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



SMC BASKETBALL: Belles to face rival Comets

Dan Cooper | Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Belles look to extend their three-game win streak to four games today – and get some revenge for a lopsided loss to Olivet earlier this season as well.

Saturday’s win at Tri-State may have been just the confidence boost the Belles needed as they prepare to face rival Olivet.

The Comets – who are 9-8 overall and 6-4 in the MIAA – had no trouble when they last faced the Belles in early January. Saint Mary’s (8-10, 7-4 MIAA) struggled from the floor, hitting only 31 percent of its shots en route to a 82-63 loss at Olivet.

Saint Mary’s recent success gives the Belles hope against a talented Olivet squad.

“[We] have become better shooters as a team,” Belles coach Jennifer Henley said. “But we have got to shut them down. We have our hands full.”

The Belles will need a well-rounded effort to avoid a repeat from their last contest against the Comets. In the first game against Olivet, junior guard Allison Kessler scored 30 points, recorded five steals and hit 13-of-14 from the line. She was 8-of-15 from the field, but the rest of the team only made 25 percent of their shots.

“These kids are starting to step up and it takes pressure off of Kessler,” Henley said. “We still need to work for better shots.”

The Belles have worked on rebounding and defense in practice this week to gain a physical edge.

“There’s no reason we should be out rebounded with our size and speed,” Henley said. “We’ve been working on closing out so there aren’t any wide open shots from the help side. [Olivet forward Stephanie] Smith hit wide-open threes last time we played.”

Today’s matchup will be one of youth versus experience. Olivet has seven seniors and two juniors on their roster. The Belles are a much younger team, with only two seniors and one junior.

When the Belles have been successful this year they have received help from freshman center Anna Kammrath, freshman guard Patty Duffy and sophomore forward Erin Newsome. It is when Saint Mary’s relies solely on upperclassman – primarily Kessler or senior point guard Bridgett Lipke – that the team struggles.

Newsome was key in Belles’ victories over Alma and Tri-State last week and was named MIAA player of the week Jan. 21-28. In those two games she averaged 22 points, including her career high of 30 in Saturday’s win against Tri-State. On Saturday Newsom posted her third double-double of the season and is now averaging 11.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest.

“Erin has really improved this year,” Henley said. “I think her biggest improvement has come on the defensive end.”

Henley noted that Newsome’s accomplishments were especially impressive considering that she runs cross country for Saint Mary’s. The basketball season and the cross country season overlap, as cross-country competition interferes with the beginning of the basketball season.

“We get her late and she has to work twice as hard just to catch up,” said Henley.

Saint Mary’s and Olivet face off at 7:30 p.m. in the Angela Athletic facility.