How South Dakota State built a world around Mike Daum and kept a 3,000-point scorer

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OMAHA, Neb. — Mike Daum lives in a dream world.

It’s not one he invented nor is it an illusion. His is a reality purposefully, carefully and meticulously constructed to maximize Mike Daum.

It’s a world with a fundamental truth from which everything emanates.

Mike Daum is the best basketball player South Dakota State or the Summit League has ever seen, and as long as that has been readily apparent so too has another truth.

He’d have the opportunity to leave both for his senior season.

So from practice plans to roster construction to how film is watched to the program’s very culture, everything has been assembled to keep Mike Daum happy, productive and contented.

“We pretty much have tried to adapt how we play, how I coach our team, how we relate to our guys,” South Dakota State coach T.J. Otzelberger told NBC Sports, “a lot of it has been based on Mike.”

So even with the brighter lights, bigger stage and chartered flights of potentially any Power 5 program at Daum’s disposal last spring, what could possibly compete with a life tailored to your strengths?

“At the end of the day, when you transfer, there’s nothing set in stone,” Daum said to NBC Sports. “I could transfer, there’s a possibility I wouldn’t play as much, there’s a possibility I wouldn’t start. There’s just a possibility that I wouldn’t do as well as I originally expected when you transfer like that.

“Where here, I knew my role, I knew my position.”

Both, of course, were designed with exactly Daum in mind.

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

It was clear early on Scott Nagy had hit it big with the unrecruited kid from Kimball, Neb.

Or it was once Daum sat out a season.

The 6-foot-9 forward redshirted his first year in Brookings after Nagy and his staff plucked him from obscurity when they watched him make 12 3s in a back gym at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas. The promise was there, but Daum needed refining.

That redshirt year produced a freshman season in which Daum averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as he shot 55.3 percent from the floor and 44.6 percent from 3 while collecting awards such as the Summit League’s top freshman, sixth man and conference tournament MVP.

After three NCAA tournament appearances in five years and a 21-season tenure,  Nagy left for Wright State after Daum’s freshman year. In came the longtime Iowa State assistant Otzelberger, who knew he was inheriting the conference’s best player but also one, because of that redshirt year, that would likely have the opportunity to chase college basketball’s upper echelon as a graduate transfer after his junior year.

“We didn’t get off to a great start basketball wise. Part of that was as a first-time head coach, I was putting so much pressure on myself on all the basketball parts – how we coach and teach and what we do,” Otzelberger said. “I was probably missing a little more on the people aspect of connecting with our guys and spending time with them and hanging out with them and getting to know them, and I think with Mike as I coached initially it was probably not the best fit or him. Then I tried to be adaptive to what would be the best coaching style to work with him as I got to know him better. I always felt like once we had that connection or that relationship and we built it, I just thought Mike was a guy that the relationship piece was really important to him. I think his friends here are really important to him. I think he realizes how Brookings has embraced him as a community, how he’s embraced Brookings.”

Whatever adjustments were made to fit Daum – they worked. As a sophomore he averaged 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as the Summit League’s player of the year while the Jackrabbits made another NCAA tournament appearance. He repeated as the league MVP as a junior while averaging 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds with the season ending in a third-straight conference tournament title and NCAA tournament appearance.

That’s when two years of whispers finally culminated into a chorus.

What’s Daum going to do?

(Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images)

“I can’t lie,” Daum said of his oft-discussed senior-year status. “It was in the back of my mind, thinking about it, too, because maybe if I went bigger I’d get better exposure.”

After declaring for the NBA draft without an agent but failing to get a combine invite, Daum, though, said he didn’t even take a look at the landscape to survey his options.

In a year where Reid Travis left Stanford for Kentucky, it’s not hard to picture Daum leaving the eastern edge of South Dakota for a program where nationally televised games, NBA scouts and luxury travel are the norm. Where an otherwise wildly successful season won’t end with a bad night at the conference tournament in Sioux Falls.

“I felt like as a coach when you’re in the position,” Otzelberger said, “as crazy as it sounds, if what we could offer Mike and what we were doing on a daily basis, if he got to a point at some time he felt like he wanted the bright lights of a bigger school or conference or more games on ESPN, that I wouldn’t be doing my job all the way if I didn’t present options, tell him those will be out there and support him in doing that.

