BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey wasn’t going to miss a chance to see her son Jaden play in his first Sweet 16.
Ivey headed down to Philadelphia from Connecticut after her team practices Friday afternoon to watch Purdue face Saint Peter's in the men's regional semifinal. Jaden Ivey is a sophomore for the Boilermakers and second-team AP All-America.
“This is an experience of a lifetime,” she told The Associated Press. “If I had the opportunity to get there I wasn’t going to miss his first Sweet 16. When I found it was in driving distance. That was an easy route to me."
Unfortunately for the Iveys, 15th-seed Saint Peter's pulled off another upset, beating Purdue 67-64. Jaden Ivey had nine points and eight rebounds.
Ivey said she talked to the school's athletic director who encouraged her to go. She has a car waiting for her after the Irish's practice to make the 2.5-hour trip. Notre Dame faces North Carolina State in the women's Sweet 16 on Saturday morning.
“If it was in Spokane or Wichita this wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “If our practice schedule was later, I wouldn’t have made it. I'll be in the stands and come right back."
Ivey watched from afar as the Boilermakers advanced to the Sweet 16, appearing many times on the television broadcast via Zoom from her hotel as the Irish prepared to face Oklahoma.
She made the four-hour roundtrip drive from South Bend to West Lafayette more than a half dozen times this season, using the same roads former Irish men’s coach Digger Phelps once joked didn’t exist.
She'll be wearing her son's No. 23 jersey at the game Friday night.
“Definitely have it packed in my bag,” she said.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25