Notre Dame dominates Southern Utah in first-round NCAA Tournament game

SOUTH BEND – It was understandable if anyone was having doubts about Notre Dame after olivia miles was lost for the season. However, those same people might have forgotten one thing: The Irish still have some pretty darn good basketball players. That was on full display in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Southern Utah. In front of a mainly partisan crowd at Purcell Pavilion, the Irish owned the Thunderbirds throughout an 82-56 victory.

This game practically was over from the beginning as the Irish (26-5) rattled off 16 unanswered points at the start. Their offense found easy baskets almost at will, and their defense was as smothering as it’s been all season. The Thunderbirds (23-10) couldn’t respond with anything better than a 7-0 run. While they proved capable of being a tournament team at times, the Irish quickly erased those moments and asserted their authority as a third seed.

Maddy Westbeld was the Irish’s dominant offensive force, scoring 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting. sonia citron also picked up Miles’ slack with 14 points, six points and three steals. Lauren Ebo, playing in her first tournament game for the Irish but not her collegiate career, showed her experience with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kylee Watson shot a perfect 6 of 6 for 12 points to go with seven rebounds, KK Bransford finished with nine points and eight boards, and Cassandre Prosper grabbed 10 of her own rebounds.

Given all of that, it should be no surprise that the Irish held a 53-25 rebounding advantage and a 50-18 edge in points in the paint, not to mention winning the second-chance points battle, 14-4. It’s unlikely every tournament game will be this easy, especially at the rim, but that didn’t make this win any less of a thrill. It’s why the Irish will play one final home contest this season with a trip to Greenville Regional 1 on the line.

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Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire