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ND Women’s Basketball: Evansville and Natalie Novosel’s sister come to town

Bill Brink | Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Evansville brings a sibling rivalry to the Joyce Center tonight when the Purple Aces face the Irish – Evansville center Shannon Novosel and Irish guard Natalie Novosel will play each other for the first time.

Shannon, a senior, and Natalie, a freshman, won a state championship together at Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Ky., but have never played on opposite sides in a formal game. As of yet, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said, Natalie hasn’t said much about it.

Both teams enter tonight’s game 1-0. The No.14 Irish defeated No. 24 LSU 62-53 Sunday, and Evansville beat East Tennessee State 83-73 Saturday in head coach Misty Murphy’s debut.

The Irish defended the 3-point line well against LSU – the Tigers missed all four 3-point attempts – but face a tougher challenge in the Aces, who shot 8-of-17 from 3-point range.

“This is going to be our [perimeter defense’s] first test,” McGraw said. “LSU didn’t really look to shoot too many but now you’ve got a team coming in that took 17 in a game. We really are going to be tested defensively to know where the shooters are and do a better job of guarding them.”

Forward Robyn Jennings and guard Ashley Austin each scored 20 points for the Aces against East Tennessee State. Austin also had 10 rebounds in the game, and Jennings scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half. McGraw said, however, that her team takes more pride in its defense this year and has focused on it in practice.

“I feel like there’s a different attitude about the defense,” she said. “They’re really focused and playing with a little more intensity.”

Since guard Tulyah Gaines – a defensive stopper – graduated in May, McGraw said more people on defense have done their jobs and improved the unit.

“Last year we relied on Tulyah a lot to guard the best player and we didn’t play a lot of man-to-man, and now they’re trying to prove they can guard people,” McGraw said. “We’re not relying on one or two people to play defense for everybody.”

The offense started slowly against LSU, scoring only 24 points in the first half, but McGraw said the performance is consistent with where the team is offensively.

“I was really pretty happy with the way we executed, we just didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half,” she said. “I’m not too worried about, I think we’ll shoot the ball better as the season goes on.”

The Tigers defense kept Notre Dame from finding any quick buckets, McGraw said.

“I’d obviously like to score more than 62 points, but we have to get a little bit more going in transition,” she said. “We didn’t get any easy baskets, we had to work for every basket we got.”

Devereaux Peters’ offensive production didn’t suffer. She went 6-of-7 from field goal range and had six rebounds to go with her three blocks and three steals. Peters suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in February, and McGraw said she is probably about 90 percent healthy.

“At six months you’re supposed to be at 85 percent. We’re at seven months,” McGraw said.

Peters struggled last season to stay out of foul trouble, but only had two fouls in 28 minutes of play against LSU. Peters has said she wants to limit her frivolous fouls; McGraw said the game was very well-officiated and Peters was allowed to block shots.

“She stepped in and tried to get a couple charges – at least one – and it was a no-call,” McGraw said. “But she didn’t have any really bad fouls. Maybe just a little more experience, she just wants to stay in the game longer.”