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ND Women’s Basketball: Team hopes to regain scoring touch vs. UM

Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Notre Dame will look to find its jumpshot after shooting only 34.4 percent its last time out in Ann Arbor, Mich., when they take on Michigan tonight.

After the offensive struggles against the Boilermakers on Sunday, the Irish face another tough test immediately in the Wolverines. Michigan has given up only 58.1 points per game on a 38.3 shooting percentage this season.

“They’re a really good defensive team. If you look at what they’re doing defensively, holding teams down, they kind of pack it in and kind of force you to shoot jumpers,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Michigan has surrendered more than 66 points only once this season – an 81-53 loss at USC on Dec. 2.

The points per game is even more impressive considering Michigan’s schedule so far this season. Notre Dame will be the fourth top-15 team the Wolverines have played, and they have gone 1-2 in those games. Michigan lost to then-No. 12 Texas A&M 59-56 and beat then-No. 13 Vanderbilt three days later 50-42.

“They’re record is a little deceiving because they’ve played a really tough schedule…. I think they’re a much-improved team over last year,” McGraw said.

If the Irish are going to break Michigan’s defense, McGraw said, they will have to be patient.

“If we can be patient with our shot selection, work the ball a little bit, see if we can score in the post, find out who’s going to be hot for the game and try to get them the ball a little bit more. I think we have to be smart and just see how the game’s going and use our heads a little bit more in terms of our shot selection,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame will also need to keep rebounding like it has most of this season. After being outrebounded in the opener against Evansville, McGraw made hitting the boards the No. 1 priority for her team. McGraw reemphasized that priority after Michigan State beat her team on the boards.

“[Rebounding is] something we’re really emphasizing at practice. We’ve been watching it real closely in the games,” McGraw said.

Against the Boilermakers, the Irish did win on the glass, grabbing 47 rebounds to Purdue’s 35.

“When I watched the film I saw a concerted effort to box out a lot better. It was a just a team effort to keep them off the boards. And then I thought our post players did an outstanding job getting the ball,” McGraw added.

Another offensive problem McGraw said she hopes her team can correct against the Wolverines is the turnover-to-assist ratio. Currently, the Irish have only 10 more helpers than giveaways (122 to 112), including a 14 assist, 18 turnover game against Purdue. McGraw said the Boilermaker defense deserves credit for that number.

“I thought they were long and athletic, and they got their hands on a lot of balls,” McGraw said.

McGraw said that her team is continuing to improve its ball control, mentioning guard Brittany Mallory in particular as doing a good job taking care of the ball. Mallory has 17 assists and seven turnovers this season.

Defensively, the Irish will continue their quest to defend the 3-point line this season. The Irish have given up only a 23.2 shooting percentage this season, a vast improvement from a 35.5 percentage last season from 3-point land.

“Look at their 3-point attempts, they’ve shot 203, and we’ve only shot 88. They’re shooting an awful lot of 3s,” McGraw said. “[Guard Carly] Benson in particular has a quick release; she’s big. So she’s going to create a lot of matchup problems. But when you look at their stats, they all shoot 3s.”

Notes:

uAshley Barlow, who suffered a concussion against Michigan State on No. 29, is currently day-to-day. Barlow had a meeting with the trainer on Tuesday to see if she is ready for the Michigan game, but McGraw was still unsure of her availability.

uThe game will appear on the Big Ten Network, which is channel 74 on Notre Dame and South Bend area Comcast, at 7 p.m.