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Oregon State outlasts Irish

Mar. 29—ALBANY, N.Y. — Notre Dame is no stranger to adversity.

The Fighting Irish made a habit of overcoming negative energy throughout their run to an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

But Niele Ivey's team finally found an opponent it couldn't overwhelm Friday at MVP Arena — freezing cold shooting.

The Irish shot just 35.6% from the floor and lost the rebounding battle by nearly 20 boards in a 70-65 defeat against Oregon State in the Albany 1 Regional semifinals.

That didn't keep Notre Dame (28-7) from putting up a ferocious fight.

"Tough experience, tough loss for us, but I would just tell you I love my team," Irish coach Niele Ivey said. "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."

Junior guard Sonia Citron — who scored a game-high 22 points — drove the lane for a traditional three-point play to tie the game at 57-57 with 4:58 remaining, and moments later Anna DeWolfe put the Irish in front with a jumper to complete the comeback from a 10-point third-quarter deficit.

But the third-seeded Beavers (27-7) had the one thing on their side No. 2 Notre Dame never could get a grip on — shot making.

Donovyn Hunter's 3-pointer with 2:51 left allowed Oregon State to regain the lead, and Lily Hansford added a dagger trey of her own to make it 63-59 with 1:56 left.

The Irish clawed back into it with a pair of free throws from Maddy Westbeld and had a chance to tie after Citron pulled down a defensive rebound with 1:20 remaining.

But Hildalgo turned the ball over before reaching midcourt.

Talia von Oelhoffen made a pair of free throws to push the lead back to four points, but Hidalgo scored at the other end with 59 seconds left to give Notre Dame one more change.

The Beavers took it away when Timea Gardiner found Raegan Beers wide open underneath the basket for the clincher with 29 seconds to play.

"As adversity came today — obviously Notre Dame is a great team and have a ton of talent, great defensive team, disrupted everything, took advantage of the mistakes we made — and the resilience of this group withstood that and made the plays when it mattered," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. "We got the steal when it mattered. We hit the big three when it mattered. We executed late and made the free throws to separate."

The Irish scored 27 points off 26 Oregon State turnovers to help overcome a 42-24 rebounding deficit, and Notre Dame outscored the Beavers 15-2 in transition.

But it wasn't enough to overcome Oregon State's dominance in the post.

The Beavers held a 40-28 advantage on points in the paint and got double-doubles from both Gardiner (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Beers (18 points, 13 rebounds).

Hunter added 11 points, and Oregon State shot 60.4% from the floor.

It was a tough ending for an Irish team that was limited to just a six-player rotation throughout the postseason.

Hidalgo, who earned a shoutout from Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark before the game and served as Notre Dame's engine throughout the season, finished with 10 points, three steals and three assists but shot just 4-for-17.

Her teammates were impressed with the way the freshman handled her struggles.

"I think earlier on in the season when she was frustrated offensively, it would just affect her game as a whole, and I think it shows how far Hannah has come as a freshman, where even though things weren't going her way, she told us, 'I'm going to give you everything I have on this possession on the ballhandler,' and she did just that," Citron said. "And she didn't let it affect her defense. Honestly, I think it speaks to her growth as a person and as a player and as a teammate."

Westbeld added 19 points for the Irish, and DeWolfe had 12.

The ending wasn't what the Irish hoped for. But it's not hard to see where this program is headed.

"It's never easy taking a loss or losing, but I feel like I've won with this team because they're amazing," Ivey said. "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."