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Women’s Basketball: Team looks for third straight Big East win

Eric Retter | Tuesday, February 7, 2006

With a new page on the calendar and shots finally falling in the basket, the Irish are attacking the final stretch of the season.

Notre Dame (14-7, 5-5 Big East) has won its last two games by double-digit margins and seems ready to put its January funk, when the team went 3-5, permanently in the past.

The Irish look to continue their streak tonight against Villanova, who comes into the game a loser of its last two games and just 3-6 in the conference.

One of the reasons for the Irish successes of the past week is a rejuvenated offense that finally seems able to get points from inside. Resurgent senior forward Courtney LaVere, who scored 14 and 18 points in the two Notre Dame wins against Syracuse and Providence, respectively, including a 9-10 performance from the floor against the Friars, has led this attack. She was recently selected to the Big East Conference Weekly Honor Roll.

“I think offensively we’re making some strides. It’s nice to have somebody lead the team in scoring besides Megan Duffy. She’s kind of carried the load for most of the year,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “But in the last two games, we’ve got a lot more production from other people. Courtney LaVere was one. Lindsay Schrader and Charel Allen have all stepped their offensive games, so I’m pleased at where we are right now with the offense.”

Notre Dame also has had success when it pushes the tempo of the game, and the team will look to dominate the tempo in tonight’s game, McGraw said.

“It’s an important part of the game, and you really need to score in transition,” she said. “That’s about the only way we can score some nights, so I think it is important that we run up and push the ball.”

But the Irish may run into some problems trying to push the game’s speed, as the Wildcats are known for having a very slow and deliberate offense.

“A lot of teams run some version of [Villanova’s slow-tempo offense]. I think that a lot of people run it, but they don’t like to use the whole shot clock [like Villanova does],” McGraw said. “The way they play, they don’t have to worry about [stamina] in the game. So I don’t think that’s going to be an advantage.”

In part because of their offensive strategy, the Wildcats lead the nation in lowest turnover-per-game average – giving the ball away just 10.8 times per game.

The Wildcats lead the nation in lowest turnovers-per-game average, but Villanova has struggled recently to score points – just as the Irish seem poised to end their scoring woes.

“If you’re not making [shots], it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing,” Villanova head coach Harry Perretta said. “You need to put the ball in the basket. Right now, I mean, that’s a concern of mine because we seem to be generating the same types of shots against all the teams in the league. It just seems like we’re not making them. That’s worrisome.”

Though Notre Dame is only ninth in the Big East in rebounding, McGraw stressed the importance of limiting second-chance opportunities on defense.

“They’re not a strong offensive rebounding team generally,” McGraw said. “That’s something they give up with four people on the perimeter. And we’re not a strong team defensive rebounding.”

While the Irish have shown signs of life offensively in the past few games, Villanova’s slow play could lead to fewer total points.

“[But] wait until Tuesday,” McGraw said after a 66-48 win over Providence Saturday. “It’s going to be 15-14 at halftime.”

Notes

u Game time was moved from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. due to coverage on ESPNU.