Everything Niele Ivey said after Notre Dame Sweet 16 loss to Oregon State

On3 imageby:Tyler Horka03/30/24

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Notre Dame lost in the Sweet 16 for the third season in a row. The No. 2 seed Fighting Irish couldn’t get by No. 3 seed Oregon State at MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y., on Friday.

Here’s what Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said after her shorthanded team’s 70-65 defeat.

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Opening statement

Tough experience, tough loss for us, but I would just tell you, I love my team. That’s the one thing that I know. This is an incredible group, and we battled a lot this season. We left it on the floor, and just proud of who we are. The last several weeks, winning 10 straight games, redefining ourselves late in February, being ACC champs in a season that had a lot of highs and lows, we really battled. We found our identity, our character, and I’m just blessed to coach this group.

Like I said earlier, it’s never easy. It’s never easy taking a loss or losing, but I feel like I’ve won with this team because they’re amazing. They inspire me, and I’m grateful to be able to stay here with them and be able to lead them. This is going to propel next season. We are going to use this as motivation. We’re going to be better. We’re going to be great, and I’m excited to get back to work with them.

I know we need some time, but I’m excited with the group that I have. I’m so grateful for an extraordinary year with this team, season, a lot of love, a lot of growth. We have a lot of firepower coming back. I’m really excited for the future of this program, and I’m really grateful for my team.

On the game being delayed for a shot clock malfunction

“It was hard starting the game. Felt we got a flow, got a stop, then the clock. I mean, it’s part of it. We just have to pivot. But it definitely had more stoppage than I would have expected in a Sweet 16 game.”

On Notre Dame freshman Hannah Hidalgo being forced to take a nose ring out

“I didn’t know what happened, so I guess it was a point of emphasis in the Sweet 16 with jewelry and she’s had a nose ring the entire season. Just wish we would have known beforehand. Can’t control it, so we had to move on.But yeah, stoppage of play is never great when you’re trying to have flow.”

On Hidalgo playing good defense on an off shooting night

“She’s going to give us her all. That’s what she loves playing defense. That’s her money is her intensity defensively. She feeds off of being disruptive. Her shot wasn’t falling today, and I feel like she was trying to get herself going by being a pest on defense, and she got a couple backcourt violations, which is awesome. She’s never going to stop playing, regardless. So defensively I love her intensity. It’s been contagious with our team all season long. I love that part of her game.

“Then my conversations is, again, just trying to help her. She was a little frustrated with a couple of her shots that normally go in. Just my conversations is just to empower her, lift her up, positive words of encouragement, knowing that just got to get to the next play, and it’s okay. The game is not perfect, and she knows that. Just trying to build confidence in her in any way that I can. I was trying to hug her, get herself — any moment she’s the type of player that can take over, so it was mostly just words of encouragement and positivity.”

On Oregon State’s Timea Gardiner

“She’s incredible. An incredible player. Knew that going in. Recruited her, as I watched her for a very long time. Like you mentioned she’s very efficient. She had 21 points, 11 rebounds, but I felt like she hit us with some dagger, dagger plays. The three going into the fourth quarter with about five seconds left, and her size, her presence, she’s very poised, plays with a ton of confidence, is having an incredible season. Credit to her. She’s got great balance around here so she’s allowed to play with freedom, and I thought she had a fantastic game today.”

On Notre Dame’s team in 2024-25

“My comment to the team, there’s so much good, this program, this team. We have great firepower coming back. You can’t teach experience, especially for Hannah. That’s what my entire team has received this year. It is a phenomenal year, and I’m really excited. I’m excited next year to bring back Olivia Miles, and we’re going to be healthy. We have an incredible post coming in, and we’re just — it’s going to be exciting, like I mentioned.

“These type of moments, therefore, is part of our journey, is part of our growth as a program, as a team, and being able to win the ACC, being ACC champions, we’re going to learn from all the wonderful experiences that we’ve received this season. We’ve had so much growth this year, and I’m really, really excited for the team that’s returning. It’s going to be incredible to see.”

On offseason conversations with Notre Dame players

“Definitely individual conversations. I always have end-of-the-year player development plans, the plan for postseason, a team meeting that kind of regroups and talks about what the plan is, what the vision is for the off-season, what’s the vision for the off-season.

“Every year is different. We have a couple seniors that are graduating. Once we have a little time to process everything, I’ll get together with them individually, together with the team, and we’re going to get back to work. That’s one thing you know about me. I grind, and this team, we’re about business.

“We’re excited, and as far as getting better, we want to get better. I’m going to help this team get better, pour into them. And like I said, every year is different, but I’m looking forward to having those individual conversations and then getting back to work as a team. They definitely need some time off, and we’ll regroup, refocus on our vision, and get to work.”

On summing up the Notre Dame season

“Credit to our seniors, credit to Maddy [Westbeld]. Maddy kind of led a team meeting after that with help from Sonia Citron, and it was a meeting that basically kind of put a mirror to our face.

“I let them have their meeting first, and then I had my meeting. That was just to refocus on our goals. We had a lot of inconsistency at the time, and we were trying to find cohesion. We had some great games and then we had games that weren’t so great.

“We just regrouped, and everyone, I think, just made the ultimate sacrifice individually to do more, to be better, to work harder, to find a way to come together, and then collectively as a group we just decided like these are things that we need to do, action items for us individually for us to get better as a team.

“And then we had a 48-hour window and we had Duke on the road, Big Monday on ESPN, and that was a test for us. I talked about it for the group. Practice was intense. We had to work on getting better because at the time you just have to get better. You can’t focus and sit on the last game. ACC is so tough, you’ve got to move on to the next game.

“Prepared them within practice, and then watched — I just wanted to see what our character was. When you put a mirror to your face, you’re either going to step up or you’re going to go left, and my team responded. They talked about reinventing themselves after that moment, and just our confidence grew. Our momentum grew after that win, and then every game.

“I felt like we just refocused on what we needed to do. I’m proud of Maddy and our seniors that helped really get our team back together on the same page and I’m proud of every single player on the team that chose to go in the direction of getting better. Hannah, every single player, KK [Bransford], [Anna DeWolfe], you can name all of them, Nat [Marshall], Kylee [Watson, all of them just stepped up and decided to take — instead of being I, less I and more we, what can we do together to try to find a way to get better, and that’s what they did.

“It’s been such an incredible road, the process, the growth. That’s what I love as a coach, to see where we are now from that moment and what you’re speaking on. It’s been just tremendous. I’m really proud of them.”

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