“More than anything, we just tried to, on a daily basis, try to make it the best for him and hope he felt it fit him, that it was something he wanted to continue to be a part of and that he wasn’t looking for something else.”

That plan that played out over two years, with Daum as the basketball centerpiece and his personality the center of how South Dakota State structured the program’s culture.

“It was a pretty straightforward decision for me to come back to school,” Daum said. “I felt so loyal to SDSU. My parents, how I was raised – you start something, you’ve got to finish it there. And the community of Brookings has always been so welcoming, help develop me with basketball and outside of basketball to become a better person.

“SDSU was just the place to be. I can’t get enough of coach Otz. I can’t get enough of my teammates. Those dudes are literally the best dudes I’ve ever been around.”


Anyone basketball player – or person, really – dreams of having the day-to-day built around them. That’s the life Daum lives at South Dakota State.

Rarely without a smile on his face or a laugh coming from his mouth, Daum just likes being happy. He loves to laugh. That’s why South Dakota State runs its operation with a more leisurely-bent than something militaristic.

“His way to lead is being upbeat and jovial and joking around with guys and playing pranks,” Otzelberger said. “For some programs or some coaches, maybe they think that’s not taking things seriously, but what Mike does is he makes it fun to be there very day. His leadership creates an enjoyable atmosphere on a daily basis.

“Our guys spend a lot of time with each other off the court. They enjoy being around each other as a group. It’s not four guys over here and three guys over here. That’s a big credit to Mike because he makes it fun and he loves being around the guys.”

Even film sessions are created with Daum – and his sense of humor – in mind.

“Mike is a big ‘Borat’ fan,” Otzelberger said of the 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen comedy. “We put together a video edit of some winning plays and (graduate assistant) Reid Tellinghuisen put Borat’s voice behind a lot of things and Borat scenes, and Mike literally was on the ground, rolling laughing like it was the greatest thing ever. Telling stories, reciting lines in front of the whole team. Then he’s doing all those impersonations.

“It was one of those Mike Daum moments where the little kid in him comes out.”

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

While the smile doesn’t leave once Daum hits the floor, any idea of him being a kid does. It’s a grown man averaging 25.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game this season. Daum is among the country’s leaders in usage rate, defensive rebounding percentage and fouls drawn.

When he’s on the court, Daum is the center of the universe. Everything that happens seems to be a ripple effect from Daum’s play. He’s the focus of his teammates, the officials, opposing players and hostile fans.

South Dakota State’s offense is structured around him, hecklers are fixated on him, defenses are constructed to stop him and how physical teams are allowed to be with him is pivotal.

Preparing to play him is a singular headache of coaches of the Summit League.

“It sucks,” Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “He scores it from three, he pump fakes, he scores from the mid-post, he scores it from the post. They run him all over the place.

“Yeah, it blows.”

Daum’s abilities, as Hansen so aptly outlined, are unique as a 3-point shooting forward who largely plays below the rim with a plethora of devastating offensive moves. So, too, is that goofy demeanor. South Dakota State has been able to get the most out of both, largely by embracing both. While it’s natural to wonder what Daum’s final collegiate season could have looked like in the Big Ten or Big East, it’s not hard to imagine a bumpy transition for a program trying to acclimate a fifth-year senior accustomed to dominating play, the ball and the room.

“Ninety-five to 99 percent of the schools at the Power 5 conference level would have certainly loved to have a guy like Mike on their team. Who wouldn’t? He would have had those options,” Otzelberger said. “He could be successful anywhere, but at the same time we’ve kind of built everything around his abilities all the way around. There would have been different challenges because when you go into a different program and they have seniors and they have older guys that have been there for four years.

“Regardless of how good you are, they come in and they’re kind of skeptical and make you earn it over time. It’s not just a smooth transition where everybody says, ‘Here we go, let’s make it work for Mike.’ They’re saying you’ve got to fit in our puzzle rather than the other way around.”

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The pieces continue to come together around Daum at South Dakota State.

While Daum’s 3-point shooting has dipped this season, he’s been as productive as ever to move his career into historic territory. He just passed Oscar Robinson on the all-time scoring list and the 3,000-point plateau, something just nine others have ever done. Doug McDermott’s 3,150 career points is within reach.

