ND Women’s Basketball: Wolverines come to JACC
Bill Brink | Friday, November 30, 2007
After winning four of its first six games by 30 points or more, Notre Dame will face a tough opponent Sunday when Michigan visits the Joyce Center at 2 p.m.
Although the Wolverines have only one loss, like the Irish, Michigan has played harder competition than Notre Dame – it defeated a strong Cincinnati team on the road on Nov. 13.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Michigan presents the toughest challenge since Maryland. She also said that 6-foot-6 Wolverines center Krista Phillips would give the Irish headaches.
“She’s good, she’s agile, she can shoot the 3, she can score around the basket,” McGraw said of the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native. “She’s playing really well right now.”
Phillips leads the Wolverines with 11.4 points per game. No other player averages in double figures.
“Teams with good balance are harder to guard,” McGraw said. “That’s a concern of ours, how to guard all of them. That’s something we’re looking at, different defenses.”
As a team, Michigan hits 36 percent of its 3-point attempts. Against Cincinnati, Michigan made 11 of 29 attempts from behind the arc. McGraw said the Irish, who have struggled to defend the 3-pointer, must work hard to slow the perimeter attack.
“We’ve got to identify where they are,” McGraw said. “They are running a motion offense and set a lot of screens. We’ve got to have good communication.”
In order to keep confidence in check on a team that has won four of its six games by 30 points or more, McGraw said, she has pointed out problem areas during film study.
“I keep telling them when we watch film from other games, ‘This isn’t going to be good enough against Michigan,'” McGraw said. “They’ve been receptive at how to improve.”
McGraw expressed disappointment in her team’s free-throw shooting after Notre Dame’s win over Canisius. Notre Dame, which shot 76 percent from the line last season, has shot only 65 percent so far this season.
The Irish have excelled on defense and in transition. They force an average of 24 turnovers per game – 12 more than they commit. They routinely intercept passes, and the size of centers Melissa D’Amico and Erica Williamson – both 6-foot-5 – provides many shot-block opportunities. Freshman forward Devereaux Peters, while only 6-foot-2, has a knack for rejecting the ball and averages 2.6 blocks per game. Notre Dame has four players with double-figure steals – and a team average of 12.7 per game.
The season has been one of offensive explosion for the Irish. They average 85 points a game and have three players – guards Ashley Barlow, Charel Allen and Lindsay Schrader – who average double-figure points.
But the Irish can’t plan on repeating their averages against the Wolverines.
“I don’t expect to score as many as we’ve been scoring when we get into the stronger part of the schedule, which is right now,” McGraw said. “We’re capable of scoring points, certainly, but we only had 59 against Maryland. We don’t want to try to outscore teams, we want to play good defense.”
u The Ticket Office has sold more than 10,000 tickets for Sunday’s game. Fewer than 500 tickets are still available.