No. 10 Notre Dame races to quick lead, cruises by Pitt 83-43

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey's voice can get raspy from time to time, one of the hazards of her job.

Typically, though, it recovers between games. Only it didn't following a last-second win over Louisville last week. When Ivey walked onto the floor at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday as the Irish faced Pittsburgh, her voice still had no juice.

Ivey's team, however, had no such problems.

Maddy Westbeld and Sonia Citron scored 13 points each and 10th-ranked Irish used a huge first-quarter push to race by the Panthers 83-43 on Sunday.

Ten days removed from a taut six-point win over the Panthers, Notre Dame had no trouble in the rematch. The Irish (22-4, 13-3 ACC) went on an 18-3 burst over the final 6:47 of the opening frame to build a 16-point lead that Pitt (10-17, 3-13) never really threatened.

“I thought this was going to be a really hard game coming after an emotional win like (the one over Louisville),” Ivey said. "So I just talked to this team about not being complacent, to come out locked in and they were from the beginning.”

Notre Dame needed a game-winning jumper by Olivia Miles at the buzzer to escape the Cardinals. No such heroics were necessary this time around.

Though Miles got off to a rough start — missing seven of her first eight shots before recovering a bit in this second half to finish with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists — her teammates had little trouble picking up the slack. Citron knocked down all three 3-pointers she took in the first half and Notre Dame's defense suffocated the Panthers when it mattered.

Irish guard KK Bransford started the game with a steal and a layup in a sequence that set the tone for their biggest win over a conference opponent this season.

The margin allowed Ivey to substitute liberally. Nine Irish played at least 12 minutes. Center Lauren Ebo had 10 points and six rebounds as she makes her way back from a lower-body injury that forced her to miss five games before returning briefly against Louisville.

“She’s still (on a minutes restriction) and she’s going to progress as she continues to heal,” Ivey said. “But she had a chance to get more minutes today, which was great.”

Pitt shot just 28% (16 of 57) from the field overall and missed 10 straight shots in the first quarter as Notre Dame took control. Amber Brown led the Panthers with 13 points but Pitt's bid for its first three-game winning streak in ACC play since 2015 vanished quickly.

The Panthers' 43 points were a season low and 21 below their average coming in.

“They’re big and they really can make plays and you have to match that whenever you play them and today we just didn’t match that,” Pitt coach Lance White said. “I thought we got too carried away with missing shots that then we couldn’t defend and rebound.”

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish avoided any sense of a letdown and will head into the final week of the regular season with a chance at winning the ACC regular season title.

Pitt: The Panthers have shown progress after a miserable start in conference play but were overwhelmed early by the Irish, a step back considering how well Pitt played in South Bend.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Irish could tick up a spot in the poll on Monday after No. 9 Duke lost this week, though it's uncertain how much Notre Dame will be rewarded for winning a pair of games it was expected to win.

BRUCE HONORED

Pitt honored former star Jennifer Bruce by retiring Bruce's No. 12 at halftime. Bruce scored 2,295 points during her career with the Panthers from 1981-85, the second-highest total in program history.

Bruce is the second women's player to have her number retired by the Panthers. Pitt retired all-time leading scorer Lorri Johnson's No. 24 in 2019.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Hosts Georgia Tech on Thursday night in its home finale before a rematch against Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center next Sunday.

Pitt: Welcomes Syracuse to the Petersen Events Center on Thursday before finishing up the regular season at N.C. State next Sunday.

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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