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Sonia Citron, Notre Dame WBB go the distance to edge Florida State in 2 OTs

Irish grad senior guard Anna DeWolfe (13) scored a season-high 24 points in ND's double-overtime road win over FSU in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday.
Irish grad senior guard Anna DeWolfe (13) scored a season-high 24 points in ND's double-overtime road win over FSU in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday. (Notre Dame Athletics photo)

In a game that managed to turn into both a marathon and an elongated sprint, No. 12 Notre Dame got just enough defense at critical junctures and a flourish of heart from junior Sonia Citron in the second overtime Sunday in a critical ACC women’s college basketball matchup.

Citron, playing with four fouls from late in the third quarter on and missing most of the first OT after limping off the court following a loose-ball scrum, scored seven of her 18 points in the second extra session to lift the Irish over Florida State, 98-94, at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

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Citron’s free throws with 4.5 seconds left, after being fouled on the inbounds pass, gave the Irish (18-5, 8-4 ACC) a 96-94 lead. After an FSU timeout that advanced the ball into the frontcourt, Kylee Watson deflected a Seminoles inbounds pass, and Hannah Hidalgo scooped up the loose ball.

Hidalgo was promptly fouled, and put the game away with her 12th and 13th free throws of the day in 14 attempts. Notre Dame rallied from 10 points down early and five points down to start the fourth quarter. The Irish also fell behind FSU (17-8, 8-5) at the start of each overtime period.

“Soni is a warrior. That’s the only word I can say for her,” said ND coach Niele Ivey, whose team stayed in the chase for a top four ACC finish and a double-bye in next months’ ACC Tournament.

“She’s always on the floor. She’s always playing with her heart and does whatever we need, even if she’s dragging her leg. The fact that she came back and fought through that to finish the game speaks a lot for her character.”

She had plenty of peers in that department on Sunday in a matchup of the ACC’s two highest-scoring teams, who were both happy to push a frenetic pace on offense throughout the game.

Hidalgo, tugging at her left shoulder in the overtimes after landing hard on the floor after multiple drives during the game, labored with her shooting accuracy (7-of-25 from the field) but still managed a team-high 27 points to go with seven rebounds, nine assists and five steals.

The nation’s third-leading scorer and leader in steals, passed Skylar Diggins Sunday with her second theft to become ND’s single-season leader in that category with now 118. She also had the rebound with 5.9 seconds left of a rare Ta’Niya Latson miss to set up the play that led to Citron’s go-ahead points.

Irish senior forward Maddy Westbeld played 47:10 of the 50 minutes, the most of any player on either team, and finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and four steals, tying her career high.

The offensive surprise in the score-fest was Irish grad senior guard Anna DeWolfe. The Fordham grad transfer guard, averaging 8.7 points per game and coming off a two-point performance in 28 minutes in Thursday night’s loss at Louisville, lit up Florida State for 24 points. That’s the most she’s scored in an Irish uniform.

DeWolfe was 8-of-17 from the field — 6-of-9 from 3 — and committed just one turnover in 41 minutes of court time.

“She’s somebody that is so humble,” Ivey said. “She’s somebody that I’ve loved what she’s brought to our program. And I feel like this was her [day]. She really shined in this moment, and she was somebody we needed to get going.

“And I feel like she stepped up with her confidence today. And I’m really proud of what she brought today. She made some big shots.”

That included two 3s and a two-point basket in a 10-2 Irish run to start the fourth quarter, and two 3s and a 2 in a 15-2 surge in the first quarter after the Irish had found themselves in an early double-digit hole on the road for the second game in a row.

“I think when you take your first shot and it goes in, it gives you a lot of confidence,’ DeWolfe said. “I was just taking the shots that were open. My teammates were finding me, and everyone stopped up in big moments. It was definitely a team effort.”

And one Florida State guard Latson continually tried to spoil.

The 5-foot-8 sophomore guard and ACC’s second-leading scorer (to only Hidalgo) gashed ND’s defense for 34 points, one off her career high, and helped the Seminoles become the first team since No. 1 South Carolina in the season opener to crack the 50-percent mark shooting against the Irish (37-of-74).

Notre Dame shot just 37 percent, but had 23 more cracks at the basket (97 total), thanks largely to a 54-44 command on the boards and 12 fewer turnovers than the 23 Florida State committed. The Seminoles came into the game averaging 11.4 turnovers a game, seventh fewest among the 351 Div. I teams.

Latson, like Hidalgo, flirted with a triple-double and finished 14-of-25 from the field with four 3s in five attempts from the arc. But a layup to start the second overtime was the only basket in either of the extra sessions. And the Seminoles went the last four minutes of the second five-minute OT without a field goal.

Latson missed a rushed shot coming out of a timeout and with the shot clock about to expire with 5.9 seconds left and the game tied at 94-94.

In a game with 13 ties and seven lead changed, Notre Dame held the upper hand for just 5:55 of the 50 minutes.

“We were two high-octane teams offensively, so we knew it had to be about our defense,” Ivey said. “Fortunately, [even though] they scored more than their average, we knew that defense was going to be the key, to get stops. We didn’t get all the stops we wanted, but we got the stops that mattered to win the game.”

Speaking of what matters, Sunday’s matchup was Florida State’s annual “Paint It Pink Game,” honoring breast cancer survivors and in which all proceeds from T-shirts sold benefit the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Walker Breast Program.

Florida State head coach Brooke Wyckoff, a friend of Ivey’s going back to their playing days, had a cancerous mass removed on Oct. 31 at TMH and is still undergoing “light preventative” breast cancer treatment while balancing her daily duties as head coach this season.

“Just knowing Brooke, playing against her as a student-athlete, knowing what type of person she is, I just said a lot of prayers for her,” said Ivey, who presented Wycoff with a bouquet of flowers before the game.

“I know she’s fought through a lot. She’s going through a lot. So, this is the type of game I just love to be a part of, because it is more than basketball. Some more colleagues — Nikki McCray, Tasha Butts — [are] people who we’ve lost because of breast cancer. All of these games just really mean more.

“I just want to honor them and bring them up, because — especially with me, they’re my same age — it really matters. And then just having the awareness.”

The February ACC showdowns continue for the Irish on Thursday night, when third-ranked NC State (21-3, 9-3) visits Purcell Pavilion.

NOTRE DAME 98, FLORIDA STATE 94 (2 OT): Box Score

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