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ND Women’s Basketball: Team busy over winter break

Laura Myers | Thursday, December 10, 2009

Notre Dame will be home for Christmas — for the most part, anyway.

The No. 3/4 Irish will host Valparaiso Saturday and, after a break for finals week, will play five games over Winter Break. Three of those games — against Charlotte, Vanderbilt and Villanova — will be played at the Purcell Pavilion.

Another, against Purdue, will be in West Lafayette, Ind. The team will leave the state for just one game, against Central Florida in Orlando.

“It’s always great to be home with our crowd, they really give us energy,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s a nice trip to Florida, too. But when you come around finals, you really don’t want to travel.”  

Notre Dame had been sluggish in two close wins over Iona and Eastern Michigan, but overcame a lackluster start to rout IPFW 96-60 Tuesday. McGraw said the game might have acted as a spark for the team.

“I think they liked the way they played offensively, they played really well,” she said. “We had a lot of intensity, the press looked good, we turned them over a lot. I think they’re pleased with their performance.”

Valparaiso (3-4) is coming off of a 77-52 loss to No. 15/15 Pittsburgh. The Crusaders will enter the Purcell Pavilion in its second of three straight road games against Big East teams.  

The Crusaders bring a challenge in the back court and in the paint, as guard Betsy Adams leads the team with 17.1 points per game while forward Lauren Kenney is right behind her with 16. Kenney is 40-of-76 shooting (52.6 percent) in seven games this season.

“Our intensity’s good right now,” McGraw said. “I think we’re pretty focused, despite the finals looming. I think they’ve done a really good job of putting that aside for now and hopefully we’ll be ready to play.”

The game begins at 2 p.m.

Charlotte will come to South Bend on Dec. 20 for a 1 p.m. game. The 49ers (4-5) have won three straight after a rough start to the season and will play one more home game before traveling to Notre Dame.

After that game, the Irish will have over a week off for Christmas, and will head to Orlando on Dec. 29 to play Central Florida. It will be the fourth straight home game for the Knights (2-2), who lost a 62-59 heartbreaker to Washington in their last contest.

The game will begin at noon.

The Irish will play No. 14/16 Vanderbilt just two days later in South Bend in a 2 p.m. start. The Commodores (8-1) will present a significant challenge to the Irish offense, who will need to recover quickly. So far in the season, Vanderbilt has allowed just 59 points per game, while scoring 76.4. Their defense averages 10.1 steals and 23.6 forced turnovers per game.

Notre Dame’s first game of 2010 will be Jan. 4 against Purdue and will be nationally televised on ESPN2. The Boilermakers (3-5) began the season ranked at No. 23 but have had a disappointing start, including recent losses to then-No. 14/15 Virginia and Northwestern. The game, which begins at 7 p.m., will be the fifth straight home game for Purdue. It will also be both teams’ last game on the non-conference schedule.

Upon returning to South Bend for the beginning of the spring semester, the Irish will take on their first Big East foe in Villanova on Jan. 9.

“We’re trying to get through the non-conference part of the schedule and then head into Big East,” McGraw said. “We look at it as three different seasons, the non-conference, the Big East and then the NCAAs. We want to finish strong in the non-conference part so we can get ready for Big East.”