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ND Women’s Basketball: Bring it on

Bill Brink | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Muffet McGraw means what she said during media day about stopping the 3-pointer this year. So much so that in practice, if a 3-point shot goes uncontested, the players must run sprints.

“In the beginning it was pretty atrocious actually,” freshman guard Natalie Novosel said. “We were running a lot during practice. But it’s gotten a lot better.”

Notre Dame’s exhibition game against Gannon tonight will test its progress in perimeter defense – Gannon shot 604 3-pointers last year.

“We’re going to be tested right away,” McGraw said. “It’s definitely one of the big things we’re going to look at.”

Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner said McGraw wants the team to contest all perimeter passes to prevent easy looks, and for the players to sprint out of traps and throw a hand in the shooter’s face.

“I think it’s getting a lot better,” McGraw said. “The sense of urgency, the awareness is much better. I’ve really been pleased with that.”

The Irish finished last season 25-9, 11-5 in the Big East, but shooting guard and leading scorer Charel Allen and starting point guard Tulyah Gaines both graduated. This year, Lechlitner will lead the offense.

“What I see is that she’s really leading the team,” McGraw said. “She’s definitely in charge when she’s out there, the team really looks to her.”

Lechlitner said the team’s offensive production can come in a variety of different ways.

“There are a lot of opportunities, a lot of different ways you can score out of it,” she said.

The freshman are adapting to the struggles of learning a new offense well, McGraw said. Since the team has so many veterans, however, McGraw said the freshman will have difficulty cracking the lineup.

“The veterans are a little bit ahead of them in just knowing what we’re doing,” McGraw said. “We’re doing a lot of the same stuff we did last year so it’s been easier for them. There’s a big learning curve for the freshman but they’re handling it really well.”

Novosel said learning the offense will allow her stop focusing on what she’s doing and simply play the game.

“You don’t have to think about it, you just go out there and play,” she said.

Sophomore forward Devereaux Peters is nearing full health after missing the second half of last season with a torn ACL. McGraw said she was surprised by Peters’ level of participation this fall.

“She gets a little stronger every day. She hasn’t missed anything,” McGraw said. “She’s been really working hard.”

Lechlitner said it will be nice to have Peters back to assist with shot-blocking and the press, which Peters played a large role in last year.

McGraw said she will tinker with some lineup changes during the game. What she said she wants to avoid, however, is putting all of the freshmen in at once, so she wants to mix one or two of the younger players in with the veterans.

“We’re going to start with a veteran group and try to get the freshman in as quickly as we can,” she said.

Gannon finished last season 16-12 and 10-7 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. The Golden Knights scored 71.5 points per game and made seven 3-pointers per game.

Junior guard Kristina Freeman made 48 3-pointers last season and hit 37.8-percent of her shots from behind the arc. Junior guard Kim Vargas led the Golden Knights in scoring last season with 16.2 points per game.


uPeters will not play in the Gannon game because she missed a tutoring session.

uMcGraw said Lechlitner, senior guard Lindsay Schrader, junior guard Ashley Barlow, sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and junior center Erica Williamson will start.