Notre Dame dominates Southern Utah 82-56 in opening game of NCAA Tourney

Southern Utah's Daylani Ballena (22) drives as Notre Dame's Sonia Citron (11) and Lauren Ebo,...
Southern Utah's Daylani Ballena (22) drives as Notre Dame's Sonia Citron (11) and Lauren Ebo, right, defend during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 17, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)(ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:11 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU/AP) - It’s only fitting that the Notre Dame women’s basketball team started March Madness on their home court on St. Patrick’s Day.

The biggest question coming into the NCAA Tournament for Notre Dame was how the team would respond to losing Olivia Miles for the remainder of the season. The team said on Thursday that everyone is locked in and ready to give a little bit more to fill that void.

On Friday afternoon, the No. 3 Irish silenced the doubters in their opening game by dominating No. 14 Southern Utah 82-56 at Purcell Pavilion.

This one was all Notre Dame (26-5) right from tipoff, as the Irish started the game on a 16-0 run and kept their foot on the gas. The Irish held a 27-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, making 13 of 16 field goal attempts with 20 points in the paint.

Junior forward Maddy Westbeld led Notre Dame with 20 points, while sophomore guard Sonia Citron chipped in 14 points and a season-high six assists. Lauren Ebo had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“I’m just really proud of my team,” said head coach Niele Ivey after the game. “One of my dreams was to have an opportunity to host at home, and so taking advantage of that opportunity today, I thought the crowd was amazing.

“I’m proud of the way that we came out,” she continued. “We came out with a dominant mindset, 16-0 run right from the beginning. (It) really set the tone. Just a really overall incredible performance, and I’m excited to be able to play on Sunday.”

On the other side, Megan Jensen led Southern Utah (23-10) with 11 points. The Thunderbirds’ magical 2022-23 season comes to an end after winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title and earning the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

Notre Dame will face No. 11 Mississippi State on Sunday. The Irish will look to make their second straight Sweet 16 appearance. Tipoff at Purcell Pavilion is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.