Nichols Shines in Season-Opening Loss at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Taking the floor for a significant test in its season opener, Western Illinois women’s basketball (0-1, 0-0) visited Notre Dame (2-0, 0-0) for the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Protecting its home floor on Veterans Day, the Fighting Irish capitalized on a big third quarter to run away in a 76-50 decision.

Senior guard Danni Nichols put on an exceptional offensive showing from start to finish — ending as the game’s leading scorer with 22 points on 8-17 shooting.

“I was proud of the way we competed, especially defensively and in transition,” said WIU head coach JD Gravina. “To compete in a game like that, you have to knock down a lot of three-pointers and make them really hurry out to the shooters — that opens things up. We could never really get going from outside, which made it tough to get easier baskets. Overall, I was encouraged by our effort.”

Notre Dame’s size helped give an edge on offensive rebounding early, as the team took a 10-2 lead after the game’s opening four minutes. Before the first media timeout, Danni Nichols had an aggressive start on the attacking end for all of WIU’s points. Jada Thorpe added into the scoring column, and five other Leathernecks checked in during the period. Drawn fouls and paint points by the Fighting Irish gave the home team a 22-10 lead when the first quarter wrapped.

WIU struggled from the three-point line when the second quarter opened but indeed made a slew of successful finishes near the rim, trailing 31-19. Nichols kept her standout play rolling, and Western did well in forcing a few misses and turnovers, but Notre Dame stayed deadly within the paint to remain in front, 37-26, at the half’s end.

Points from Evan Zars and Nichols cut into the Fighting Irish’s lead early during the third, as WIU saw itself only down by eight. Notre Dame’s interior presence continued to do most of the work, helping stretch the advantage to 49-33, making the Leathernecks regroup in a timeout. Offensive play began clicking for the host, extending the margin past the 20-point mark on a 14-2 run. Western could only score ten team points in the frame.

Alissa Dins started the fourth with a smooth inside shot for Western, and the game’s tempo began to slow down. Western’s guards and Zars continued to scramble with hustle plays on both ends of the floor but simply trailed too far behind as the evening ended with Notre Dame on top.

Zars contributed seven points and seven rebounds, while Thorpe chipped in five points and five boards. Mallory McDermott notched a pair of three-pointers off the bench for six points. WIU struggled from outside (4-24) while being outrebounded 62-31.

WIU continues its trip through the state of Indiana this remaining week, next visiting Butler on Saturday morning (Nov. 13) at 11 a.m. CT/12 p.m. ET.

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