He hasn’t generated the legend or cult following of a McDermott or Stephen Curry or Jimmer Fredette despite the sweet stroke and piles of points. He could finish as a top-five career scoring in the sport’s history with four NCAA tournament appearances.

He could have also chased something foreign, something tantalizing and something unknown. He could have grasped for a spotlight that could have made him a household name rather than a torment to Summit League coaches.

There wouldn’t have been that trip to an escape room, though.

“We split it up two teams and it was the same escape room but one team was on this side and one team was on this side,” Daum recalled, giddiness dripping from every word. ”The thing I could remember is none of us could figure out the clues so we were just yelling back and forth at each other through this escape room.”

Or the video game sessions that lead to you-had-to-be-there moments.

“We got Fortnite thrown up on the TV or there’s this one game we’ve got called Quiplash. It’s through the Playstation and it asks a question – have you ever played apples to apples? So it’s kind of like that, but you create your own answers,” Daum said between laughs of excitement. ”We’ll get on the screens and it’ll say if you were falling off a volcano, who would you grab to fall with you? We all just start roasting each other during these types of games. We’ll say some stupid, belligerent stuff and all of us are just crying laughing.”

While the basketball world has been built for Mike Daum at South Dakota State, it’s his teammates off the court that have created the life that continues to bring him so much joy.

“This group of guys, I can’t get over. This is the closest group of dudes I’ve been around on and off the court,” he said. “We all laugh at the same things. We all have this great sense of humor. We’re not offended easily. We all have thick skin and we can all kind of get on each other and laugh at each other. This time of my life, I know I’m going to miss when I look back at it. I’m going to miss those memories but I also know I’m going to be able to look back and laugh at the things I’ve been through.”

That’s why Mike Daum is riding a bus around the Summit League, playing in games that exist buried somewhere deep inside your DirecTV guide or streaming app rather than chartering around the country playing made-for-TV spectacles with a blue blood’s jersey on his back.

“A lot of times people are in search of the bigger, better deal. I think patience isn’t a strength of most. A lot of times people feel like the grass is greener. There’s something they’re not getting or don’t have,” Otzelberger said. “For him, what’s probably more important is relationships with coaches, players, friends, people in the community and the experience he has. He’s seen that be an equation that’s worked really well for him, so I don’t think at any time he was feeling like, ‘Well, this is hurting my future by doing this,’ and I feel how we utilize him and value him and the opportunities we create for him, hopefully that’s true, that he feels like, ‘Yeah, I might have gotten a few more games on ESPN or had a few more scouts at a game, but at the end of the day I maybe wouldn’t have been used in the same way or developed the same way or had that same connection or relationship.’

“Hopefully he feels like that piece that it was the right choice.”

For Daum, there is no doubt.

“It feels like I’ve been training this my entire life to just continue to succeed each day and get the most out of each day. I feel like I’m making the most out of it,” he said. “Our guys have done such a great job creating such strong relationships and camaraderie on and off the court that allows us to play so together on the court. Our guys are hanging out 24/7. When we’re at practice, we’re always laughing and joking together. When we’re off the court, we’re getting together for lunch, we’re getting together at night doing random things.

“This is definitely the best situation.”

It’s the dream, and eventually it’ll end.

Why, then, would anyone leave before they absolutely had to?

No. 18 Gonzaga withstands scare from Kent St for 73-66 win

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SPOKANE, Wash. – Drew Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and No. 18 Gonzaga closed the game on an 11-0 run to rally past Kent State 73-66 on Monday night.

The nation’s longest home win streak was extended to 69 games but not without a major scare by the Golden Flashes. Kent State led 66-62 with 3:38 left after Miryne Thomas’ 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs tightened on the defensive end and got a handful of big plays offensively to hold off the Flashes.

Julian Strawther added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:19 left that started Gonzaga’s decisive run. Timme’s spinning basket in the lane with 2:29 left gave Gonzaga (6-3) the lead, and he added a key defensive play blocking Sincere Carry’s layup attempt at the other end.

Timme was fouled and split free throws with 1:55 left, but Malachi Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and his three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead. It was Smith’s first basket of the game.

“(Timme) was heroic. He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it . he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”

Nolan Hickman added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who held a 43-30 advantage on the boards. It was just the second home game inside the McCarthey Athletic Center for Gonzaga and first since Nov. 7 against North Florida.

