By Derek DeBurger

Thursday’s matchup will be the first of two regular-season games against the Irish, and will most likely be a mixed bag.

On one hand, the game is at the KFC Yum! Center so the home crowd will create a major advantage.

On the other hand, this is the first time the Cards will be able to scheme against the Irish and see what strategies work.

Given that Notre Dame has had an extra day of preparation for Thursday’s game, the Cards will need to punch above their weight. They’ll have their hands full trying to plan for freshman phenom Hannah Hidalgo. Hidalgo is the fourth leading scorer in the entire country, scoring 24.8 points per game and with a mind-blowing five steals a game. Hidalgo also leads her team in assists with 5.7 a game, and is the second leading rebounder with 6.4 a game.

Hidalgo is a problem for whoever she plays.

Irish head coach Niele Ivey has a very “heliocentric” offense in that she has a top option and everything runs through her. The top option—Hidalgo—is impressive, but the rest of the team is nothing to sneeze at. Guard Sonia Citron scores 16.9 points a game and forward Maddy Westbeld chips in another 13.9 a game. The team as a whole dishes an impressive 17.3 assists a game—the 29th-best in the country.

The defense of the Irish is very tough and very aggressive. Notre Dame gets 11.7 steals a game, good enough for 14th in the country, and they add 4.7 blocks a game. It’s a very undesirable matchup for the Cards, who have struggled at times with teams that rack up oodles of steals.

Another factor that will prove difficult to negate is the Irish’s ability to rebound. Notre Dame hauls in 42.1 rebounds a game—24th in the nation—but the Cards were able to outrebound NC State, who is the ninth-best rebounding team. It’ll certainly be difficult, but not impossible to even up the margin on the boards.

After an extremely tough game on Monday, the outcome could easily go either way. Being at home, I think the Cards have the edge and they’ll get their tear of the ACC back on track.

Photo Courtesy // Taris Smith, U of L Athletics