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ND Women’s Basketball: Next after preseason: LSU in Baton Rouge

Jay Fitzpatrick | Friday, November 14, 2008

After crushing Gannon 96-30 in its only preseason game, Notre Dame starts its regular season Sunday – but can expect a much tougher matchup. The Irish travel to Baton Rouge, La., to play LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw said she was honored that her team was invited to play in this game.

“We’ve always watched [the Tip-Off Classic], there’s always great teams playing in it. Now we have an opportunity to play in it,” McGraw said. “I think we’re honored to be there and it’s going to be a great opener for us.”

The Irish have had a long layoff since their last time on the court – their win against the Lady Knights occurred on Nov. 5. McGraw said that keeping her team focused after so many consecutive practice days between games has been a challenge.

“I think if you ask the players, it’s a tremendous challenge when they’re looking at five or six days of practice. At this point they’re pretty tired of practice,” she said.

McGraw said she gave her team Wednesday off from practice because of back-to-back hard practices on Monday and Tuesday. The team will also have a short practice because of traveling.

Although McGraw got a look at 10 of her players against Gannon, she has yet to see forward Devereaux Peters in a game situation. Peters missed the Irish preseason game after missing a mandatory study session. Sunday will be Peters’ first game since tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Pittsburgh last February.

“She’s going to be ready. She had a really good practice on Monday. I think defensively she’s doing a great job. She’s one of our best defenders,” McGraw said of the 6-foot-2 sophomore. “We’re going to try her in different spots and see where she’s most effective. In terms of her knee, she’s probably still high 80 percent.”

Adding Peters will only add more depth to an already crowded Irish lineup. Against Gannon, every eligible player played in the first half, and all but point guard Melissa Lechlitner – who committed two fouls in the first four minutes – had scored.

McGraw said that she will likely give 10 of her 11 players considerable minutes this season, and that this has led to very competitive practices.

“It’s incredibly competitive. Next year, you don’t lose anybody so you can’t look and say next year I’m going to play a few more minutes because of this or that,” McGraw said. “I think playing time is going to be incredibly competitive. I think that’s a good thing. We’re going to have great balance, we’re going to have great depth.”

Although Lindsay Schrader is a senior, she earned a medical redshirt after tearing her ACL before her sophomore season. Peters said that the lack of seniors has not been a problem for the team so far in practices.

“We know what we’re capable of doing and we know what we’re going to do this year. I think the rest of the world is like, they’re younger, they’re kind of going to blow us off,” Peters said. “I don’t think we’re worried about that right now. We’re just going to come out and play and do what we know we can do.”

Going into Sunday’s game, Peters said she and her teammates feel excited for the early challenge.

“We love the pressure of playing good teams like that, especially early. We like to get into it and get things done early,” she said.

But looking more long term, Peters said she has one big goal for this season.

“Mainly just win the national championship and whatever else comes along the way,” she said.