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ND Women’s Basketball: Lucky 13

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Notre Dame will hit the dance floor for the 13th consecutive year.

The Irish (23-8) earned a No. 5 seed and will play Southern Methodist University Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind.

Last season, the Irish received a No. 9 seed and lost in the second round, 60-51 to No. 1 seed North Carolina after beating No.8 seed California 62-59.

Notre Dame is 23-13 all-time in the tournament and won the national championship in 2001.

The end of the season was not kind to the Irish. They dropped their last two games, including their first-round Big East tournament game – a 64-53 loss to Pittsburgh. Notre Dame raced to a 14-2 lead, but went 8-for-27 in the half and was up only one at the break.

Pittsburgh rebounded from shooting 25 percent in the first half to hit 14 of their 32 second-half shots, including three 3-pointers to put it ahead for good.

“We want to get away from that [two game losing streak] and start a new streak and get busy at practice,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

The Mustangs (24-8) amassed the most wins in program history this season. They beat Texas-El Paso Sunday, 73-57, in the Conference USA championship game. They had previously lost their last two games as well, one against UTEP, before winning three straight in the conference tournament.

Janielle Dodd leads the Mustangs in scoring with 15 points per game, followed closely by Delisha Willis with 12.3. Jillian Samuels shoots 38.2 percent from 3-point range for SMU. The Mustangs had an eight-game winning streak in the beginning of the season and a seven-game streak near the end.

The Irish have faced them twice, with each team winning once. The last game was in the 1983-84 season.

The location, about an hour and a half away from Notre Dame, will allow loyal fans to travel and see the game.

“I would love to be close to home,” Irish guard Charel Allen said. “Our fans should be able to go to the game. Our fans are great at the home games and I feel they will make the trip to Purdue and that will be so helpful for us.”

“I really don’t know anything except they beat UTEP in the finals and came in third in their conference,” McGraw said.

The team, McGraw said, was excited about the chance to play, 14 days after their last game.

“I think we are definitely anxious play,” she said. “We had some referees come in the other day just to stay in that game shape.”

Allen said the team had been running to keep in shape. “We’re really looking forward to playing again,” Allen said.

Allen expressed cautious confidence in her team’s abilities to play deep into the tournament.

“We could go on a little six-game winning streak and you would never know we lost two straight games,” she said.

If the Irish win, they will face the winner of No. 4 seed Oklahoma and No. 13 seed Illinois State, but Allen said the team isn’t thinking about the second round.

“Right now we are just focused on SMU, so we will look ahead after we play them,” she said.