Notre Dame has Citron again but not Westbeld in loss to North Carolina

Notre Dame’s sonia citron returned to the starting lineup against North Carolina after missing nine games with a knee sprain. However, her return was canceled out by the absence of Maddy Westbeld, who was being evaluated for a concussion after being injured in the Irish’s last game at Pittsburgh. With the Irish down to six rotational players, they lost to the Tar Heels, 61-57, who won their first game in South Bend in six tries.

Except for most of the third quarter in which the Irish led by as much as seven, the Tar Heels showed from the beginning that they were the better team during this particular evening at Purcell Pavilion. They made more plays when it really mattered and took advantage of having more available depth. While neither team shot well, the Heels held the advantage there (38.7% from the field for them and 31.1% for the Irish), and that made the big difference.

After tying the game at 55 with 3:41 left on a pair of Citron free throws, the Irish didn’t score again until the outcome already was decided. They still had a chance with time running out and trailing by only three, but Anna DeWolfe’s layup attempt was blocked by Maria Gakdeng, forcing the Irish to foul Deja Kelly.

Even when Kelly missed both free throws, Gakdeng got the offensive rebound, and the ball got to Indya Nivar, who was fouled and split her ensuing two free throws for the last of her team-leading 16 points, putting the Heels up four. Hannah Hidalgo was fouled on the subsequent possession and missed two free throws. Lexi Donarski then finished the Irish off with two free throws of her own, bringing her total to 13 points.

The Irish wasted 18 points from Citron and a double-double from Hidalgo (17 points, 11 rebounds). KK Bransford scored 12 points.

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Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire