NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles has the ability to change the direction of every game she’s in. When the sophomore is playing well, she can drive to the basket untouched, find her teammates and set them up to score.
In No. 7 Notre Dame’s 74-60 win over No. 3 Connecticut on Sunday, Miles was exactly the player Notre Dame needed her to be. She scored 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists. Playing in front of a packed crowd that included WNBA superstar – and Irish alum – Arike Ogunbowale, Miles showed what kind of star she can be.
“Her vision is elite, especially in the open court. I think she's one of the most dynamic guards in our game and she's always playing for her teammates and that's what I love about her,” said Fighting Irish coach Nielle Ivey. “Her most favorite play is getting assists for her teammates. She plays for them.”
But the young NCAA season hasn’t been perfect for the 19-year-old. She was ejected after picking up two technicals in heated moments over Northwestern on November 16. On Thursday, Notre Dame lost to Maryland when the Terrapins’ Diamond Miller hit a buzzer-beater. It was a loss that bothered Miles and added to the fuel for the game against Connecticut.
“I felt pretty timid in the Maryland game,” Miles said. “I was in my head, so the focus of this game was just to be aggressive, play my game. I just watched film and got back in the game and just stuck to what I knew how to do well and I did that today and feel like that's why I was successful.”
She kept her composure, even as the game grew physical, and even when she was assessed a flagrant foul.
“It was a learning experience for me at Northwestern. Just being the type of player that I am, I feel like refs just have an extra eye on me. It was unintentional, I didn't mean to hit her. It wasn't a technical situation where I was talking to somebody, so I wasn't really that heated,” Miles said. “I feel like that's kind of what the difference was with this one, but I definitely get in my head, and helped me to keep my head better than Northwestern, obviously, and stay in the game.”
When she can stay in the game, Miles is electric. Her ability to hit shots from the outside and slice through the paint or dish to teammates means few teams have an answer to stop her. UConn was already without 6-foot-5 post player Dorka Juhász thanks to a wrist injury. Star guard Azzi Fudd left the game after she injured her knee tangling up with teammate Aaliyah Edwards. This left the Huskies with few answers to stop the Irish.
This win was precisely what Ivey had imagined when she took the job at Notre Dame. She had been an assistant in the NBA but happily returned to the school where she played and worked as an assistant coach when Hall-of-Fame coach Muffett McGraw retired. Miles was in Ivey’s first recruiting class, and now the Irish are playing at a level where they think they can return Notre Dame to the national championship conversation.
“This is something that I've always dreamt of,” Ivey said. “The reason why I came back to coach this amazing group and to represent for the University of Notre Dame to be in games like this, to be in historical moments like this.”