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Irish search for cause of slow start

Joe Hettler | Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Tough opponents, five out of seven road games and inconsistent play have led Notre Dame to a lackluster 3-4 start in the 2003-04 season.

But the Irish aren’t panicking – at least not yet – and feel they will turn their slow start around sooner than later.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed about the losses,” Notre Dame guard Megan Duffy said. “Anytime you lose, it’s obviously not what you intend to do when you go into a game, but at the same time we’re still confident we’ll come back from this.”

“We’re just going to go back to the drawing board at practice, break down some things and try and find what the problem is.”

After opening the season by beating No. 22 Auburn, the Irish lost in overtime to No. 20 Colorado the next day. But Irish coach Muffet McGraw said she was pleased with her team’s play after those first two games.

Notre Dame came home for its third game and pounded Valparaiso 74-57 to improve to 2-1.

But since that win, the Irish have dropped three of four games and dropped out of the top 25 rankings. They got whipped by Michigan State on the road, 92-63, then fell victim to a very strong No. 3 Tennessee team in Knoxville Nov. 30.

Notre Dame bounced back with a strong second half in the team’s victory over Wisconsin in the Joyce Center a few days later, but they failed to carry their momentum into a road game against Washington last Sunday. The Huskies outplayed the Irish en route to an 85-74 win.

The tough schedule doesn’t seem to let up much over the next few weeks either, as Notre Dame faces formidable opponents in Southern California, Colorado State and Purdue before entering Big East play on the road against Georgetown Jan. 7.

Those games in the next few weeks leave Notre Dame little time to improve and even less room for error.

But Duffy said the Irish are continuing to learn and improve through each game and are close to becoming more consistent.

“I think we’re real close to finding what it takes to be a good team,” Duffy said. “It’s just a matter of staying patient with ourselves and getting the job done and getting some wins against quality opponents.”

The difficult schedule should also help the team during Big East play and in the tournament in March.

“This [schedule] is definitely going to prepare us for conference play and into the tournament,” Duffy said. “But at the same time, we still have to get the job done and not just take this as an experience. We want to compete as a top 25 team.”

Notre Dame’s next opponent is Dayton Saturday at the Joyce Center. The Flyers are coming off a Tuesday win against Wright State. The win snapped Dayton’s five-game losing streak and pushed their record to 2-5 for the season.

Notre Dame will have nine days off after their contest against Dayton before facing USC Dec. 22.


Duffy was recently named co-Big East player of the week for her stellar performances against Wisconsin and Washington. She scorched the Badgers for 25 points, drilling 6-of-10 3-pointers in Notre Dame’s win. She averaged 21 points and eight assists in the two games. Duffy shares the award with Boston College’s Amber Jacobs and is the first Irish player to receive the honor since Alicia Ratay did so Feb. 17.