Thomas led Kent State (6-3) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Malique Jacobs added 11 points and Carry, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to 10.

“I think in the second half we moved the ball well, we got some turnovers, got some easy shots and was able to give us a lead playing a great team and great program. . Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. Give them a lot of credit for that,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said.

Kent State nearly pulled off a surprising upset on the road for the second time in two weeks but couldn’t withstand Gonzaga’s late surge. Kent State led No. 1 Houston by one-point with less than a minute to go nine days ago in Houston but couldn’t make the plays in the closing seconds to finish off the upset in a 49-44 loss.

“Coach Few has told us all week that this is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16. . We knew what they were capable of and we weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Strawther said.

JERSEY RETIRED

Kelly Olynyk’s No. 13 jersey number was retired in front of a sellout crowd. Olynyk played for Gonzaga from 2009-13 and led the Bulldogs to its first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while earning first team AP All-American status as a senior.

“You’re almost speechless,” Olynyk said. “It’s just such an honor, especially with the names that you’re up beside. They’re unbelievable players.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost their third game of the season and their second against a ranked opponent. Kent State has three non-conference games left before beginning Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from a one-point loss to No. 12 Baylor last week with the win. All three of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT:

Kent State: At Cleveland State on Saturday.

Gonzaga: Host in-state rival Washington on Friday.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that are undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer tops women’s AP Top 25 appearances

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer stands atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll with the most appearances all time, breaking a tie with the late Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer’s Cardinal remained No. 2 behind top-ranked South Carolina, giving her 619 weeks with one of her teams in the AP Top 25: 592 weeks with Stanford and 27 with Ohio State when she was in charge of that program. Summitt’s 618 weeks in the poll all came with Tennessee.

The Hall of Fame coach downplayed the achievement.

“Fortunate to be here for 36 years. We have great players and have been successful,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t pay attention to (records). People bring it up and I’m like `OK, great.”‘

Louisville fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016, a span of 127 weeks. That was the fifth longest active streak. The Cardinals (5-4) started the season ranked seventh and have struggled to find consistency this year, dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Middle Tennessee.

They are the third preseason top 10 team to fall out of the poll, joining Texas (this week) and Tennessee (last week). Before this year, only 10 preseason top 10 teams had fallen out of the rankings at some point during the year since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95.

Even more rare has been a preseason top five school dropping out. Only five teams had done that prior to this year and none before January. Tennessee was the last to do it, starting the 2015-16 season at No. 4 before falling out of the rankings Feb. 22.

Now Texas and Tennessee are both out before the New Year.

“Two factors are at play here. One of them is more parity with more good teams,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star, ESPN analyst and Top 25 voter. “The other factor at play is the transfer portal. I think those three teams all have multiple players who start who weren’t in their program a year ago. It’s a reflection that you can’t just assemble teams and right away expect them to be good. I think all those teams will in the poll by the end of the season.”

Ohio State moved up to No. 3 after, the Buckeyes’ best ranking since Nov. 30, 2009, when they also were third. Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top five.

UConn fell three spots to sixth with Virginia Tech seventh, the best ranking ever for the school. North Carolina and N.C. State were tied in eighth and Iowa State is 10th.

RANKED RAZORBACKS

Arkansas (10-0) vaulted into the poll at No. 21. The Razorbacks have a difficult month ahead with games against No. 18 Creighton and a tournament in San Diego that has Oregon, South Florida and Ohio State.

“I do think we know a lot about our team,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said.

He was also happy his team made the poll as every sports team on campus that has played this year has been ranked, including football, men’s basketball, soccer and cross country.

“We didn’t want to be the team that stops that streak,” he said..

FALLING LOUISVILLE

The Cardinals had been ranked ever week since Jan. 11, 2016. That was the same season they started the year at No. 8 before falling out on Nov. 30, the earliest a top 10 team had fallen out of the poll until last week. Things got better for Louisville as the Cardinals finished that regular season 24-6 and went 15-1 in the ACC.

HISTORIC WEEK

With Louisville, Texas and Tennessee all out of the Top 25, it marks only the second time in the poll’s history that none of those three teams were ranked. The only other time was the first-ever poll in 1976.

COMING AND GOING

Oklahoma and Kansas State also returned to the Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 23 and No. 24. Marquette dropped out after losing to Seton Hall.

