Niele Ivey, Hannah Hidalgo, KK Bransford speak after Notre Dame win

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – It was all smiles for Notre Dame after it defeated Miami, 70-59. Niele Ivey had nothing but praise for both her team at the folks who came out to Purcell Pavilion over the course of the Irish’s three-game homestand, especially those who braved freezing temperatures and bitter wind chills to come to this game.

Praise especially was reserved for Hannah Hidalgo, who had another amazing game of 25 points and seven steals and even rewrote the program’s record books with this performance, and KK Bransford, who made a difference with 10 points in the first half.

The Irish now will hit the road for four of their next five games, which includes a break from ACC play, though it’s a game at UConn that promises to be no less challenging. That’s why it was important for them to play well in these past three games, of which they won two.

Here’s what they had to say after this latest victory:

Ivey's opening statement

“So happy for the win, but first, I want to thank the fans. We had a three home-game stand, and they’ve been fantastic. Almost a sellout game on Sunday, especially with the weather. For them to come up to support us and show up for us the way that they do, we’re so appreciative. We love playing at home. We love playing for them, so I want to say thank you to our community and fans for coming out to support us.

It’s always a tough battle. I have so much respect for Miami, so I am thrilled with this win. That was a great collective win for our team. We knew that it was gonna be a battle for 40 minutes with the way that they pressure. So the fact that we came out and took care of business, I was really happy.

(We) wanted to build from our win versus Boston College. I felt like we did that, led by these two. Hannah’s got a couple records, tying the record for career games with six-plus steals that Skylar (Diggins) had, and then, the freshman record for 13 20-point games, so just unbelievable. That record was held by Beth Morgan. So unbelievable what she’s doing.

And then, I thought KK was a huge spark for us. She was such a positive light defensively, offensively. I thought she showed great poise. She looked to be really aggressive offensively and did a great job on the boards. So just really happy with the entire team.”

Ivey on telling her team to take open shots if they're there

“Yeah. Down the stretch, I wanna say (to) run the clock a little bit because of their press, but early on, I felt like we had really good opportunities to take a lot of them and score to get an even closer look to the rim, more higher-percentage shots. So I’m definitely a proponent of being aggressive offensively when I feel like we have the right voice.”

Hidalgo on all of the records she already has tied or broken

“I mean I just come in to play basketball. I’m just blessed to be able to break these records, and I’m just going out and having fun.”

Ivey on her team's zone defense

“I think that we have momentum building. They’re trusting it. They’re understanding it more. In our starting lineup, we have two who are brand new to the system, so I thought over time, it’s a lot of learning. It’s a lot of teaching different defensive principles, and I think they’re bought in with it, and I think they’re just getting better with it pressing for 40 minutes, and we’re understanding offenses. They have had great carryover from practice, preparing, scouting. Credit to my coaches. They do a great job of preparing us and the team, and it’s a carryover with that, but they’re working extremely hard in practice, and at times when we’re not practicing, I feel like they’re really absorbing the information without film and video.”

Bransford on what she's learned guarding bigger players in the zone defense

“I’ve been doing it since my freshman year, so having to learn the principles and things like that. Like Coach Ivey said, in practice, we’re practicing it, and we have film, and we’re able to look at the mistakes that we made from the last game, which is building off with our inch game.”

Ivey on concerns about the Hurricanes continuing to battle in this game

“Yeah, I think just a lesson of just keeping your foot on the gas. To be honest, (the Hurricanes) were fighting. They were desperate. And so, we have to come out with the same energy that we did in the first and second quarter early in the first quarter (with) how we started the game. So I think just not having any mental lapse at all defensively and keeping our intensity up for 40 minutes, and I think that’s a lesson: That any team can come back. Luckily, we extended the lead enough that it wasn’t enough for ’em, but we had to keep our intensity level high, so I think it’s a learning experience.”

Hidalgo on if she's concerned about hitting a wall in the second half of her first collegiate season

“No. I mean I don’t look at it like I’m scared to hit a wall. I don’t like to play in fear, and I’m obviously trusting in God, and I know He’s brought me this far, and I trust in my teammates and my coaches. And I know if I’m in a slump, then my teammates are always gonna step it up, and my coaches have my back, too, so I’m not worried about any slump.”

Hidalgo on how she's able to draw and-ones

“I don’t know. I play aggressive, and I love getting and-ones. I love cheering my teammates on when they get and-ones. I think it just really gets the crowd hyped. … So when I get an and-one, looking around, I’m screaming. … It’s fun.”

Bransford on her growth during her sophomore season

“Definitely from my freshman year to my sophomore year, it’s been a lot easier, but a credit to my coaches and my teammates. They’ve really helped me transition, and just keep building off of things that I learned in the first year. I just want to try and not make the same mistakes over and over again. I think it’s a big key, and it helped my growth this year.”

Ivey on superlatives for the dynamic things Hidalgo does

“I mean, that’s a gift. She has a gift. God gave her the gift, and she just plays with so much passion, and I’m starting not to be surprised with the things that she does. But she just plays with so much energy and fearlessness that she’ll make plays like that. But every game, I’m expecting something dynamic from her. … It’s because of how committed that she is and the fire that she plays with. She never takes plays off. That’s just talent. It’s the gift she has.”

Bransford on her recent scoring surge

“I think I’m just getting a lot more comfortable. I mean, we got (Sonia Citron) back, and then, we got Maddy (Westbeld) back. So I feel like all of us are just building that confidence and knowing that we know we have our team a lot healthier. So that confidence helps me fight with confidence a lot.”

Ivey on the Irish's 31 points off turnovers

“I think it’s amazing, and I’m really, really happy with the way that we’ve been able to capitalize with the turnovers and steals ’cause that’s something in the past. But we’ll have a couple of 2-on-1s, and they really execute in transition reads. Outlets are great, our pace is great, and we’re doing a great job of finding the open player and making the right read. So I love that. That’s something that we’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks, so to see it translate into 31 points is really promising for us ’cause that’s something we’ve been focusing on.”

Ivey on having a healthier roster during this homestand

“I mean I’m so happy. I was hoping to go 3-0, but we went 2-1 in front of our fans having our starters back. I think it’s gonna be something that can help us transition next week on the road in the ACC, which is gonna be really tough. But I’m just grateful and blessed that we’re a little bit more healthy, and hopefully, we can continue to get healthy and stay healthy for the rest of the season. It’s just prayers for that.”

Hidalgo on what she's learned about winning in the ACC so far

“I think just trusting in my teammates. … And honestly, we’re gonna go through adversity, and we’ve been through adversity with injuries and not having a couple starters. But just still being able to play with the people that we have now and still being able to come out with a victory, so just how to trust in my teammates, and I think I’m getting there.”

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire