Dara Mabrey scored a season-high 29 points, and the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish rolled past fourth-seeded Oklahoma 108-64 on Monday night to earn a spot in the women’s Sweet 16.
Mabrey made 11 of 19 field goals, including seven 3-pointers. She set the tone early, scoring 17 points in the first quarter against an Oklahoma team that was third nationally in scoring and had built its reputation on forcing a fast tempo.
“That was another main focal point — just pushing, pushing, pushing the ball because we know that no one in the country can run with us, and once we do that, we’re unstoppable,” Notre Dame guard Olivia Miles said.
Sonia Citron scored 25 points and Maya Dodson added 20 for Notre Dame (24-8). According to Stats by STATS, Notre Dame became the first team, men’s or women’s, to beat a higher-seeded team by at least 40 points.
It was Notre Dame’s most complete game of the season.
“The entire game, as far as running and our offense, was exactly how I envisioned it as far as our pace, and we shot the ball well,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “We did a great job of shot selection, going inside out. We established inside game, we ran. And then defensively, our level raised. We raised our level against a really great offensive team.”
It’s the first Sweet 16 berth for Ivey, a second-year coach. The Fighting Irish went 10-10 and missed the tournament last season, making this season’s run sweeter.
“This is something I prayed about, something I knew could come to life, and I’m so over the moon,” Ivey said. “I mean, I’m so proud of this team. I’m so proud of our journey. I’m so proud to see where we’ve come since last season.”
The Fighting Irish will play No. 1 seed North Carolina State on Saturday in a Bridgeport Regional semifinal. The Wolfpack beat Kansas State 89-57 on Monday.
Taylor Robertson scored 19 points for Oklahoma (25-9). Skylar Vann had 11 points and nine rebounds and Liz Scott had 11 points and eight rebounds for the Sooners. Oklahoma committed 28 turnovers and shot just 32.3% from the floor.
Notre Dame led 13-7 before Mabrey scored 12 straight to push the Fighting Irish lead to 18. She banked in her last three points during the run to put Notre Dame ahead 25-7.
Mabrey made 5 of 6 3-pointers in the first quarter. The Fighting Irish shot 56.5% in the opening period to lead 35-12 heading into the second.
Oklahoma didn’t handle Notre Dame’s early surge well.
“I think sometimes when we get down by that much, we do try to get it all back at once, and then that kind of causes bad things for us to happen,” Robertson said. “And then we might dwell on that, and then another bad thing happens, and it kind of snowballed for us a little bit, and we could have done a better job in response to that.”
Notre Dame led 60-25 at halftime. It was the most points the Fighting Irish have ever scored in a half in a tournament game. Mabrey scored 19 points and Citron had 17 before the break. Robertson scored 15 in the first half for Oklahoma, but the rest of the Sooners scored 10 points on 4-for-27 shooting. The Sooners shot 24.2% before the break.
Notre Dame led 85-47 heading into the fourth quarter. The Fighting Irish hit the 100-point mark on a fast break layup by Dodson with just over four minutes remaining.
“I thought Notre Dame was phenomenal, and if they can continue to do that, watch out, everybody,” Oklahoma coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “We needed to be better, and we weren’t. That’s on us as a coaching staff for not having us ready.”
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish used superior athletic ability to outscore the Sooners 34-8 in fast break points and used its size advantage and Miles’ court vision to use the post game and set up outside shooters.
Oklahoma: It was a successful season for Baranczyk, but it was a disappointing finish for a Sooners team that had four Top 25 wins and swept Baylor in the regular season. The future looks bright. Robertson, a senior, said after the game that she will come back next season for a fifth year.
DOING IT ALL
One game after notching a triple-double, Miles nearly got another one.
The freshman guard had nine points, seven rebounds and 12 assists against Oklahoma. In the two games in Norman, she averaged 10.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 11.5 assists.
Dara Mabrey tied Marina Mabrey’s school record for 3-pointers in a tournament game. Marina had seven in a Sweet 16 win over Texas A&M in 2018.
Dara expects to hear about it from her sister, who is playing professionally in Australia and also plays for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.
“Marina, if you hear this, I’m going to break your record at some point,” Dara said.
Notre Dame’s Maddy Westbeld averaged 16 points on 56% shooting in the two games in Norman. She also averaged seven rebounds and two steals.