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Erwin’s intensity must become contagious

Heather Van Hoegarden | Thursday, January 27, 2005

After three straight wins, two of which were over top-20 teams, Notre Dame was a prime candidate for a letdown, and St. John’s appeared to be the worthy opponent. For a while, that was the case.The Irish played poor defense, struggled on offense and showed little energy or emotion despite coming away with a 72-65 win over St. John’s.The closest margin of victory ever for Notre Dame over St. John’s could have been worse for Notre Dame. Behind 18 first-half points from Kia Wright, the Red Storm led 35-31 at the intermission.”I think we came out flat today,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I don’t know why.”That’s right, Notre Dame came out flat against St. John’s. A team Notre Dame has never lost to in women’s basketball. A team who has played the likes of Fordham, Binghamton and Fairleigh Dickinson. A team who scored just 32 points against Connecticut. That’s right, St. John’s was leading at halftime.Notre Dame played so poorly on defense in the first half that McGraw pulled the plug on the 2-3 zone that gave up 16 points Sunday in the second half against No. 6 Rutgers. So then they tried man-to-man with no success. Box-and-one? No success. The Irish couldn’t rebound consistently either.All-American Jacqueline Batteast couldn’t get shots in the first half. She took just three, making one. She rebounded well, especially defensively, but Notre Dame simply couldn’t get her the ball. Megan Duffy shot just 3-for-14 from the field, including 1-for-8 in the first half. The Irish were struggling against someone they shouldn’t have been.But amidst the chaos for Notre Dame was sophomore forward Crystal Erwin. Erwin was all over the place from the get-go.She hustled, rebounded, got her fair share of shoves in the paint. When a shot went up, Erwin was around the ball. The sophomore has played well since entering the starting lineup in December, and Wednesday night was no different.When she wasn’t in the game, Notre Dame struggled to rebound. When she was, they didn’t.She finished with a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Erwin was the difference in the game. She knew that Notre Dame needed to rebound to win, and she took it to heart.”We focus as a team to rebound,” Erwin said. “That was my main focus going into the game was to rebound. I know that’s what we need to do in order to win, and I just try to do what we need to do that.”The 6-foot-1 forward played just 25 minutes, but her presence was seemingly felt for much longer. Seven of her 10 rebounds were on the offensive end, accounting for almost half of Notre Dame’s 20 offensive rebounds.”I thought Crystal did a great job on the offensive boards,” McGraw said. “She really did a nice job staying after the ball and being aggressive.”But with Erwin, it’s not just the numbers. It’s the way she goes about it.She is the player Notre Dame didn’t have last year. Erwin plays with an attitude – the good kind. The kind this team was missing in the first half. Erwin has become the player that Notre Dame can count on every game for the little things. On Wednesday night, they were the most important things. And so, the all-time record stands – Notre Dame 15, St. John’s 0.