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Irish women’s basketball to sqaure off against Rutgers

Sports Writer | Friday, February 27, 2004

How do you improve after beating a top 20 team by 35 points?That’s the question Notre Dame will try to answer when they face Rutgers this weekend in New Jersey.The Irish (18-8, 11-3) are fresh off a 93-58 victory against Miami at the Joyce Center Wednesday night. Jacqueline Batteast scored 23 points to lead the Irish. All 12 Notre Dame players scored in the Irish highest-scoring game of the season.But coach Muffet McGraw knows her team better be ready for a battle against Rutgers (16-10, 8-6).”Rutgers is playing really well at home,” McGraw said. “They’re in a position now where they’re in must-win game situations. They really need to beat a team with an RPI as high as ours both for the Big East tournament, for their confidence and the NCAA Tournament.””It’s a must-win game for them, and I think that puts a little bit of pressure on them in that way.”Rutgers is coming off an 80-71 loss to West Virginia Wednesday night. The Scarlet Knights had won two straight games before falling to the Mountaineers. Guard Cappie Pondexter, who averages 17.4 points per game and was an honorable mention All-American last season, leads the Scarlet Knights. She is arguably one of the best guards in the country and is nominated for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best player.Besides Pondexter, Notre Dame must deal with another road environment. The Irish are 5-8 on the road this year and have struggled in many of those wins. Notre Dame nearly lost its last road game, to conference doormat Pittsburgh Feb 21, slipping by the Panthers 72-68.The Scarlet Knights have lost to just Connecticut on their home floor at the RACC and hold opponents to a mere 50.6 points per game there.”It’s a tough place to play. We’ve struggled the past couple of years there,” McGraw said. “But we’re playing really great basketball right now.”With its win over Miami, Notre Dame locked one of the four first round byes in the Big East Tournament. They are now trying to secure a second-place finish in the conference. Connecticut has a two-game lead over Notre Dame with two games to play, while the Irish are a game in front of Villanova and West Virginia. The Irish finish the regular season against Syracuse March 2. Notre Dame hopes to continue its impressive stretch of basketball that started Jan. 10 with a win over Virginia Tech. Since that win, the Irish are 11-2 and have gone from 7-6 to 18-8.McGraw hopes the team uses its confidence from this current stretch of success against Rutgers.”I think we have a lot of confidence, and we feel really good about where we are,” McGraw said.