Notre Dame Defeats FSU, 72-64; Keeps NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive
Notre Dame’s domination of Florida State continued Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion with a 72-64 victory that improved the overall record to 10-8, and 8-6 in the ACC.
Now 11-0 all time against the Seminoles (9-7, 8-7 in ACC), the Fighting Irish led from start to finish, holding a 17-7 lead after the first quarter and 32-19 by halftime. With improving defensive intensity and soundness, Notre Dame helped force Florida State into 3 of 17 shooting (17.6 percent) from the field in the first quarter and 8 of 32 (25.0 percent) in the first half.
The 13-point margin was kept after three quarters (52-39) and extended to 62-44 with 5:35 remaining on a lay-in by senior center Mikki Vaughn. Thereafter, Notre Dame’s pattern of sputtering to the finish line continued when the Seminoles closed with a 20-10 run while forcing seven Irish turnovers (19 overall in the game). They came within 67-60 with 39.1 seconds left before Notre Dame finished with 5 of 8 free-throw shooting to seal the outcome.
“I thought it was the most balanced we’ve played all year as far as offense and defense … minus the last five minutes,” summarized Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey.
Pacing the Irish attack once again was freshman forward Maddy Westbeld with her second straight double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) to complement her team-high five assists. The remarkably balanced effort saw six players score eight to 17 points, with Vaughn’s 12 points supplemented by taking three charges in the paint. Five Irish players tallied double-figure scoring.
Early entrant point guard Olivia Miles continues to see her playing time increase (24 minutes) and overall game improve, tallying 11 points (5 of 7 from the floor), grabbing eight rebounds and committing only one turnover. Her ability to beat people off the dribble and break down the defense has helped spread the floor and create more opportunities for her teammates on offense.
“I’m loving how she’s just understanding the offense more, and the defense,” Ivey said. “…Just having more practices. When we were on the pause (games postponed), she got opportunities to work on her conditioning. We scrimmaged a lot, had a lot of 5-on-5 action for her. Every game I try to give her a little bit more. I can see that her endurance is improving.
“Just her quality on the floor, break(ing) a press, defensively she’s doing more, she’s really getting comfortable and she’s learning tendencies of our players. She’s really improving every night.”
The victory moved Notre Dame into fifth place in the now 13-team ACC, with Duke and Virginia having opted out of this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Irish close regular season play versus No. 6 Louisville — which lost to Florida State on Sunday — at Purcell Pavilion this Sunday.
With a victory, Notre Dame could potentially climb to a No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament (March 3-7 in Greensboro, N.C.), earn a first-round bye and place itself on the correct side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, if not outright punch the ticket to be in The Dance.
Two games had been postponed/cancelled prior to this week's wins at Pitt and at home versus FSU: current No. 2 North Carolina State (Feb. 15 at Raleigh) and Syracuse, which defeated Notre Dame 81-69 on Jan. 31 in the Carrier Dome.
1. Roster Update
While sophomore forward Sam Brunelle returned to the lineup after being unavailable at Pitt on Monday, junior guard Abby Prohaska took some “personal time,” per Ivey, and was again unavailable versus FSU. Ivey projects her to be with the team this weekend against Louisville.
Meanwhile, freshmen guards Alasia Hayes and Alli Campbell also were out for different reasons. Per a Notre Dame representative, Hayes has opted out from playing the rest of the season because of coronavirus concerns. Campbell, who was at the game and in warm-ups but not suited up, suffered an injury in a recent practice.
Hayes' playing time has been virtually none since the January enrollment of Miles. Campbell also has seen minimal action since the turn of the new year.
2. Foul-(Line) Play
In 337 minutes of action this year, Brunelle took her first two free throw attempts — and that was as a result of a technical foul on the Seminoles. As a freshman last year, Brunelle was 50 of 67 from the foul line for 74.6 percent.
Meanwhile, Destinee Walker’s streak of 27 straight makes from the charity stripe ended against FSU. For the season she is 53 of 59 for 89.8 percent. The single season school record (minimum 2.0 made per game) is 90.0 by Kayla McBride (90 of 100) in 2012-13.
3. Senior Night
Walker, Vaughn and former walk-on Nicole Benz were honored even though the final home game is Sunday. Walker indicated earlier this week that she would not use a seventh season of eligibility, permitted by the NCAA, while moving on with her life.
Vaughn has two more years of eligibility but has been uncertain about returning. When asked if this will be her final season she replied she is “not quite sure, but I think it might be.” That might lend some insight into why Notre Dame is bringing in 6-3 Stanford grad transfer Maya Dodson next season.
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