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ND Women’s Basketball: McGraw nets 600th victory

Chris Masoud | Wednesday, January 20, 2010

After suffering the first loss of the season at the hands of Connecticut on national television, many wondered how the Irish would perform facing the possibility of its first losing streak. But following Tuesday’s 78-60 thrashing of Louisville, No. 4 Notre Dame (16-1, 3-1 Big East) effectively silenced the critics.

Despite shooting poorly in the first half, strong defense highlighted the Irish comeback. Notre Dame forced 20 turnovers and held Louisville scoreless for over eight minutes in the second half as the squad returned to its dominant form.

“It was huge for us to have a bounce back game, looking to regain a little of our confidence,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were a little sick after [the Connecticut] game and I think we looked it in the first half, but we shook the cobwebs off at halftime and played well in the second half.”

The effects of Saturday’s demoralizing loss were evident from the opening tip, as the struggling Cardinals (10-8, 2-3 Big East) took advantage early. Finishing with a game-high 23 points, Monique Reid paced Louisville to a 12-point lead within the first 15 minutes.

But McGraw’s squad was able to get back on track late in the first, as the Irish went on a 16-4 run to tie the game at the half. Notre Dame didn’t miss a beat the rest of the way, outscoring the Cardinals 41-23 to close out a much-needed victory.

“We shot the ball pretty well. [Lechlitner] really carried us in the first half, and continued with the big shots in the second. We played a lot of man-to-man in the second half, and I felt we really frustrated them with our man-to-man pressure. We just, offensively, played much, much better,” McGraw said.

In addition to the solid play from senior Melissa Lechlitner, the Irish were lifted by the efforts of several top performers, not the least of which was freshman phenom Skyler Diggins. Diggins led the team with 20 points and dished out two assists as she continues to live up to her preseason billing.

McGraw believes Diggins’ seamless transition from high school to collegiate basketball and her immediate impact on the team can be attributed to the support of her experienced cast of veterans.

“I think that’s so important because she’s learning shots from the upperclassmen,” McGraw said. “They’re helping her, they let her be creative and play her game, and still they communicate well with her. She just fits in so well with everything and everyone.”

Although Tuesday’s victory will go as just another “W” in the win column towards the conference standings, it also marks the 600th victory in McGraw’s head coaching career. McGraw says the landmark was never a preseason goal, but still appreciates its significance.

“It means I’ve been at Notre Dame a really long time,” McGraw said. “I look back and think of all the great players I’ve had here, and all the assistant coaches, and how much I’ve enjoyed being at Notre Dame. More than that, how lucky I am to be at Notre Dame. It’s been a great thing, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity.”