only a teammate, but a sister go down like that,” said grad student transfer guard Jenna Brown, who averages nine minutes a game, but played 15 on Sunday. “I was very encouraged by my teammates and how mentally tough we all stayed.”

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Notre Dame guard Dara Mabrey, on crutches, will have her right knee evaluated Monday after injuring it early in Sunday's Irish victory.
Notre Dame guard Dara Mabrey, on crutches, will have her right knee evaluated Monday after injuring it early in Sunday's Irish victory. (Matt Cashore-USA Today Sports)

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What is no issue for the 16-2 Irish — 7-1 and tied for first with Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference — is their depth, and the Irish went on an 18-2 run following Mabrey’s injury.

Sophomore Sonia Citron, averaging 13.2 points and shooting at a 41.9% clip from the 3-point line coming in (18-for-43), was the 3-point shooter of the day, knocking down a career-high six in seven attempts.

“I'm really proud of Soni,” Ivey said. “I thought she really set the tone from the beginning to the end. She had great shot selection and she shot with confidence. And, as everyone knows, she's our glue.”

Citron finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and three of the team’s 18 assists.

“She was definitely on my mind the whole game,” Citron said of Mabrey. “But all you can do is play for her.”

Freshman KK Bransford, averaging 20 minutes a game, initially replaced Mabry and contributed 10 points and three rebounds in 26 minutes.

Virginia, 14-6 (3-6 ACC) was without 6-foot-2, 11.4-point scorer Sam Brunelle, who transferred to Virginia for this season after three years with the Irish. She was suspended for Sunday’s game after being ejected from Thursday’s game against Florida State after committing a “fighting foul.”

Brunelle, who averaged 6.8 and 16.5 minutes a game for ND last season, was averaging 27 minutes a game to lead Virginia and shooting 41% from the 3-point line. The rest of the team is shooting 24.9 and went 20% on 3-for-15 Sunday.

The Cavaliers also were without Mir McLean, a 12.2 scorer and leading rebounder (9.6), and will be for the rest of the season. The 5-11 junior suffered a knee injury in the Jan. 8 game against North Carolina State.

With a decided advantage inside, Ivey started one of her biggest lineups — 6-3 Maddy Westbeld, 6-4 Lauren Ebo and 6-4 Kylee Watson — to start the second half and the Irish wound up with a 28-14 edge in points in the paint.

Breaking from a 12-point lead at the half at 35-23, Notre Dame got five points from Ebo (15 points, 6-for-8 shooting, six rebounds) and a layup from Watson in the first two minutes. After Citron delivered another three, Notre Dame had a 20-point lead (45-25) less than three minutes into the second half.

The largest lead of the day (64-42) came on Olivia Miles’ 3-pointer with three seconds to go in the third quarter.

Miles dealt with a little foul trouble and played only 27 minutes but got the crowd of 6,442 going with her sleight-of-hand passing. She had 12 points, four rebounds and seven assists, a few coming on no-look passes.

Despite the Irish providing the Cavs with some extra possessions with 16 turnovers, Virginia was never able to make much of a dent in the deficit.

It didn’t help that leading scorer Camryn Taylor (13.0 points per game) was hampered by foul trouble and limited to 23 minutes before fouling out with 5:58 to go in the game. She was the only Cavalier in double figures with 13, but was just 5-for-16 from the field as the Cavs, shooting at a 42.3% clip coming in, was just 19-for-64 for 29.7%.

“Defensively, I thought our activity was phenomenal,” Ivey said.

Surprisingly, despite the ND edge in size, Virginia emerged with a 42-37 edge in rebounds with 20 of those coming on the offensive boards for 11 second-chance points to go with 16 points off the Irish turnovers.

Notre Dame will host Florida State (18-4, 7-2 ACC) at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday.

Box score: Notre Dame 76, Virginia 54

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