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March Madness: Refs make Notre Dame star Hannah Hidalgo remove her nose stud midgame

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 29: Hannah Hidalgo #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish speaks to head coach Niele Ivey against the Oregon State Beavers during the second half in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 29, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Hannah Hidalgo had to miss four minutes in the Sweet 16 because of a nose stud. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Sarah Stier via Getty Images)

It was a surprise to see Notre Dame star freshman Hannah Hidalgo on the bench to open the second quarter of the Sweet 16. The reason why was even more surprising.

Hidalgo was forced by officials to have her nose stud removed during the No. 2 seed Fighting Irish's 70-65 loss to No. 3 Oregon State on Friday. The unexpected demand caused Hidalgo to spend the first four minutes of the second quarter on the bench as Notre Dame staffers removed the stud.

NCAA rules forbid players to wear jewelry for safety reasons, but nose studs are something of a gray area. Hidalgo isn't the only player to wear such a stud, and Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey noted to reporters after the game that Hidalgo had worn the stud all season:

"Well, I didn't know what happened, so I guess it was a point of emphasis in the Sweet 16 with jewelry and she's had a nose ring the entire season. Just wish we would have known beforehand. Can't control it, so we had to move on.

"But yeah, stoppage of play is never great when you're trying to have flow."

Hidalgo began the game with four points on 2-of-4 shooting. After returning to the court with her nose stud removed, she shot 2-of-13 for the rest of the game and finished with an inefficient 10 points plus four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two turnovers.

The rough night was costly for Notre Dame, which went 28-7 this season with Hidalgo averaging 22.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game in her first season on campus. She was named a first-team AP All-American, ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Hidalgo blamed the officials for the interruption, via a pool reporter:

"I thought it was B.S., because I'm on a run, I'm on a roll," Hidalgo said. "I scored two baskets and then having to sit out for all that time, I was starting to get cold. I think [the officials] were worried about the wrong things. They should have reffed the game."

Under the NCAA rulebook, a player found to be wearing jewelry will be required to remove it at the first dead ball and is not allowed to re-enter the game until it's removed. They are allowed a narrow plastic stem to prevent a narrow piercing hole from closing, as long as the referee determines it's not dangerous to other players.

The officials had a different approach for the next game in Albany, however, as South Carolina's Chloe Kitts told Yahoo Sports' Cassandra Negley that the officials told the Gamecocks to remove their nose rings before tip-off. Both Kitts and star center Kamilla Cardoso wear nose studs.