CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP)After 10 wins, all of them coming by double digits, No. 5 Notre Dame learned a valuable lesson on Thursday night.
The Irish now know they can win close ones, too.
Maddy Westbeld scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Notre Dame clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter to hold off Miami 66-63 – surviving a finish where the Hurricanes got two good looks on potentially overtime-forcing 3-pointers in the final seven seconds.
”I think these types of games are only going to make us better,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said.
Sonia Citron scored 13 and Olivia Miles finished with 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Notre Dame. Lauren Ebo had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish (11-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won five straight.
Destiny Harden had 12 points, nine rebounds for five steals for Miami (7-6, 0-2), which has dropped three straight. Haley Cavinder also scored 12 and Lashae Dwyer added 10 for the Hurricanes, who trailed by 13 early but took a three-point lead in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
”This game just showed us that we can compete with anybody in the country,” Harden said.
Miami missed nine consecutive shots at one point in the fourth, and Notre Dame still couldn’t pull away. Instead, the Irish – whose first 10 wins came by an average of 28.2 points – had to grind out a win.
Westbeld ran down her own miss and found Kylee Watson for a layup with 2:36 left, putting Notre Dame up 64-61 and matching the biggest lead either team had in the fourth to that point.
The Irish kept the lead the rest of the way.
”They’re really, really talented, but so is Miami,” Hurricanes coach Katie Meier said. ”So is Miami. And I think my team finally deserves that now. We know we deserve to be competitive. Now we’ve got to make the next step, that we deserve to win.”
Notre Dame missed its first shot, then made eight of its next nine from the floor on the way to opening a quick 21-8 lead.
Miami answered with a 9-0 run – the biggest allowed by the Irish this season – to get within four and the tone was set: Notre Dame would open a lead, and Miami would claw back.
Miami got within four on three occasions in the second quarter; Notre Dame answered every time. And then in the third, Miami cut the lead to five points on five occasions; once again, Notre Dame always had an answer.
But then Miami finally broke through.
Another 9-0 run, capped by seven consecutive points from Dwyer, gave the Hurricanes their first lead since 4-2 — a layup off a turnover put Miami up 53-51 with 1:04 left in the third. Cavinder made a 3 to push Miami’s edge to 56-53 early in the fourth, but the Hurricanes managed only seven more points the rest of the way.
”It’s a great win on the road against a great team,” Ivey said.
Notre Dame: Dara Mabrey was only 2 for 10 from the floor, but one of those was a 3-pointer that beat the halftime buzzer – which proved to be a very big shot, given the final margin. … The Irish, provided they win a New Year’s Day home game Sunday against Boston College, could move up at least one spot in next week’s AP Top 25. That’s after No. 4 Indiana lost to Michigan State on Thursday.
Miami: The Hurricanes missed 15 of their final 17 shots. … Miami forced 22 turnovers and made the Irish win with the pass. Notre Dame had 23 assists on 27 field goals.
Notre Dame: Host Boston College on Sunday.
Miami: Visit Pittsburgh on Sunday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25