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SOUTH BEND – As a player, Niele Ivey experienced what Purcell Pavilion is like when it hosts the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Now as the coach at Notre Dame, she knows what it’s like from the sidelines. The Irish’s first-round win over Southern Utah confirmed what she knew about the warm atmosphere the program’s fans provide. She’ll get to experience it again in the second round against Mississippi State.
While she still was reveling about the win over the Thunderbirds, she has another tournament game to prepare for. She knows what the Bulldogs will bring, and it’s her responsibility to relay that information to her team. She did that during practice the day before the Irish’s next test, and she then relayed her thoughts to assembled media during a news conference afterwards. While she obviously wouldn’t give away her exact strategy, she showed she’s been paying attention to the Bulldogs’ game.
Here is what she said during her post-practice news conference:
“Well, super excited, again, being in the second round, advancing is always a dream for me, so really grateful for this moment, excited to embrace this moment, excited to play Mississippi State. Again, just felt like last night was just a really good dominant performance from the team, and looking forward to another 40 minutes to try to advance.”
On the Irish and Bulldogs both having something to prove
“Yeah, I think it’s exciting. Mississippi State is coming off of two great wins. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder and we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder. It’s going to be an incredible athletic matchup. They have great size. They have great guards. It’s going to be a fast-paced game. And again, both of us have – both programs haven’t been to this point with the players that we have right now.
Both programs are going to be super excited to be able to compete tomorrow.”
On how well she knows Bulldogs coach Sam Purcell
“Yeah, I mean, I think he’s done an incredible job taking over the Mississippi State program. Always one of the top assistants at Louisville, and you see the success that they’ve had for generations and decades. I know he was part of that. He’s a great recruiter.
I don’t know him really well, but I always felt like on the road in recruiting and just even matchups, he’s always been super kind. And again, like for them to have these two amazing victories says a lot about what he’s doing in that program and how he’s turned it around.”
On whether there is an advantage to having a backcourt scorer like Sonia Citron or a scorer in the middle like the Bulldogs' Jessika Carter
“No. I do think their offense and their glue is Carter. I feel like she is an incredible post player, very impressed by watching her in person and what I’ve watched on film. But her supporting cast, her guards, they’re really tough.
Great defenders. They can mix up their defenses. I thought they shot the ball really well here in Purcell. And the last couple games, they’ve shot lights out, and they have a lot of balance, they go deep in the bench, and they can do a lot much different things.
For me, yeah, Sonia is kind of my all-purpose player. She does whatever we need. But I also think that we match what they have. We have great size, we have post players that create a lot of offense with inside, and our guards are really good. So it’s going to be fun. I feel like it’s an even matchup.”
On what she's told her frontcourt players about Carter
“Yes, I talked a lot about – we watched a lot of film, but talking about you have to do your work early with her. I think she does a great job of having great timing, of getting a great position. She does a great job of ducking in. And it’s a credit to her guards for getting the ball to her when she’s open. She has such presence. She’s good on off screen-and-rolls. She’s good at getting one-on-one on the block.
What I’ve told our posts, ‘You have to do your work early. You have to make sure that she doesn’t get a great position and seal you too deep.’ And we have to create good ball pressure so it’s hard for their guards to look in.”
On Cassandre Prosper
“Yes, well, I actually just told her I’m so proud of her. I thought she came out with such great energy. She was ready. She’s excited. She’s the type of player that is born for these moments. She doesn’t shy away from any moment, no matter how big it is, whatever the play is. Even at Louisville, she made the two free throws – the game at Louisville, she made two big free throws. Never shies away from the moment.
I was just really proud of the confidence that she had yesterday. And like you said, no matter what, she can go from a play, she doesn’t carry on if she makes a mistake or missed a shot. She goes to the next play, and the next play, she’s going to play harder than the one before.
I couldn’t ask for a better person on my team. She’s incredible on and off the court. It’s a perfect addition for what I’m building, and I’m just super grateful that she chose to come here and gift us with her talents.”
On whether she has a message for Irish fans ahead of the last game at Purcell Pavilion this season
“Yes. Thank you. My message is I’m full of gratitude for the energy that they brought this season. It was phenomenal. Then yesterday was exactly what I imagined. There was completely green. I know it was St. Patrick’s Day, but their faces, their energy, they were so excited. They cheered from the beginning to the end.
I’m so grateful for that support. It’s what I’ve always prayed for is to continue (former Irish) coach (Muffet) McGraw’s legacy, but to continue bringing fans to support women and support our program.
I’m excited to give them one last game for 40 minutes, and looking forward to even building more community here and more support here with the program.