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ND Women’s Basketball: Smokin’ aces

Joe Meixell | Thursday, November 20, 2008

While Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was gameplanning for Evansville this week, freshman guard Natalie Novosel had a much more specific target in mind. For the first time in her career, she would get to square off against her big sister, Shannon.

“There was a lot more [talking between us] than usual. We saw each other last night. We’re just excited to play each other, it’s a once in a lifetime chance,” Natalie said.

While this was the first time the two have played against each other, they have been teammates before, at Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Ky. They helped the team win the state championship during Shannon’s senior year of high school.

After Wednesday’s game, Notre Dame secured bragging rights for Natalie, even though she said her sister’s seniority might counteract that. The Irish won 96-61, with the freshman adding six points and four rebounds in the effort. Shannon was held to 2-of-6 shooting and had five turnovers.

Just because this was the sisters’ first official game against each other, it was by no means the first time they had squared off. There was a strong sibling rivalry between the two on their backyard hoop.

Natalie said that her sister usually had the edge in those games because of her height advantage.

“She used to always beat me, she was taller … But it only made me better,” the Irish guard said.

Natalie credited those games in the backyard with helping her develop as a player. The most important trait she learned going one-on-one against her taller, older sister was persistence, she said.

“She beat me, day in and day out, and it only made me more competitive. And I think that’s why I’m so competitive now. Just maneuvering around bigger people and shooting under them and being more crafty with the ball,” she said.

Both sisters said there was never any serious trash-talking on the court – and that there wouldn’t be after their first team game against each other – but that does not mean they were not intense.

“I would always get so mad, so angry. Throw balls at her, curse her – yeah it happened,” Natalie said.

Shannon agreed, and has proof of the games’ intensity.

“I’ve got a couple scars from that,” she said.

Shannon said that she has seen marked improvement in Natalie’s game during her short college career, and that she will develop into a solid player for the Irish.

“I think she’s gotten huge leaps with every game that she’s played. She had a couple of nice offensive moves in there. I even got a hand on one of her shots and it still went in. I’m just really looking forward to watching her over the next three years,” she said.

As Natalie’s career is just beginning, Shannon’s is starting to come to a close – but will likely end as one of the best ever at Evansville.

After the Notre Dame game, Shannon is 307 points from cracking 1,000 – a reachable feat since she had over 350 points last season. She is also within striking distance of the school’s top 10 list in free throws made, rebounds and steals, and is also third all time in blocks with 82 after Wednesday’s game.

Since it is Shannon’s senior season, the large Novosel contingent sat in the Evansville cheering section in the Joyce Center. The sisters estimated that about 20 family and friends drove to South Bend to watch the game.

“I think they were wearing a little bit of both. They were sitting in my section because I am a senior and they’ve got more opportunities to come see [Natalie],” Shannon said.

Even though the fans were all in Shannon’s corner, their mother remained neutral.

“I think my mom has a combination of all of our colors on her shirt. She said she was going to try to do that,” Shannon said.