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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: At last, rest for the weary

Joe Hettler | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Finally, the Irish can take a deep breath.

After having no more than three straight days without a game – and that doesn’t include traveling time – Notre Dame is in the middle of a much-deserved week off.

The Irish (23-4) have played 16 games in the last 52 days, dating back to a Dec. 30 victory against Northern Illinois, with half those games on the road and seven against ranked opponents. Notre Dame holds a 7-3 record for the entire season against top-25 opponents.

The grueling regular season schedule has worn on the team, tri-captain Teresa Borton said, but she doesn’t think the Irish will take the off week too lightly.

“It’s pretty nice having a couple days off, but we don’t want to get too relaxed because we know we can get out of shape pretty easily,” the senior said. “We have still quite a few games to go hopefully, so we can’t sit back on our heels.”

Notre Dame’s string of games began with Northern Illinois and saw the team face Connecticut, Boston College and Rutgers twice and Purdue and Villanova once.

Notre Dame has just two regular season game remaining – West Virginia at home Saturday and a March 1 date against Seton Hall. Then the Irish have the Big East tournament during spring break before the NCAA Tournament begins March 19 and 20.

“The whole season is like a marathon – it keeps on going and going,” Borton said.

Last week, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said such a long stretch of games can wear a player down physically and mentally. Tuesday, Borton echoed her coach’s comments.

“You have to be physically tough as well as mentally tough because academics come into play, and wins and losses takes a toll on you mentally,” she said.

The Irish watched film and practiced Tuesday after having Monday off. They will also take today off before practicing Thursday in preparation for the final home game Saturday. Assistant coach Coquese Washington ran practice because of McGraw’s absence. McGraw was with family after her father’s death last weekend.

Notre Dame lost to Rutgers 59-48 Saturday and dropped from first place in the Big East conference regular season standings. Barring a collapse against two 6-7 conference teams in their final two games, the Irish should have at least a No. 3 seed for the Big East tournament. An impressive showing in the tournament should help Notre Dame gain a high seed for the NCAA bracket – likely a No. 2 or No. 3 pill.

Notes

uAll-American Jacqueline Batteast is one of the 30 remaining candidates for the Naismith Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top player.