SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)Forward Maddy Westbeld scored 20 points and led No. 3 seed Notre Dame to an 82-56 win over No. 14 seed Southern Utah in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“I’m just ecstatic about this win,” coach Niele Ivey said. “It was such a dominant performance.”
Guard Sonia Citron chipped in 14 points and a season-high six assists. The team’s leading scorer, she transitioned into the team’s primary facilitator with second-team Associated Press All-American guard Olivia Miles out the remainder of the season with an undisclosed knee injury.
“The fact that (Citron) turned into that position – something that she’s never done before – it’s just remarkable and just shows you who she is as a player,” Ivey said. “She can receive information, and she translates it right away. She did an incredible job of pushing the pace.”
Lauren Ebo had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Megan Jensen led Southern Utah (23-10) with 11 points.
“Notre Dame is a great team,” coach Tracy Sanders said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew they were big. I’m proud of our fight.”
Notre Dame (26-5) faces No. 11 Mississippi State, which beat sixth-seeded Creighton.
NEVER IN DOUBT
Notre Dame jumped out to a 16-0 lead and kept its foot on the gas.
“I thought it was imperative that we came out that way,” Ivey said. “We hadn’t played in two weeks.”
The Irish held a 27-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, making 13 of 16 field goal attempts with 20 points in the paint. Westbeld led the way with eight points, while Ebo and Watson each scored six.
DOMINANT DOWN LOW
After a slow start, the Thunderbirds pivoted to a zone defense but still struggled to keep the Fighting Irish off the glass.
“We had to finish it with boxouts and they got a couple of offensive rebounds,” Sanders said. “I thought they adjusted to it. I felt like it was better than us player-to-player trying to match up with them.”
Notre Dame outrebounded undersized Southern Utah by a 53-25 margin, which included 21 offensive boards. The Fighting Irish scored 50 points in the paint to the Thunderbird’s 18.
Southern Utah: Saw its magical 2022-23 season end. The Thunderbirds won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title and earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.
“We made history over at Southern Utah and they’ve set the standard and left a legacy,” Sanders said.” I’m just really proud of this group.”
Notre Dame: The ACC regular season champs look to make their second straight Sweet Sixteen appearance.
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