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ND Women’s Basketball: Notre Dame returns north

Laura Myers | Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In a twist that makes sense only in sports, the Irish are happy to be back in South Bend after a trip to the Virgin Islands.

No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0) will host Eastern Michigan (5-1) tonight at the Purcell Pavilion.

“This time of the year it’s really great to be home,” Irish coach Muffett McGraw said. “We need to be playing at home. We’re going to need the energy of the crowd to get us going tomorrow. This is a tough week academically. There’s a lot going on. Everybody’s got things to do. We haven’t gotten the rest we needed this week. It’s going to be a challenge for them, I think, to maintain their intensity and focus.”

The Irish won three straight games from Nov. 26-28, two against ranked teams, at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. Just three days later, they have to take on an Eagles team off to its best start since 2004. 

“I think Eastern Michigan is a really good team,” McGraw said. “They’re playing well. For us, we need to stay sharp.”

The Eagles are also playing on short rest — they won a 93-81 decision against Missouri State Sunday. In that game, guard Tavelyn James scored 31 points. She averages almost 20 points per game.

James and guard Cassie Schrock form a tough combination for Eastern Michigan. Schrock, who averages 37.2 minutes per game, is second in the team in points and rebounds per game.

“They’ve got a really good back court,” McGraw said. “[Schrock is] really good. She played well against us last year. They’re both good. They shoot a lot of 3s. They’re going to really challenge our defense.”

McGraw said the Irish have continued to work on their defense after the Paradise Jam.

“We’re working on our defense in general, I’m not happy with it after coming off the Virgin Islands trip,” she said. “I think we can get better defensively. That’s an individual effort as well as a team effort.”

Notre Dame will start the same lineup it did for its win over No. 20 Oregon, which includes freshman guard Skylar Diggins in her second start of the season. Though she has played mainly from the bench, Diggins currently leads the Irish in total points and total minutes and is second in both assists and steals.

However, the Irish will once again rely heavily on its bench to ensure everyone is able to go.

“We’re going to have to find the right combination of who’s ready to play,” McGraw said. “We’re playing well, we want to get out and play again. We just want to come out hard with a lot of intensity and keep on playing.”

The game will begin at 7 tonight at the Purcell Pavilion.