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ND Women’s Basketball: Defense shines as Notre Dame dismantles Iona 80-45

Laura Myers | Monday, November 23, 2009

Irish coach Muffet McGraw has preached defense to her team all season.
On Sunday, it showed.

No. 5/6 Notre Dame (3-0) had 21 steals and forced 33 total turnovers Sunday as it cruised to an 80-45 win over Iona (2-2).

“I was pretty pleased with a lot of what we did defensively,” McGraw said. “I thought we did what we wanted to do.”

Senior forward Becca Bruszewski set the pace early as the Irish got off to an 11-2 lead to start the game. She finished with 14 points and three rebounds.

“I thought Becca got us off to a great start in the beginning of the game,” McGraw said. “She came out ready. … I thought Becca was the key defender in that game.”

Bruszewski’s point total was second on the team behind that of freshman guard Skylar Diggins, who scored 17 points off the bench. She also grabbed four rebounds.

The Irish never relinquished their early lead and did not let the Gaels within six for the rest of the game while continuing to widen their lead.

However, this was due more to Notre Dame’s defensive pressure on Iona than on actual offensive success. The Irish made just 42.4 percent of their shots, but held the Gaels to 35.7 percent shooting.

“I thought we were a little complacent,” McGraw said. “We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. I thought we were a little lackadaisical.”

Senior guard Ashley Barlow and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel each had five steals on the afternoon as the Irish placed continued pressure on the Gaels. Notre Dame scored 34 points off of turnovers, in comparison to Iona’s 10.

For the Gaels, guard Thazina Cook led with 12 points while forward Anna McClean followed with 10. McGraw said she was especially pleased with Notre Dame’s containment of McClean, who averaged a double-double in her first three games.

“[McClean] is a great player,” McGraw said.

After a physically punishing 68-67 win Thursday against Michigan State, the Irish were not quite at full strength, McGraw said.

“We have not recovered yet,” she said. “We practiced OK on Friday and we practiced OK on Saturday but not quite to the level that we’d been working. I didn’t feel like there was great intensity and I think that showed tonight.”

The Irish will have some time to rest before they take action again. They will travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam beginning Thursday.