Northwestern beats No. 20 Michigan State in Big Ten opener

Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Boo Buie scored 20 points and Northwestern beat No. 20 Michigan State 70-63 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Chase Audige added 15 points and Ty Berry had 13 for Northwestern (6-2), which ended a two-game losing streak.

“Needless to say, this was a huge win for us,” coach Chris Collins said. “Coming off our performance in the ACC-Big Ten challenge, where we lost badly on our home floor (to Pittsburgh), I was really pleased with our resolve the past couple days.”

Mady Sossoko and A.J. Hoggard each had 12 points for Michigan State (5-4) and Joey Hauser added 10. The Spartans have lost two in a row, falling to Notre Dame earlier in the week.

Hoggard cut Northwestern’s lead to 64-63 with 46 seconds left. After a timeout, Buie scored on a layup with 23 seconds left.

“We got out-toughed,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Northwestern took the lead late in the first half on a layup by Buie and never relinquished it, leading by as many as nine points.

“We put (the loss to Pittsburgh) under the rug,” Buie said. “We turned the page, just like we do with any win or loss. The season is so long you can’t get caught up on one single game. Just like tonight. We’re super happy with the win, but after tonight it’s over. You can’t dwell on things.”

The Wildcats went 21 of 24 on free throws, while the Spartans were 9 of 12.

“I was concerned about a knockout punch early,” Collins said. ‘I knew they would be revved up after the Notre Dame loss. They hit us early and got a seven-point lead, and then we settled down.”

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11

Michigan State: At Penn State on Wednesday night.

Miles, No. 7 Notre Dame women beat No. 3 UConn; Fudd hurt

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Olivia Miles had 21 points and eight rebounds for No. 7 Notre Dame, and UConn star Azzi Fudd suffered a knee injury in a collision with a teammate, as the Fighting Irish handed the third-ranked Huskies their first loss of the season, 74-60 on Sunday.

“I think she’ll be all right,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards of Fudd, who went into the day averaging 24.0 points, but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes.

Fudd exited in the final minute of the first quarter after teammate Aaliyah Edwards fell on her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way as a precaution, according to Auriemma.

Maddy Westbeld had a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (7-1), which bounced back from a 74-72 loss to No. 20 Maryland three days earlier.

“I think Thursday’s loss really fueled us today,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “We learned a lot from that game. We have incredible scorers on our team, a lot of balance offensively, but it’s our defense that’s gonna win games, so that was our focus the last 48 hours. (The players) took the challenge and came out and played with heart and defensive intensity. I feel like if we can play that way, we can beat anyone in the country.”

Notre Dame shot 56% from the field while limiting the Huskies to 37%.

“We played very badly (Thursday), but we were still two points away,” Miles said, “so it’s kind of scary what we can do when we play really well.”

Led by Miles, the Irish roared to a 41-24 lead by intermission, outscoring the Huskies 30-11 over the final 11 minutes of the first half.

Miles scored 13 of Notre Dame’s 18 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field. Westbeld provided her scoring punch after averaging 5.2 points over her previous five outings.

Lou Lopez Senechal led UConn (6-1) with 21 points. Edwards added 14.

“We didn’t win the rebound battle and that hurt us,” said Auriemma, whose club was outboarded 39-26 and outscored in the paint. 46-16. “We just didn’t have enough scoring on the court and enough people playing at a real high level to get enough buckets when we needed them.”

The Huskies got as close at 49-44 at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter, but the Irish stretched their lead back to as high as 70-53 at the midway mark of the fourth period.

Notre Dame ended a seven-game head-to-head losing streak against UConn in regular-season play, prevailing for the first time since a triple-overtime decision in March 2013.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies faced a top-10 opponent for the fourth time this season, but this one was their first true road game. If Fudd’s injury doesn’t turn out to be serious, UConn ought to still have a chance to do what it’s done for decades: craft a resume that will make them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame: The Irish, coming back from that loss at the buzzer to Maryland, showed that Thursday’s outcome may just be a blip on their promising season. Notre Dame matched last season’s win over No. 3 North Carolina State for the highest-ranked team it has beaten in its third year under Ivey.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies host Princeton on Thursday before visiting Maryland next Sunday.

Notre Dame: The Irish have a couple apparent mismatches coming up as they visit Lafayette (2-7) on Thursday and host Merrimack (1-6) on Saturday.