SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Maya Dodson showed the way with her fourth double-double of the season – 20 points and 10 rebounds – and her younger No. 20 Notre Dame teammates followed her lead as the Fighting Irish stunned No. 3 North Carolina State 69-66 Tuesday night.
‘As one of the older players on this team, I try to lead by example, “said the 6-foot-3 Dodson, a grad transfer from Stanford,’ I try to show through my passion and my hard work how much I appreciate being here. ‘
Freshman guard Olivia Miles had 13 points and junior forward Sam Brunelle, who injured an ankle and hit her head near the end of the first half but came back, had 10 points off the bench to give second-year Irish coach Niele Ivey her biggest victory since taking over for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw, who was in attendance.
‘Oh my gosh, that was an amazing win,’ Ivey said. ‘To be able to beat NC State, one of the best teams in the country … I’m just so proud of this group. It was a huge challenge, and the fact that our team rose to that challenge and came out victorious – it’s a dream. ‘
The fourth straight victory by Notre Dame (17-4, 8-2 ACC) ended the nine-game winning streak by Wes Moore’s Wolfpack, who lost their first ACC game to fall to 10-1 in the league and 19-3 overall.
‘The last two games we’ve been on our heels to start the game,’ said Moore, whose team rallied on Sunday at North Carolina to prevail 66-58 but couldn’t against the Irish. ‘We’ve allowed the other team to be the aggressor. We’ve got to figure that out. ‘
Diamond Johnson came off the bench to lead NC State with 16 points, 14 in the second half, while senior All-American Elissa Cunane finished with just 13 points and seven rebounds playing with four fouls in the fourth quarter. Jakia Brown-Turner added 11 for NC State.
Dodson, who along with Miles played with four fouls in the fourth quarter, did much of the work on the 6-foot-5 Cunane, a second-team AP All-American last season.
‘I think Cunane and I are great post players,’ Dodson said. ‘She does some things good and I do some things good. I just had to remember to play defense and be aggressive against her. ‘
With Dodson leading the way, the Irish out-rebounded the Wolfpack 45-38 and shot 36.8% (25 of 68) for the game. NC State shot 39.7% (25 of 63) but made just five of 20 3-point shots, missing its final two to set off the Irish celebration.
NC State: The Wolfpack saw themselves in a battle for the second straight game away from home. Moore said afterwards that the Wolfpack, who were trying to hustle out of South Bend where a winter storm was approaching, would not practice too long Wednesday in preparing for another quick turnaround to play host to Florida State Thursday. It will be NC State’s third game in five days.
‘You wish you had time to dissect this a little bit,’ Moore said. ‘We just do not have that luxury right now.’
Notre Dame: The Irish, down to eight scholarship players, found themselves in a physical battle, particularly late in the second quarter. Brunelle went down in a heap after being hit unintentionally by Cunane’s right elbow, and after laying on the floor limped to the locker room. Then with 15.7 seconds to go, Irish reserve Abby Prohaska was hit in the face by Jada Boyd’s elbow while going for a rebound. Finally, as Boyd took the final shot of the half, she made contact under the chin of freshman Sonia Citron under the chin. The officials looked at both replays and ruled the contacts were incidental.
Brunelle and Citron returned for the second half. Prohaska, who had a bloody nose, never came back until returning to the bench with an ice bag on her nose.
‘It’s hard to see three of your players going out,’ Dodson said. “You know how hard they work, and they’re in pain. But we knew we had to focus and lock in. The best way to do that was to win this game for them. Don’t have them getting hurt for nothing. And that’s what we did. ‘
NC State: Thursday at home against Florida State.
Notre Dame: Thursday at home against Virginia Tech.
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