ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Team faces tough in-state showdown
Kevin Brennan | Wednesday, December 7, 2005
No. 10 Notre Dame (6-0) will take its undefeated record on the road tonight to face No. 20 Purdue (4-2) at 7 p.m. at the Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
Notre Dame assistant head coach Coquese Washington said her team is excited to square off with one of its top rivals, but acknowledged the Irish must be prepared for a very difficult game.
“This is one of our biggest rivals. We always have very good games,” Washington said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge for us to go down there and play a ranked Big Ten opponent in their place.”
The Irish might be without head coach Muffet McGraw again tonight. McGraw has missed the past two games with an undisclosed illness. Washington, who has served as head coach in McGraw’s absence, said Monday that McGraw is day-to-day.
“There’s no questions she’s getting better. It’s just a matter of her getting her strength up and being able to handle the rigors of coaching,” Washington said of McGraw. “She’ll be fine. She’ll be back soon.”
Washington said she has tried to make life without McGraw as normal as possible for her players. Her efforts have paid dividends. Notre Dame downed Iona 74-55 at the Joyce Center on Nov. 29, and the Irish won 77-72 at Wisconsin Dec. 4.
“[McGraw] has a tremendous system in place, and I don’t have to do any juggling or adjusting,” Washington said. “I’m just trying to keep things going along as they would be if she were here. And she’s set a very high standard of practice for the players and for ourselves as a coaching staff. We’re just going along and keeping things going the way she would do it if she was here.”
Washington said she is proud of the way her young team has handled McGraw’s extended absence. Notre Dame has just two seniors and two juniors on its 12-player roster.
“I think it’s been tough, but I think they’ve really risen to the challenge,” Washington said. “I think they understand that the best thing that they can do in the situation is to play better, to play smarter, to play harder, to give more than they’ve give before. And as long as we continue to do that as a team, I think we’ll be ok and we’ll be able to compete.”
Purdue will be led by its two stars, junior guard Katie Gearlds and junior forward Erin Lawless. Gearlds, a two-time first team all-Big Ten honoree, leads the Boilermakers in scoring, averaging 12.8 points per game. Lawless, who led the team in scoring a year ago, is close behind, posting 12 points per contest.
But Washington said Notre Dame must be wary of concentrating too heavily on Purdue’s top two players.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons both offensively and defensively,” Washington said. “If you think you can just come in and shut down one or two people and you can beat them, you are mistaken. We’ve got to have a very well-rounded defensive attack if we are going to be in this game.”
Notre Dame will be playing its second road game against a Big Ten opponent in the past four days. The Irish edged Wisconsin Sunday in Madison thanks in large part to the play of senior captain Megan Duffy, who scored 20 points and dished out five assists in the game. Duffy has been coming up big for the Irish all year, averaging 18 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Notre Dame has never won a game at the Mackey Arena in seven chances.
u Duffy and freshman guard Lindsay Schrader were both selected to the Big East Conference Weekly Honor Roll Monday. In addition to her performance against Wisconsin, Duffy recorded 23 points and three assists against Iona Nov. 29. Schrader, who is the first freshman this season to be named to the Honor Roll, averaged 13.5 points and four rebounds in the two games.