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Women’s Basketball: Irish earn tourney berth and game with Eagles

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, March 14, 2006

After Notre Dame topped South Florida (19-11, 9-7 Big East) in the first round of the Big East tournament March 4, head coach Muffet McGraw thought the Irish (18-11, 8-8 Big East) were a lock for an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament.

When she saw that same South Florida team earn a No. 9 seed and first-round matchup against Southern California early in the selection show Monday, she was only more confident that Notre Dame would be included in the field of 64.

“I felt good after we beat South Florida [in the Big East tournament],” McGraw said in a telephone interview with The Observer Monday. “Then when I saw South Florida [as a No. 9 seed], I thought that was … encouraging.”

McGraw saw her predictions come to fruition Monday as the NCAA Tournament selection committee awarded the Irish the No. 9 seed in the Albuquerque Region and a first-round matchup against No. 8-seed Boston College (19-11, 6-8 ACC) in West Lafayette, Ind., at 7 p.m. Sunday.

If Notre Dame wins, it faces the winner of the contest between No. 1-seed Ohio State and No. 16-seed Oakland in the second round Tuesday in West Lafayette.

McGraw said she was pleased with the location of the matchup. After traveling to Fresno, Calif., last March to face UC-Santa Barbara and Arizona State in the first two rounds, she said the Irish will maximize the time spent on campus.

“We were really excited being pretty close to home,” she said. “I don’t know that it’s an advantage [against Boston College.] But at least we get more control over travel, having to hop on a bus rather than getting on a plane.”

After a seven-game winning streak in the middle of their conference schedule, the Eagles lost their last five games in the highly competitive ACC, which joined the Big East as the most prolific tournament conference with seven teams earning berths.

McGraw said Boston College’s recent slide won’t have much effect on how the Eagles play against the Irish.

“Everybody’s got a clean slate right now,” McGraw said. “It probably looked like a great matchup to [the selection committee], and it will be.”

Notre Dame faced the Eagles twice in Big East play last season, but the teams did not meet this season after Boston College moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference following the 2004-2005 campaign.

The Irish took both contests in early 2005, beating the Eagles by seven twice – 64-57 at the Joyce Center and 54-47 in Chestnut Hill.

“We will definitely watch that film,” McGraw said. “I think it is a whole different team, but they are a good team.”

But while the Eagles no longer have guard Clare Droesch in the backcourt or Kindyll Dorsey off the bench, the team’s top three performers are all returning starters.

Forward Brooke Queenan leads the Eagles in scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.6 points and eight rebounds a contest. The 6-foot-2 senior co-captain started both matchups between the two teams last season but was just 1-of-9 shooting in the two games for a total of seven points.

Junior guard Sarah Marshall and senior forward Aja Parham are Queenan’s co-captains.

Marshall is a pure point guard, averaging only 5.5 points but 5.9 assists per game. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is greater than two-to-one.

The 6-foot-0 Parham uses the lanes Queenan creates to score on opponents. Parham averages 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds a contest.

Irish standout point guard Megan Duffy had just five assists in the two Notre Dame wins over Boston College last season but scored nine points in the first win and 14 in the second.

McGraw said the Irish were in the gym Monday for the first time in three days and practiced well.

“We had a really good practice today,” McGraw said. “We were off on the weekend. We came in today refreshed and ready to go.”

Contact Ken Fowler at

kfowler1@nd.edu