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Team takes on Canisius after two consecutive routs

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Notre Dame hasn’t had any problems winning this season. It’s only a matter of if the game will be close.

In its first five games, the Irish have gone 4-1 with a 75-59 loss against No. 3 Maryland at College Park the only slip up. But other than that game, the Irish have scored 89.5 points per game, while not surrendering 60 points or more to any opponent this season.

This trend held true during Notre Dame’s 94-41 win over Central Michigan on Nov. 20 and 88-58 win over Boston College on Saturday. This weekend marked the first time since the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2001 that Notre Dame had back-to-back 30-point victories.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw said the two wins were important to getting the team back on track after the loss to the Terrapins.

“We’re pretty confident right now. I think we feel good about a lot of things because it’s such a balance,” she said. “I don’t think we’re relying on any one person, which I think makes everyone a little more comfortable.”

The Irish have been able to spread the ball around offensively early in the season and currently have three players scoring in double figures. Guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow lead the Irish with 12.8 points per game each, while guard Charel Allen has 12.2 points per game.

But even that isn’t good enough for McGraw, who feels that her team is capable of a lot more offensively. McGraw said she expects to have at least five players scoring between 10 and 14 points per game this season.

“Everybody’s contributing and different people are contributing on different nights. It’s really been kind of a full team effort,” she said.

Notre Dame has also stepped up defensively in its last two games. After giving up 12-of-20 shooting from 3-point distance against Maryland, the Irish allowed the Chippewas and Eagles to shoot only a combined .095 from beyond the arch.

McGraw attributed this 3-point defense – one of her team’s goals this season – in part to Boston College and Central Michigan’s poor shooting but also to her team’s defensive intensity.

“I think we’re getting better at man-to-man, and I think we’re focusing on the three-point line,” McGraw said. “I think we were all disappointed with the Maryland game’s defense, and I think there’s been a real concerted effort to fix that.”

McGraw said the team has worked on playing more man-to-man in practice, but that it used a lot of zone against the Eagles.

The Irish will have to continue defending the line effectively against Canisius. The Golden Griffins shoot .333 from distance but are not afraid to shoot the ball. Guard Amanda Cavo is 12-of-33 and guard Britanne Russell is 7-of-24 on 3-pointers. For the Irish, Brittany Mallory has put up the most 3-point attempts for the Irish, but is only 6-of-23 – in one more game than Canisius.

The Golden Griffins also present a challenge to the Irish defensively in the form of Russell’s 23 steals – more than any two Irish players combined. McGraw said Russell will try to shut down Irish point guard Tulyah Gaines, but that the Irish have enough top quality guards who can bring the ball up the court that the Golden Griffins could waste their best defender on a player who doesn’t have the ball a lot of the time.

“We’re turning the ball over less because so many people can bring it up. And when you don’t rely on that one person, it’s harder for the defense to take you away.”

The game against Canisius will be at the Joyce Center tonight at 7 p.m.


u Center Melissa D’Amico started for the Irish on Saturday against Boston College, and McGraw said she will be the starter for the remainder of the season.

McGraw said she made the decision because sophomore Erica Williamson is more comfortable off the bench and D’Amico is playing better on both ends of the court.