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ND Women’s Basketball: Team’s depth has left opponents confused

Jay Fitzpatrick | Thursday, November 29, 2007

After recording its third straight win of 30 points or more Tuesday, Notre Dame is proving it should be considered one of the top teams in the country.

The Irish have been getting production on both ends of the court from 10 players this season. The depth has enabled Irish coach Muffet McGraw to run a variety of offensive and defensive sets, often allowing the Irish to confuse opponents.

“When the other team is looking at their scouting report, I’m not sure who they’re going to try not to guard,” McGraw said. “It’s just great. I was worried about it in the beginning of the year, but the depth has been the thing that has been making us good because it’s competitive and there’s just so many people who can get in and do something good.”

McGraw has run three- and four-guard sets effectively, mixing and matching from among Notre Dame’s deep talent pool in the backcourt. This system has helped spark the Irish offensively, with three guards averaging double figures in points this season.

Sophomore Ashley Barlow leads the team with 13.7 points per game, followed by Charel Allen with 13.0 and Lindsay Schrader with 12.3.

The multi-pronged attack was most evident during Tuesday’s 93-47 win over Canisius. The Irish played all 11 players on the roster, and when senior guard Amanda Tsipis nailed a free throw with 3:03 to play, all of them had managed to score. By the final buzzer, everyone but center Melissa D’Amico had an assist, and everyone but point guard Melissa Lechlitner had a rebound.

Because everyone in Notre Dame’s lineup can shoot, pass and rebound, opposing coaches have had trouble figuring out which players to focus on. Golden Griffins coach Terry Zeh said even though he wanted Notre Dame to force the ball into the post, he still could not manage to find good matchups against Notre Dame’s guards.

“They present matchup problems for a lot of people, even in the Big East. With their spread offensive system, their Princeton system, I think, that’s one of the best passing basketball teams I’ve seen in a while,” Zeh said. “And with everybody moving the ball and their confidence knocking those shots down, they are a really good team.”

Zeh said one of the best aspects of Notre Dame’s play – at least against his team – was its ability to pass the ball effectively. The Irish finished with a 25-16 assist-to-turnover margin even though the team leader (Barlow) only had six dishes in the triumph.

One of the most important results of the squad’s depth has been the decreased pressure on some of the top Irish scorers from last season. Even though Allen finished last season with 17.0 points per game and Barlow had 10.3 in her freshman campaign, both players feel less pressure to make shots because they can rely on teammates.

“We have a lot of depth so I feel confident in my team that I can make the extra pass and they can knock down the shot,” Allen said.

Barlow said she has been getting more open looks because defenses cannot focus on shutting down one Irish player like many opposing coaches tried to do to Allen last season.

“They’re going to have to go one-on-one with us,” Barlow said. “They can’t stop us, they can’t double team one person and hope to stop our team. We have multiple threats, and that’s a good thing.”

But despite the production, the teamwork and the wins, McGraw is still not satisfied with her team’s present position.

“I just think we can execute better,” McGraw said. “Teams are going to take away our transition, and we have to get points in the half court.”

The early success has not prevented McGraw from looking for areas to improve.

“I think we haven’t scratched the surface of our potential yet and we really can be a really formidable team when we have everybody going on all cylinders,” she said.