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ND Women’s Basketball: Over-Zellous

Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pitt guard Shavonte Zellous made sure that Notre Dame would not get out of its current funk, scoring 29 points in 31 minutes to lead the Panthers in their 82-70 win over the Irish.

The loss was Notre Dame’s fourth in its last six games.

“Muffet on the losing streak,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said in a phone interview with The Observer Tuesday night.

Zellous, the Big East leader in scoring, was one of four Panthers in double figures Tuesday night. Guards Xenia Stewart and Taneisha Harrison each put up 17 points and forward Shayla Scott added 11 for Pittsburgh in the win.

“I thought Pitt came out ready to play. It was an important game and they came out like they wanted to win,” McGraw said. “They played harder than we did. Everybody for them stepped up and had a great game. They did what they needed to do; they rebounded, they scored.”

Similar to Notre Dame’s most recent loss – a 78-68 home defeat at the hands of Rutgers – its opponents got an early lead with the 3-point shot. Zellous and Stewart each nailed a trey in the first 40 seconds of the game.

Pitt stayed hot from beyond the arc all game, finishing 7-of-12 from 3-point land. Zellous was 4-of-5 and Stewart was 2-of-3.

On the other end of the court, Notre Dame’s shooting struggles continued to show up in a big way, especially in the backcourt. Guards Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader combined to shoot only 6-of-26 during the game for 17 total points.

The one bright side for the Irish, McGraw said, was the play of forwards Becca Bruszewski and Erica Solomon. Bruszewski was 7-of-13 with 14 points and six boards and Solomon went 6-of-11 with 14 points and four rebounds off the bench.

“They kept us in the game at times,” McGraw said of her forwards. “They did what they could do and the guards just shot poorly as a group. All of them. They all had a bad shooting day. I thought we could have gotten better shots, but we didn’t.”

After Notre Dame fell behind by nine at halftime Bruszewski helped the Irish mount two comebacks midway through the second half, bringing the team to within one and three points, respectively, before Zellous and Stewart regained control and brought the score back up again.

McGraw said that defense once again was the biggest problem her team must correct in order to end this skid for good.

“It’s all about defense,” she said. “It’s pride in our defense, it’s heart. It’s all defense. If we want to win, we’ve got to play defense.”

Although the defense has been a point of emphasis all season, the Irish have struggled under their own basket of late, allowing 78 to Rutgers, 67 to St. John’s and 75 to Marquette before giving up 82 points to Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

McGraw said she does not know how she plans to fix the defense before Notre Dame’s next game, Sunday at home against DePaul.

“We’re gonna watch film tomorrow [Wednesday] and decide that tomorrow,” she said.