The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Women’s Basketball: Facing South Florida, hoping for UConn

Ken Fowler | Friday, March 3, 2006

Notre Dame looks to improve its NCAA Tournament prospects this weekend in Hartford, Conn., as the Irish square off against South Florida in the first round of the Big East Tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Both No. 10-seed Notre Dame (17-10, 8-8 Big East) and No. 7-seed South Florida (19-10, 9-7) seek to wrap up a likely spot in the upcoming Big Dance.

“I’d like to keep winning just because we don’t want to be waiting for a week to see where we go,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said Tuesday after Notre Dame’s 72-65 win over Pittsburgh. “It would be nice to win a couple games and know that we were in.”

The Irish entered their contest with the Panthers at No. 34 in the most recent Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), and South Florida checked in at No. 32.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee uses the RPI as one of the major tools in seeding the 64-team bracket.

McGraw said she thought an RPI under 40 would likely earn the Irish a bid to the tournament, as 33 teams earn automatic bids by winning their respective conference championships.

“No. 34, that’s pretty good,” she said.

Notre Dame and the Bulls played once this season, a dramatic 68-64 South Florida victory at the Joyce Center Jan. 28. Bulls forward Ezria Parsons hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and Irish guard Megan Duffy missed a three of her own that would have tied the game with three seconds left in the extra session.

“[Our] biggest focus is … to get some wins and get to the NCAA Tournament,” Duffy said.

After Notre Dame’s 41-point second half against Pittsburgh – the team’s third consecutive win – McGraw said that is a distinct possibility.

“Now we’re back on track,” she said. “I’m thrilled with the way we’re playing. Three games in a row, our confidence is high.”

Duffy said the team has momentum heading into Hartford.

“We’re in good position now, where we need to win … a couple games in the Big East Tournament [to be sure we get in the field of 64].”

The 6-foot Parsons had nine points and 14 rebounds in the game.

For the Irish to win Saturday, they must contain her and 5-foot-11 forward Jessica Dickson. Dickson finished with 18 points and six rebounds in the teams’ earlier meeting

Notre Dame will look for 6-foot-3 senior forward Courtney LaVere and 6-foot freshman forward Lindsay Schrader to bottle up the two Bulls forwards. Against the Panthers, LaVere centered the post defense and Schrader often rotated over to help against 6-foot-3 Pittsburgh center Marcedes Walker, who finished just 2-of-12 shooting on the night.

“I thought Schrader did a phenomenal job,” Panthers coach Agnus Berenato said after the game. “We don’t have any [guards] to combat her size. She did a very good job on the boards, and she was able to turn and score.”

South Florida beat Georgetown 71-57 Tuesday night in its last regular-season game Tuesday.

The winner of the Irish-Bulls game will face the No. 2-seeded Huskies of Connecticut Sunday at 6 p.m. in the second round. If the Irish win both games, they will play in the conference semifinals Monday at 6 p.m. against No. 3 DePaul, No. 9 Pittsburgh or No. 11 Cincinnati.