ND Women’s Basketball: Defying Providence
Deirdre Krasula | Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Even though the outcome of the past two games says otherwise, Irish coach Muffet McGraw thinks her team is headed for a turnaround.
“I feel like we are on the upswing,” McGraw said. “I feel like we did a lot of good things against [Connecticut] that we can really build on and I’m anxious to get back out there and play somebody.”
No. 20 Notre Dame heads into tonight’s match at home against Providence with a 15-5 record, but dropped its last two games – 81-80 to DePaul and 81-64 to No. 1 Connecticut.
Thanks to its improving defense, however, Notre Dame boasted an impressive showing against Connecticut on the boards. The Irish outrebounded the Huskies 41 to 38 – the first time all season any team outrebounded Connecticut.
Even though the Irish failed to walk away with a win, McGraw said she was happy with the way the team performed against the Huskies. As a team that has struggled since last season with its defense, the Irish finally started to show prowess against the Huskies Sunday.
“We are finally starting to get better at our defense so I’m hoping that just continues to improve,” McGraw said. “We executed our game plan much better [against Connecticut]. When we went to our triangle-and-two, we really did what we needed to do; we worked on it for three days and I thought it looked good, so to be able to carry out the game plan like that is really encouraging.”
The Friars have had troubles of their own. They stand at 11-8 overall and only 1-5 in the Big East. Despite the numbers, the Irish will still need to bring their best defense against a tall Friars squad – freshman guard Mi-Khida Hankins is 6-foot-1 and junior forward Shantee Darrian is 6-foot-2.
McGraw recognizes that the majority of her starters are on the smaller side and that the Friars are likely to try and post up Notre Dame’s guards, but that isn’t likely to change the team’s game plan.
“We are not going to try and do anything different,” McGraw said. “We really just want to work on containing the ball and get back to the fundamentals: box out, out-rebound them.”
Notre Dame’s rebounding against Connecticut is evidence of its focus on getting back to the basics. On offense, the Irish have their four leading scorers and a guiding voice in senior guard Tulyah Gaines to drive their offensive game.
“[Gaines’] job is to really run the team,” McGraw said. “I think the offense is coming from [sophomore guard Ashley] Barlow, [junior guard Lindsay] Schrader, [senior guard] Charel [Allen], and [freshman forward] Devereaux [Peters.] We’ve got four people who are going to score so I don’t think we need that from her as much. I think she is doing a great job of running the team and she’s playing great defense and that’s what we need her to do.”
With the combination of an improving defense and a consistent offense, the Irish will look to pick up a win over Providence tonight, even if they have to jump a little higher.
u Allen was named to the 2008 Naismith Trophy midseason candidates list. Allen is one of 31 players to make the list for the trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate women’s basketball player. Allen currently leads the Irish and ranks 14th in the Big East in scoring (14.3 ppg.) and 10th in free throw percentage (.817).