SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)Notre Dame point guard Olivia Miles will miss the remainder of the season with an undisclosed injury to her right knee.
The Fighting Irish (25-5) are a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host No. 14 Southern Utah (23-9) on Friday. No. 11 Mississippi State faces sixth-seed Creighton in the other game.
Miles suffered the injury in a 68-65 win over Louisville in the regular-season finale and sat out the ACC Tournament. She will undergo surgery next week.
The second-team Associated Press All-American led Notre Dame to the ACC regular season title. She averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.1 steals.
“The current timetable for her return is that we hope that she will be back for the summer in order to participate for the workouts,” coach Niele Ivey said. “My focus now is on this team, excited for this opportunity to play here back in South Bend, a team that has overcome a lot of adversity.”
Notre Dame also lost starting guard Dara Mabrey to a right knee injury against Virginia on Jan. 22. She was the team’s leading 3-point shooter at the time and secondary ball handler.
“We have two injured players and two injured starters that would die to be on the court, so you’re playing for a lot more than yourself,” Ivey said. “This team is a very close unit team. They play for each other, they have great chemistry and they’re an incredible group to work with.”
Ivey will employ a “point guard by committee” with guards Sonia Citron, KK Bransford and Jenna Brown. Citron leads Notre Dame with 14.7 points, along with 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
“Her confidence is high,” Ivey said. “It’s something that we’ve adjusted to the last couple of weeks. If you see the Louisville game, after Olivia went down, Sonia took over that role.”
The winner of the Notre Dame-Southern Utah game faces the winner of Mississippi State and Creighton. The Bluejays were the surprise of last year’s tournament reaching the Elite Eight.
They are poised for another deep run in this NCAA Tournament with six of the team’s top seven scorers returning. That includes Lauren Jensen, who leads the team in 2022-23 with 15.9 points per game.
Flanery leads the more experienced team but still feels vulnerable heading into the Bluejays’ clash with the Bulldogs.
“It’s been tough for us to prepare because we didn’t know our opponent,” Flanery said. “There were some common threads between Illinois and Mississippi State, so we used the week to look at things they had in common that maybe would help us.”
Flanery’s biggest concern is how his undersized rotation matches up with Bulldog center Jessika Carter, who leads her team with 15.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
“She’s 6-5 and a really good player, and we’re 6-1 at the tallest,” Flanery said, “so we’re going to have to do a good job there.”
SHORT PREP TIME
Mississippi State is in a similar situation coming off of an emotional win over Illinois. The Bulldogs will have one practice to prepare, but coach Sam Purcell believes that could an advantage.
His team lost five of eight contests to start the year before Purcell adjusted his approach.
“I was over coaching this team,” coach Sam Purcell said. “I’ve got great players who are enjoying basketball, and sometimes if you have those two ingredients, don’t mess that up. Don’t overthink it. Let these young women go out and do what they do best. They’ll figure it out.”
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