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ND Women’s Basketball: On the right foot

Alex Barker | Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Highly touted freshman Skylar Diggins scored 17 points in her collegiate debut to lead the Irish to a 97-53 victory over Indianapolis Tuesday at the new Purcell Pavilion.

A Notre Dame women’s basketball exhibition game record 7,508 people were in attendance to see the South Bend native in action and she did not disappoint. Diggins made her presence felt just minutes into the game after forcing a turnover in the backcourt and then finding junior Brittany Mallory under the basket for an easy layup.

“I was a little nervous [at the start],” Diggins said. “Coming out in front of the community that has been supporting me for years, seeing some of their faces, really helped ease some of my nerves. And when you got players around you that know the offense and understand the system, it’s a lot easier to play.”

Coach Muffet McGraw said she was encouraged by Diggins’ performance, particularly the energy that she brought off the bench.

“[Diggins] came in with a lot of intensity” McGraw said. “She played very intelligent, didn’t force things, and just took what they gave her. She did a good job creating and also running the offense.”

After a sloppy start to the game, the Irish seized control behind a suffocating full-court press that forced 16 first-half turnovers. Notre Dame held Indianapolis to 5-for-14 shooting from the field on its way to a 42-22 halftime lead.

“I thought our press got them to turn the ball over,” McGraw said. “I thought we extended the defense a little bit and it’s a shame we don’t have the 10-second line because we possibly could have had a few more turnovers. We really pressured the ball like we wanted to.”

Sophomore forward Erica Solomon also had an outstanding game off the bench, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds. Solomon was 4-of-7 from the field and 9-of-14 from the free-throw line.

“I’m still concerned about our depth in the post and I was just ecstatic about the way [Solomon] played tonight,” McGraw said. “If we can have her do that every night, that would be great. She is the x-factor for our team.”

The Irish did much of their damage on the offensive boards, corralling 20 on the night.
“We’re really working on getting our guards rebounding, getting three rebounders in the lane. And I thought we did a really good job of that,” McGraw said.

Six different players recorded three-pointers on the night for the Irish, who shot 8-of-16 as a team from behind the arc.

“I thought offensively we did a lot of good things,” McGraw said. “That’s where you’ll see the strength of our bench, particularly at the end of the game when the other team is wearing down.”

In her first career start, sophomore guard Natalie Novosel added 13 points and 6 rebounds for the Irish behind 3-of-9 shooting.

“[Novosel] really worked on her 3-point shot this summer,” McGraw said. “She’s always been able to drive the ball and now she’s really difficult to guard because of the 3-pointer. She also gets to the foul line really well which is something we like to see.”

Notre Dame will open regular-season play when it hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at the Purcell Pavilion.