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NC State gets its shot at revenge against Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen

Let’s do it!

NCAA Womens Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Georgia Tech v Notre Dame William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Taking the next step in the NCAAs for this NC State program begins with getting past Notre Dame on Saturday. As you may have heard a time or seven this week, Notre Dame is the only ACC team to beat the Wolfpack during the regular season—though that was in South Bend.

Let’s take a look at the Fighting Irish.

2021-22 Notre Dame

... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 107.6 (24) 49.9 (31) 17.4 (86) 33.5 (99) 50.3 (19) 32.6 (91)
Defense 83.1 (29) 44.1 (140) 20.0 (118) 28.4 (76) 42.2 (91) 32.0 (252)

In that first game, neither team shot the ball well, and State was actually a bit better from the field, but the Irish did more in the margins. They won on the boards, finished with a +3 turnover margin, and shot 15-17 at the free throw line to State’s 11-14. The Pack was down nine entering the fourth quarter but scored 23 points over the last 10 minutes—an effort that ultimately fell three points short.

No doubt that’s a game that State’s players would’ve like back, and wouldn’t you know it, here is just that opportunity!

Notre Dame forward Maya Dodson (6’3) was the star of the regular-season matchup, finishing with 20 points on 9-14 shooting while grabbing 10 boards, both of which were game highs. The rest of the Irish combined to make barely a third of their two-pointers.

Dodson, who averages 12.8 points per game, is second on the team in that category behind guard Olivia Miles (13.5). All five Irish starters average in double figures, so they have good scoring depth that is balanced. Miles and Dodson tend to handle the highest workloads, but others are capable of leading the way offensively.

Miles’ biggest strength has been her effectiveness inside the arc, where she’s shooting over 53%. State did a good job limiting her there back in Feburuary (she was 4-11 on twos) and that could lead her to feel compelled to lean more on her weaker perimeter game (26.8%)

Guard Sonia Citron (12.0 PPG) has shown excellent versatility, scoring effectively inside and out. She is good at getting to the free throw line, where she shoots 84.5%. She’s also tied for the team lead in defensive rebounding percentage.

Forward Maddy Westbeld (11.8 PPG) shoots 52% inside the arc and has made a third of her three-point attempts. Guard Dara Mabrey (10.4) is the team’s most-frequent three-point shooter and also its best (36.9%). About two-thirds of her shots have been threes, so she’s more of a jump shooting specialist.

It’s a talented group, but there are three unclasswomen in the bunch, and it’s fair to wonder how they’ll handle the moment.

There are some things that should change for the better for State this time around. Elissa Cunane was effective in South Bend but was limited by foul trouble, which contributed to the Pack’s problems on the glass. (Dodson had seven offensive boards all by herself.)

Diamond Johnson also played a bizarre game of hero ball, attempting 13 twos and 10 threes. She made six shots total, and just one of those was a three. If a player on this team is taking that many shots, then something has almost certainly gone wrong. It’s rare to see the Pack out of sorts in that way, and I’d be shocked if anything like that happened again.

Keep Elissa on the court, keep Dodson off the offensive glass, and don’t bail out the Irish by putting them on the free throw line a bunch. Simple, right?