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ND Women’s Basketball: Crusaders should provide good test

Joe Hettler | Friday, November 21, 2003

Valparaiso is 0-2 on the season, which probably means Notre Dame will have its hands full opening the home season tonight at the Joyce Center.For whatever reason, the Crusaders always play the Irish tough.”They’re always a tough team to play. For some reason we’ve always struggled with them,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They play great defense. It’s the same kind of defense that Colorado played against us, so we at least have some preparation time for that, and we know what to expect.”The game is both teams’ third of the season. Valparaiso started the season 0-2 after falling to Villanova and Oregon, while the Irish opened with a split by beating No. 22 Auburn 77-64 and falling to No. 20 Colorado 67-63.Irish forward Jacqueline Batteast had a solid first two games, scoring 27 against the Tigers and 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Buffalos. Last season the Crusaders battled the No. 9 Irish, finally losing 74-68 at Valparaiso. Batteast and forward Katy Flecky had 13 points each in that contest. Notre Dame didn’t score in the final 4 minutes, 52 seconds of the game and had to make 30 free throws to hang on for the victory. The last time the two teams met at the Joyce Center, points were at a premium. The Irish downed the Crusaders 42-35 after ending the game on a 7-2 run.”They’re just a solid team. They have really good balance and they play a lot of people,” McGraw said. “They work really hard and they’re just a smart team and very well coached.”In their first two games, Valparaiso was led by Katie Boone who has averaged 13.0 points a game and hit all four of her 3-point attempts. The Crusaders showed a trend in their first two contests of staying close to their opponent in the first half before getting beaten badly in the second half. Against Villanova, Valparaiso led 32-31 at halftime, but was outscored 37-18 in the second half. The Crusaders were tied with Oregon 23-23 at intermission before losing by 13 points.Even though Valparaiso also seems to have a poor record when they play the Irish, including this season, McGraw said she isn’t sure why the Irish have struggled so much with them the last several seasons. “It’s a challenge for us to play them every year,” McGraw said. The team is excited for the home opener, especially after playing well in Colorado last weekend.”They’re excited. They’re excited just to be in the season. Now we’re getting a little taste of what we can do,” McGraw said. “It was a great start for us. I thought we made great steps from last season.”