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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Crucial conference test

Joe Hettler | Wednesday, February 2, 2005

In terms of earning the Big East regular season title, Wednesday’s matchup between Notre Dame and Boston College isn’t a must-win for the Irish, but it sure would help.The No. 6 Irish (18-3, 6-2) host the No. 16 Eagles (15-3, 6-1) at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center in a game that carries huge implications for both teams. “The next game is the most important game on our schedule,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We can’t afford any more losses if we want to win the conference.”Notre Dame, fresh off a 65-59 victory against Connecticut in Storrs on Sunday, has three teams ahead of it in the conference standings in the Huskies, Rutgers and Boston College. A victory tonight gives the Irish the edge over the Eagles, at least for now. Notre Dame plays Boston College and Rutgers on the road again this season but does not face Connecticut. The Irish and Huskies split a pair of games already.Meanwhile, a Boston College victory gives the Eagles a boost heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule. Including tonight, Boston College faces Notre Dame and Connecticut twice and Rutgers once in its final nine games of the season. It would also be the first time Boston College has ever defeated Notre Dame at the Joyce Center.”They are anxious to change that trend, I’d think,” McGraw said.The Eagles have played impressive basketball through their first 18 games but are still looking for a big win. While they’ve beaten several good teams, they haven’t grabbed a win over any top-25 teams. But Boston College doesn’t have any bad losses either, with its defeats coming to Michigan State, Stanford and Rutgers.”They’re one of those really good teams that’s a little bit overlooked and doesn’t get the respect they deserve,” McGraw said. “They’re just a really solid team and they don’t beat themselves.”Three Eagles average double figures in scoring, with a fourth – Clare Droesch – at 9.1 points per game. Jessica Deveny paces the team by averaging more than 18 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Kathrin Ress tallies 12 points and Brooke Queenan adds 11.7 points per game.Notre Dame showed Sunday that the team is more than just all-American Jacqueline Batteast. Batteast, who scored only nine points on 3-of-17 shooting while battling stomach flu symptoms, struggled throughout the Connecticut game. But Courtney LaVere, Megan Duffy and Charel Allen picked up the slack by scoring 14 points, 12 points and 11 points, respectively.The win snapped the Huskies 112-game regular season Big East home winning streak.The Irish used a suffocating 2-3 zone defense and harassed the inexperienced Connecticut guards throughout the contest. But McGraw considers the Eagles’ guards, including Deveny, better players than their Huskies counterparts. The Irish must also stop Boston College’s lethal outside shooting. The Eagles shoot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc in Big East play.”They have really good guards,” McGraw said. “They’re smart. They have a great assist-to-turnover ratio. Deveny’s really good, and we’ve got to contain the three-point line. We didn’t do a good job with that against Connecticut so we’ve got to do a good job [against Boston College].”The Irish should be well-rested for the game. McGraw gave the team the day off Monday, which helped players recuperate after the Connecticut trip. Batteast, who practiced Tuesday, used the time to shake off the stomach flu and will start Wednesday.