’Big Three' leads No. 2 Seed Notre Dame past No. 7 Seed Ole Miss 71-56


Ole Miss unable to slow down Notre Dame in NCAA tourney

The 7-seed Rebels cannot surpass 2-seed Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, falling 71-56.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- — Maddy Westbeld scored 20 points and Hannah Hidalgo added 19 to help No. 2 seed Notre Dame beat seventh-seeded Mississippi 71-56 on Monday in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Sonia Citron added 17 for the Fighting Irish (28-6), who advanced to the Sweet 16 where they will play No. 3 seed Oregon State in the Albany Regional.

Kennedy Todd-Williams and Madison Scott led Ole Miss with 15 points each.

Notre Dame hit Ole Miss with an intense attack from the opening tip, establishing an uptempo tone on offense and a relentless but controlled defense early.

Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said that although the Fighting Irish primarily use a six-player rotation, the plan was to play fast-paced and aggressive.

“We’re a pace team,” Ivey said. “We’re better in transition. We like to run. We like to play fast. So did Ole Miss. That was the goal. Get out and run, make them defend us.

The Fighting Irish bolted to a 21-9 lead after one quarter, using a sticky zone to harass Ole Miss into 4-of-17 shooting in the first quarter. Ole Miss finished the game hitting 39% (22-of-57).

“We came out with this mentality that we were going to go on a 10-0 run, and we were just going to stop them from the jump,” said Hidalgo, who also dished out four assists and had four steals. “We knew that we needed to hit them before they kind of hit us, because they’re a great team and they’re really athletic. We were all just locked into the scout and everyone was locked in on defense, so I was able to be more aggressive.”

Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin was disappointed that her team struggled to match Notre Dame’s intensity early.

“The disappointing part was someone got beat up, and it wasn’t them,” she said. “They beat us up. That’s what’s disappointing when your character and your reputation is to dictate and disrupt. I thought that they came prepared for a fight, and I don’t think we fought.”

Notre Dame expanded its lead to 19 points at 33-14 on a 3 by Westbeld from the top of the key with 5:10 left. The Fighting Irish led by 17 points, 43-26, at halftime.

Ole Miss used an 8-2 run to cut the Notre Dame lead to 63-50 with 5:46 left in the game, but Anna DeWolfe’s jumper and a breakaway basket by Hidalgo pushed the Fighting Irish lead to 67-50, with 4:08 remaining that sealed the game.

Notre Dame’s defense pressured Ole Miss into 22 turnovers, the second-most number of turnovers the Rebels committed all season. Ole Miss had 25 turnovers in a 77-67 overtime victory against Florida.


Ole Miss: The Rebels return the majority of the line-up, although replacing Marquesha Davis, Tyia Singleton and Rita Igbokwe will be a challenge. The program is on the rise under coach McPhee-McCuin who has taken Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament three seasons in a row.

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have put together a nine-game winning streak in winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and advancing to the Regional. The momentum and experience gained will serve the Fighting Irish well next season, who return Junior All-American Olivia Miles (injury) to the line-up next season.


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness