ND Women’s Basketball: ND faces tough defense against Bowling Green
Bill Brink | Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Notre Dame will face its toughest opposing defense since it played No. 3 Maryland when it travels to Bowling Green tonight to face the Falcons at 7 at Anderson Arena.
Last season, it took an overtime period for Notre Dame to beat Bowling Green, 85-81. Notre Dame is 3-0 in the all-time series. The Irish, ranked No. 16 in this week’s Associated Press poll, will travel for the first time since Nov. 20, when they lost 75-59 at then-No. 3 Maryland. The Falcons hold opponents to 56.5 points per game, despite losing six seniors from a 2006-07 team team that reached the Sweet 16.
“They’re an experienced team in some ways because their point guard [Kate Achter] has sweet sixteen experience,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She was great last year, and she’s running the team really well this year. She’s their leading scorer, she’s playing really well.”
The Falcons defeated Cornell in the championship game of the Cornell Classic on Saturday. They have won their games this season by an average of 14.2 points. Achter leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game. Lauren Prochaska is second with 14.3 points and three steals per game and averaged 15.5 points in two games during the Cornell Classic.
McGraw isn’t worried about her team’s ball control, however, saying she had faith in the team’s point guards, Tulyah Gaines and Melissa Lechlitner.
“I think Tulyah is experienced, and she’s playing really well, she’s got a pretty good assist to turnover ratio,” McGraw said. “I think she’ll handle herself well, as will Lech. I’m confident in our point guards.”
But McGraw said Bowling Green has the toughest defense the Irish will face since Maryland and that they need to take care of the ball. The Bowling Green defense has held opponents without a field goal for five-minute stretches in each of its first six games.
After its loss to Maryland in the semifinals of the preseason WNIT, Notre Dame blew out its next four opponents. Even though the team has five wins by 30 points or more, McGraw said the Irish never look past opponents.
“They don’t look at last year,” McGraw said. “They don’t say well, last year was an easy game, this year will be a tough game or vice versa.”
McGraw also said the margin of victory may be inflated because of the opponents Notre Dame has faced. She is more concerned with how many points her team allows, she said.
“I’m perfectly content with giving up a game in the 60s,” McGraw said. “What I’m looking for is for us to hold them below their average.”
McGraw said she enjoys coaching this team because of their desire to learn and improve.
“They’re looking at each game and saying, ‘What do we have to do to get better? How can we keep getting better?'” she said. “We worked on our defense a lot yesterday, and I think we’ve had a good feeling coming out that we’re improving defensively.”
That defense has held opponents to 53.7 points per game and forced 24.3 turnovers per game. The tight Irish press has also helped force 12.7 steals per game, which in turn helps fuel their transition offense.
Bowling Green’s tallest player, center Chelsea Albert, is 6-foot-2. Irish freshman forward Devereaux Peters, at 6-foot-2 as well, and 6-foot-5 centers Melissa D’Amico and Erica Williamson give Notre Dame a size advantage in the post. McGraw said Peters and freshman forward Becca Bruszewski can guard the smaller Falcons players.
u McGraw said Williamson was probable for the game after hurting her back, which was still sore Tuesday, against Michigan. “She didn’t practice yesterday, she’s going to practice today,” she said.
u McGraw will celebrate her birthday Wednesday night. The Irish are 3-1 on McGraw’s birthday during her 21-year tenure at Notre Dame, with their last victory coming against Liberty, 85-68, on Dec. 5, 1999 in the championship game of the Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational in Richmond, Va.