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Women’s Basketball: Irish thump visiting Providence 66-48

Eric Retter | Monday, February 6, 2006

It was almost out of a movie.

With 2:34 left in the already decided game Saturday, the home fans began making their demands. Starting in the sections immediately behind the bench, a “We Want Tsipis” chant – referring to little-used sophomore guard Amanda Tsipis – began to come from the 6,800 in attendance, and the chant soon turned to a loud ovation as Tsipis jogged over to the scorer’s table, checking in to just her fifth game of the season.

It was that kind of game for the Irish, a game where they could worry about making sure all 10 members of the team saw playing time rather than trying to erase a major deficit or just hold on for a win, as was the theme of their January.

For the first time in a long time, Notre Dame played a complete 40 minutes, doing things right on both sides of the ball and earning its 66-48 win over Providence. And the change in month may have brought the team a renewed sense of confidence.

“We talked about that a few days ago, how we were really glad it was February, and hopefully as a team we’re a little more focused,” senior guard Megan Duffy said.

In truth, Saturday’s dismantling of Big East cellar-dweller Providence is what should have happened, and the fact that the Irish were able to consistently dominate may indicate that they are beginning to show signs of becoming the elite team they are capable of being.

For the second consecutive game, Notre Dame played a full game without any significant scoring drought, a streak it needs to keep alive in order to get out of the middle of the Big East pack. The Irish, who at times have depended on Duffy to put the team on her shoulders, steadily got points from everyone on the floor. While Duffy finished with 12 points, she was outshined by the team’s other senior, forward Courtney Lavere, who scored a team-high 18 on 9-for-10 shooting, and the two captains joined guards Breona Gray and Charel Allen, each of whom had 10 points, to give the team four players in double figures.

“That’s what we need, we haven’t had that since [The Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas], so that’s what we’ve been missing, just different contributions from different people,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said.

Defensively, the team’s aggressive play forced 18 turnovers and four shot-clock violations – limiting the Friars to just 28.3 percent shooting from the floor.

The Irish even dominated on the boards, where they have struggled for the better part of the season. Notre Dame grabbed eight more rebounds than Providence and was led by guards Duffy, Allen, and Tulyah Gaines, all of whom had eight.

“That’s like 100 for us, that’s a huge margin,” McGraw said of the rebounding differential.

Ultimately, Saturday’s contest was a game Notre Dame needed, a game where they performed well in all facets, even if it came against a weaker opponent. Clearly, an 18-point victory will always have its bright spots, and the Irish had a lot on Saturday. Perhaps more important than the score was who scored. With everyone contributing and points finally coming from the post – most notably, Lavere’s 18 – the Irish proved they can be a complete and dangerous team.

“We need to be balanced, we need to have an outside game we need to have an inside game, and you know, what better way than to have a senior do it, to step up her game,” Duffy said.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Eric Retter at eretter@nd.edu