Instant observations: Did Notre Dame women's basketball punch Sweet 16 ticket?

by 24USATVMarch 26, 2024, 12:02 a.m. 19
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SOUTH BEND — Four quick thoughts as No. 2 seed (Albany 1 Regional) Notre Dame women's basketball heads back to the Sweet 16 for a third straight season and 20th time in program history following a 71-56 victory Monday over No. 7 Mississippi at Purcell Pavilion ...

More:Why this NCAA opener wasn't just another game for one Notre Dame women's basketball player

☘ Maddy Westbeld was dominant from the jump

Scoring the last basket of an entertaining/enjoyable/dominant first half, Irish senior forward Maddy Westbeld broke out a smile, met the rest of her teammates at halfcourt and offered three words.

Westbeld’s workmanlike first half (14 points on five-of-eight from the floor, two rebounds, two steals) helped the Irish lead by as many as 19 and by 17 at the break. She got to her spots, made her shots and just played an all-around easy/efficient game. So did the Irish.

☘ Another good start sealed this one

Remember when slow starts were the norm for Notre Dame? When it was common for the Irish to look up in the first quarter and be down by double digits?

Those days are long gone. For the second straight tournament game, Notre Dame was good early. The Irish defended. The Irish got out in transition. They made shots. They were up 21-9 after one and 43-26 at halftime. Another postseason easy one.

☘ Notre Dame's defense isn't that good, is it?

The Irish settled early into a 2/3 zone defense and dared the Rebels to figure it out. The Southeastern Conference team played like it had never seen a zone, much less figured one out.

With four minutes left before halftime, the Rebels had six field goals and 11 turnovers. It missed shots and made miscues in bunches, most of them against the Irish zone. That allowed Notre Dame to get out in transition and build a big lead.

Once that happened, Ole Miss never had a chance.

☘ This one's for you, Jack

Jack Swarbrick was there in Columbus, Ohio in 2018 when Notre Dame won its second national championship. He was there in Greensboro, North Carolina earlier this month when Notre Dame won its sixth Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship.

He was there Monday in the first row of Section 2 with university president Rev. John Jenkins. Except on this day, Swarbrick was no longer athletic director of his alma mater, a position he held since July 2008.

Monday was the first day for Pete Bevacqua in the role, but Swarbrick couldn’t let go just yet. In a way, for the guy who hired Niele Ivey, this win was a final parting gift.

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on X (formerly Twitter): @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.

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