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ND Women’s Basketball: No. 5 Huskies await Irish

Eric Retter | Friday, January 26, 2007

Notre Dame will face its toughest Big East challenge of the season as it travels to Storrs to take on No. 5 Connecticut Saturday at 7 p.m.

The game marks the midway point of a three-game road trip against ranked Big East opponents for the Irish (13-6, 4-2 Big East), who will attempt to rebound from a 71-62 loss at No. 17 Marquette Tuesday. Despite a plus-eight turnover differential, Notre Dame was only 22-of-62 from the field.

“It was just a bad game from start to finish,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said after the loss.

The Huskies (17-2, 7-0 Big East), the current conference leaders, are coming off a 88-76 win over DePaul Wednesday. Sophomore guard Kalana Greene recorded her third double-double of the season as she dropped a career-high 25 points and grabbed 12 boards. Greene leads the Huskies with 13.4 points per game, and is second on the team with 7.3 rebounds a game.

Greene, however, is only one of five Huskies to average in double figures, as each starter on the team averages at least 11.6 points per contest.

Despite Connecticut’s potent offense, McGraw does not anticipate changing Notre Dame’s game plan.

“We’re not going to do anything different than we’ve been doing all year,” she said. “We’re just trying to continue to get better defensively.”

The Irish will be led by junior guard Charel Allen. Allen, the reigning Big East player of the week, scored 31 and 25 points last week in games against St. John’s and Syracuse, respectively. Allen scored 17 points Tuesday at Marquette.

Allen’s recent offensive surge has not surprised her coach.

“I thought she could get 18 to 20 points if she shot the ball enough,” McGraw said. “I thought what she did last week [against St. John’s and Syracuse] was a little over my expectations, but I think she’s capable of doing that. She’s like a completely different player now.”

For the Irish to have a chance to win, McGraw said, they must be a presence on the boards. The Golden Eagles pulled down six more rebounds than the Irish did Tuesday, snapping Notre Dame’s three-game streak of positive rebound differentials.

However, for the Irish to succeed, McGraw said, they must limit Connecticut’s fast break points.

“We gotta stop the transition,” she said. “We can do that by taking care of the ball and just being patient with the ball.”

Notre Dame has averaged just 11 turnovers in its past three games, a dramatic improvement over its 17.6 mark for the season.

The Irish are currently 2-2 against teams currently ranked in the top 25, boasting wins over No. 13 Purdue and No. 16 Bowling Green with losses to No. 4 Tennessee and No. 17 Marquette. The Huskies are currently 1-2 against ranked teams, with a win over Purdue and a pair of six-point losses to Top-5 teams in Tennessee and No. 2 North Carolina.