Notre Dame overwhelms UMass women’s basketball for 89-78 NCAA tourney victory

  • Notre Dame forward Maddy Westbeld, left, guards against Massachusetts forward Sam Breen, right, in the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/ Mitch Alcala) Mitch Alcala

  • Massachusetts forward Makennah White (5) and Notre Dame forward Maddy Westbeld (34) chase the ball in the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/ Mitch Alcala) Mitch Alcala

  • Notre Dame forward Sam Brunelle (33) guards Massachusetts forward Makennah White (5) in the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/ Mitch Alcala) Mitch Alcala

  • Notre Dame guard Abby Prohaska (12) shoots a layup as Massachusetts' Ber'nyah Mayo during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/ Mitch Alcala) Mitch Alcala

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/19/2022 10:46:41 PM

Before Saturday night, Skylar Diggins was the only Notre Dame player in history to collect a triple-double in the NCAA tournament. That wasn’t true by the end of the fifth-seeded Irish’s game against No. 12 UMass.

Freshman Olivia Miles played like an experienced veteran against the Minutewomen, posting a triple double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists en route to an 89-78 win over UMass in the opening round of NCAA tourney in Norman, Okla.

Notre Dame’s Maddy Westbeld led her team with 19 points while Dara Mabrey and Maya Dobson scored 18 points apiece.

UMass’ Sam Breen tied a career-high with 31 points and Sydney Taylor knocked down 21, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a first quarter offensive clinic by Notre Dame. 

“The first half, especially in the first [quarter], we just did a lot of things that were uncharacteristic of who we were,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “They kind of hit us right off the bat and we were on our heels and I just thought that defensively we were dysfunctional at times. You’ve got to give Notre Dame credit for attacking us. I thought Miles did a great job of splitting us on the on-ball screen action attacking downhill.” 

The first period was an absolute clinic from Notre Dame from start to finish. The Irish set a blistering pace early, racing out to a 10-2 lead and dominating from every angle. UMass clawed back to within striking distance off of three free throws from Taylor, and both teams traded buckets until a media timeout, Notre Dame still comfortably leading 15-9.

From there, the Irish went on an 8-2 run that forced Verdi to take a timeout in an effort to stop the momentum. Abby Prohaska and Westbeld made it 27-11 before Breen was able to sink a jumper and snap the Minutewomen’s scoreless drought. No matter what the Minutewomen did offensively, they could not get a stop, and the Irish went into the second quarter with a 32-17 lead. The Irish shot 12-for-19 from the field in the first quarter. 

Stunned but not out of it, UMass got to work whittling away at Notre Dame’s 15-point lead.

“We're definitely a team that never quits. So a three-minute run is not going to define us, there’s 40 minutes in a game,” Taylor said. “We know they're gonna make their runs, we’ll make our runs. (We knew) that the game wasn't even close to over and we had so much more to play.”

Taylor and Breen each hit a jumper to start the second, but the Irish kept scoring at will, building their lead up to 17 points off a shot from Mabrey in the paint. After Mabrey’s basket made it 45-28 with 3:13 left in the half, Verdi called a timeout to try and stop Notre Dame’s momentum. That timeout seemed to do the trick for the Minutewomen; they outscored the Irish 11-4 over the rest of the second quarter, and Breen drained a massive half-court buzzer-beater to cut the deficit to eight points, sending UMass into halftime down 49-41. 

“As soon as Sam launched that, I was like ‘That's going in,’” Verdi said on Breen’s buzzer-beater. “So that (gave us) a little momentum going into halftime.” 

The Minutewomen’s defense stepped up early in the third quarter, forcing a shot clock violation on a Notre Dame offensive possession and forcing a turnover on the following possession.

Despite their improvement, the Minutewomen couldn’t get the stops they needed against the Irish to close the gap. They stayed close, pulling within six points off a clutch triple by Taylor with 27 points to make it 65-59, but they were never able to tie the game back up. 

Notre Dame opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to jump up to a 76-59 lead. Sensing a victory within their grasp, the Irish didn’t let up for the remainder of the final period. Sonia Citron, the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, woke up in the last frame, posting nine points after being held scoreless the first three quarters. Breen answered with nine points of her own, but the Irish outscored UMass 22-18 in the fourth to cement their victory.  

Despite the loss, getting the opportunity to play on the biggest stage UMass women’s basketball has seen in 24 years was something that nobody on this team will forget any time soon. 

“It's definitely been a dream, since I feel like all of us were little,” Breen said. “Obviously the outcome isn't what we wanted. But just being here and being on this stage was an amazing experience. There's just no other group of people that I would have wanted to be here with.”


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