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Flying into the Eagles’ nest

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The first time Notre Dame and Boston College matched up – two weeks ago in a game the Irish won 64-57 in South Bend – the Eagles lost leading scorer and 3-point shooter Jessalyn Deveny to a ruptured Achilles tendon early in the first half.

Boston College hasn’t been the same since.

After Deveny went down, the Eagles dropped their next three games before beating Syracuse 75-50 Feb. 12. In the victory, Boston College had four players score in double figures, including forward Brooke Queenan, who had 16 points. Queenan has stepped into a starting role for the injured Deveny, and the junior is averaging more than 11 points per contest.

Meanwhile, the Irish begin a tough two-game road stretch against the Eagles and Rutgers on Saturday. Unlike last season when Notre Dame struggled away from the Joyce Center, going just 5-8, the 2004-05 Irish have posted a better road mark than home. The team is 9-1 at the visitor’s arena and 13-2 inside the Joyce Center.

“I really think it is maturity. Our upperclassmen have just done a heck of a job all year long of letting the underclassmen know that this is how it’s supposed to go,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They’ve set the tone in every game and the underclassmen have just followed their lead. I’m really proud of our leadership this year.”

Notre Dame is on a season-high nine-game winning streak, which began with an 86-69 victory against Purdue Jan. 16. The Irish, now 22-3 and 10-2 in the Big East, hold a half-game advantage on first place in the Big East standings over Connecticut and Rutgers, who are both 9-2.

McGraw has regularly used an eight-player rotation and usually starts Megan Duffy, Jacqueline Batteast, Teresa Borton, Breona Gray and either Crystal Erwin or Courtney LaVere. Freshmen Charel Allen and Tuylah Gaines come off the bench for significant minutes as well.

But the Irish start and end with Batteast. The All-American picked up her fourth Big East player of the week award this season for averaging 21.5 points, nine rebounds and 4.5 assists in Notre Dame’s wins against Providence and Georgetown last week. She had 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Friars and followed that performance with 20 points and eight boards against the Hoyas.

Against Georgetown, Batteast also passed Alicia Ratay for fourth on the all-time scoring list. Following the game, she said the team is much more confident this season than a year ago, especially on the road.

“I think we’re not as intimidated as we were last year,” she said. “We’re just coming in and treating each trip more business-like and just trying to go take care of business and do what we practiced – trying to rebound more, trying to take care of the ball.”

Notre Dame faces three road tests, including the Boston College and Rutgers games, in its next four matchups. The Irish have next week off before facing West Virginia in the home finale Feb. 26 and Seton Hall in New Jersey March 1.