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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Irish prepare for deep Arizona State team in 2nd round

Matt Lozar | Monday, March 21, 2005

FRESNO, Calif. – Shutting down one Sun Devil won’t send the Irish to their third straight Sweet 16.Arizona State just has too much depth.Facing a team with 10 players logging double-digit minutes and no one scoring more than 11.4 points per game, overcoming Arizona State’s deep bench will be the challenge for Notre Dame in tonight’s second-round NCAA tournament game at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.”They have a very balanced attack,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said at Sunday’s press conference. “We can’t just shut down a [Kristen] Mann to win this game.”Tonight’s game figures to be a defensive struggle since both teams normally play that type of the style. Unlike the 87 points Arizona State scored in its first-round win over Eastern Kentucky Saturday, the Sun Devils average 63 points per game.The Irish played their normal style of game in the 61-51 win over UC Santa Barbara. McGraw knows her team needs that type of performance on defense again tonight.”They are really physical and play great defense,” McGraw said. “I was pleased with our defensive effort and we need it again [tonight].”We’re not a team that blows people out.”More than just BatteastWith Jacqueline Batteast struggling from the field and the post players in foul trouble, McGraw needed her role players to step up on Saturday to defeat the pesky Gauchos.She got just that.”I was pleased with everybody,” McGraw said. “We got great contributions from our starters and everyone gave us a lift.”One interesting lineup McGraw used late in the first half saw three freshmen – Charel Allen, Tulyah Gaines and Melissa D’Amico – on the court with sophomore Breona Gray and Batteast. McGraw hadn’t used that combination very often this season, but she was pleased with the results.”It was great to get them some minutes. You’re not sure what to expect,” McGraw said. “I was pleased to see the freshmen play like that.”What may have been most satisfying for McGraw was seeing her team excel with Batteast only scoring eight points.”I thought that was one of our best games of the year,” McGraw said. “It was great to see us win with [Batteast] getting eight points and 10 boards and not 20 points.” Quick hitsu Saturday’s win gave the Irish 27 on the season, the third highest total in school history. Notre Dame’s 1996-97 team, which advanced to the Final Four and won more games than any team in history, won 31 games.u Batteast started her 96th consecutive game against the Gauchos, which set a school record. Katryna Gaither, who played at Notre Dame from 1994-97, previously held the mark.u McGraw earned her 499th career victory Saturday. u Since the Irish joined the Big East for the 1995-96 season, the Irish have qualified for 10 straight NCAA tournaments. Each year, the Irish have advanced to at least the second round. u Current Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White held the same position at Arizona State from 1996-2000. Current Arizona State athletic director Gene Smith, who is leaving for the same position at Ohio State in Columbus, is a former football player at Notre Dame and graduated in 1977.