Niele Ivey, Maddy Westbeld, Lauren Ebo speak after Notre Dame win
Despite having the ACC Tournament’s top seed, Notre Dame was dealt a tough hand for its quarterfinal. It had to face an NC State program that had won the last two matchups, and Olivia Miles was sidelined with a knee injury, probably for the entire weekend. Rather than panic, the Irish merely adjusted, and they won, 66-60. That earned them the right to face another tough squad in Louisville in the semifinals.
Niele Ivey showed why she was named ACC Coach of the Year by keeping her players prepared even though they were missing their best asset. Maddy Westbeld’s 3 near the end of the first half gave the Irish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and she achieved a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Lauren Ebo enjoyed a balanced afternoon with eight points, six rebounds, a steal and an assist.
All three women spoke to the media afterwards, and here’s what they had to say:
Ivey's opening statement
“I’m just so proud of this team. This was just an amazing victory, amazing win under the circumstances. We’ve had a lot of challenges, a lot of adversity, but one thing I know about my team is that we are tough, and I think that was on full display today. Again, just so much toughness.
Credit to our seniors. Credit to the team just being ready. I think [autotag]Sonia Citron[/autotag], to me, is arguably one of the best players in the country. She’s led two games back to back today, running the point, being the best defender, having 28 points, a completely different position. Just can’t speak enough about her.
Just a team effort collectively, and these two stars I have up here, Ebo and Maddy, they really got us going. Really happy that we finally got Ebo today, and I thought Maddy was huge. She made some big baskets, big timely baskets.
Another thing I’m really proud of is our defense in the second quarter. We held them to four points, and I’m really proud of that.
But again, just excited and grateful to advance, and looking forward to our matchup tomorrow.”
Ivey on asking Citron to lead the team
“I know Sonia is capable of doing whatever I ask. That’s what I do know. Now, I didn’t think it was going to be running the point, being the point guard and the general. But she’s the most unselfish player I think I’ve ever been around. She’s so coachable, she loves this team, and she’s playing for this team. So she’s like, ‘Whatever you need from me, Coach, I’m going to do it.’ When you have somebody unselfish like that, things like this happen. But a credit to her as a person and a player. “
Ivey on what beating the Wolfpack while shorthanded means
“It means everything. Obviously we talked about being hungry for more this year. We were one possession away of going to the Elite 8 and lost to them. So it’s a crazy matchup, an unbelievable matchup for women’s basketball. We knew that coming in, and unfortunately we didn’t play very well here at NC State this year, so we had another opportunity.
This one I’ll take. This is a big one, and we’re excited about that. But again, hats off to NC State, incredible team, and it’s always a battle when we play.”
Westbeld on her seven consecutive points to end the first half
“I think starting the game, I personally started a little slow so I was letting the game come to me. And then, yeah, I hit one shot, and then my teammates – Ebo set a great screen for me. But yeah, I think coming out into the second half, we really tried to come out with that fire on defense, and I think that’s what fueled us on offense. So us getting those easy buckets was just us getting stops on defense, and that fueled us.”
Ebo on the Irish's hot start to the second half
” I mean, yeah, you said it all. I think I always – whenever we’re in the huddles, I always say let’s focus on the defense and that will turn into offense. Whenever I’m not going offensively, I focus on getting stops on defense and helping my team out in other ways.”
Ivey on Cassandre Prosper and facing Louisville for the third time this season
“Yeah, well, proud of Cass. She’s grown up in front of our eyes. She’s 17, so she makes mistakes sometimes, but the way she makes up for it is her effort, her athleticism. She makes an impact. She loves playing defense, and, again, her size just really bothers smaller defenders. She’s another one, very coachable, always working on her game, and she’s joined our team and has been the perfect addition because of her character. We’re blessed that we have her again.
And I think your second question, playing against Louisville third time is going to be tough, but we’re excited that we’re still playing.”
Ivey on Natalija Marshall's status after her first-half injury
“Yeah, I’m not sure, so hopefully some good news later. But her eye started swelling up a little bit. She said she was fine, so it’s just unfortunate, but we’ll see. “
Ivey on whether she made any adjustments after the Irish's slow start
“Yeah, I tried to really adjust the offense with Soni running the point because she’s also a scorer, so just trying to find ways with her being at the point to also get her a shot honestly. I’m always trying to go to Ebo or going to Maddy, and sometimes it just depends on the strategy, and when we have three bigs there’s a size advantage.
So I feel like the game kind of dictates what we do, and it took a little bit – I think, just from people being in different spots, they’re getting comfortable running different spots. I’m asking people to be a lot of different places that they weren’t earlier this season. So I’m really proud of the way they’re adjusting because we are all adjusting on the fly, and that’s just credit to them being locked in.”
Ivey on what factors into calling for a zone defense
“Yeah, it’s always something in the bag, something that we’re working on. Again, like you said, three bigs. Sometimes it’s foul trouble, we’re trying to protect our players, and then when they bring in more shooters, we’ll go man. It’s just scout oriented, and it’s something that again, hopefully playing them back to back, it allows us to get our wind back instead of playing man-to-man the whole game. But it’s been effective, and then when they start hitting some 3s, we got out of it. So it’s also something I feel can help take our opponent’s rhythm, take their rhythm away, so we like to do it for that reason, as well.”
Ebo on what she did well
“I think I always just try to step up as a leader and be a voice. I know offensively first half I wasn’t present, I guess, scoring-wise, but just trying to be a leader. And obviously with my fouls, I’ve got to clean that up. Being a senior, can’t have those mental lapses, but just trying to be a leader and help the team as much as I can. “
Westbeld on what she did well
“Yeah, I would say just coming out playing with heart, especially on the defensive end. We’re not going to hit shots all the time, and so we have to rely on something. And great teams always fall back on defense, so that’s what I tried to set the tone with my team and just let that fuel us on the offensive end.”