NEWARK, N.J, (AP) — Playing in front of her family and former high school basketball team, Notre Dame freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo scored 26 points and tied the school record for steals with 12 as the No. 10 Irish routed NJIT 104-57 on Sunday.
It marked the second straight outstanding game for Hidalgo, the 2023 Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year. She scored 31 points in a 100-71 season-opening loss to No. 6 South Carolina on Nov. 6. It was the most points ever scored by an Irish freshman — male or female — in their Notre Dame debut.
“I was excited to come home,” said Hidalgo, who went to Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, a suburb of Philadelphia. “It was great to see the support I have.”
Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey has given Hidalgo the keys to running the Irish offense in the absence of All-American guard Olivia Miles, who remains out with a knee injury she suffered last February. According to Ivey, Miles has not begun practicing and there is no timetable on her return.
In the meantime, Hidalgo has shown the poise of a veteran.
“She (Hidalgo) has a very high IQ and she is very mature,” said Ivey. "It's like I'm talking to an assistant coach. She's very cerebral. She loves to defend. You don't see too many freshman guards that change the trajectory of the game. She loves that role.”
The game against NJIT from the America East Conference was arranged as a “homecoming” to highlight five of Notre Dame's players who are from the New York-Philadelphia area. Sonia Citron (Eastchester, N.Y.), Hidalgo (Haddonfield, N.J.), Nat Marshall (Queens, N.Y.), Olivia Miles (Phillipsburg, N.J.) and Kylee Watson (Linwood, N.J.) are from within 115 miles of the NJIT campus. In addition, NJIT head coach Mike Lane is a 1996 Notre Dame graduate.
“I give (Notre Dame) coach (Niele) Ivey credit for wanting this game,” said Lane. "There's not a lot of Power 5 schools who would necessarily play these games.
Citron also scored 26 points.
NJIT trailed by just seven points after the first quarter (24-17), but Notre Dame's quickness and experience took over in the second quarter. The Irish went on a 22-5 run to end the quarter and grab a 52-29 halftime edge.
The Irish lead increased to 78-40 after three quarters.
The Irish frontcourt struggled against South Carolina. Forwards Maddy Westbeld and Kylee Watson were just 5-of-14 from the field against the Gamecocks but enjoyed a clear height advantage against NJIT. The Highlanders did not have a player taller than 6-foot-2 on the roster.
Westbeld scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Watson contributed 12 points and recorded two blocks. Notre Dame enjoyed a 62-26 advantage on points in the paint.
Alejandra Zuniga led NJIT (2-1) with 14 points.
There is no timetable on the return of Notre Dame All-American junior guard Olivia Miles, who suffered a knee injury in the Irish's last game of the regular season last February and missed the post-season. What is certain is that when she returns, Notre Dame will have the most dynamic backcourt in the country. In just two games freshman Hidalgo has shown poise in running the offense, while getting to the rim on a quick motor.
Notre Dame opens its home season against Northwestern on Wednesday. The Irish have won 28 straight home openers and have defeated Northwestern in each of the last three meetings.
NJIT hosts Rider on Wednesday.
Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball