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ND Women’s Basketball: Re-heating up

Jared Jedick | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The No. 3 Irish will look to extend their winning ways against Providence in the Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m. Wednesday in another important Big East match-up.

Notre Dame (17-1, 4-1 Big East) has won its last two Big East games in exciting come-from-behind fashion, but the Irish are hoping for a more traditional win this time around.

“We love our fans,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They are so supportive and they know when we really need them. Hopefully this time around we will give them some to cheer about a little bit earlier in the game than the second half.”

Falling behind early and having to climb their way back later in the game has become somewhat of a theme for Irish in the past few games, and McGraw said there needs to be change in defensive attitude for there to be any improvement.

“I can sub earlier if they are not playing up to our expectations,” McGraw said. “But a lot of it is defense. You can’t really control whether the ball is going in, so you have to do it on defense. And we have to rebound.”

Rebounding has been a recent concern for McGraw, who saw her team outrebounded 9-1 early against West Virginia. McGraw said the only way to improve is to change the defensive mindset.

“It’s an attitude. They just have to do their jobs and focus,” McGraw said.

The Friars (12-7, 3-3) are led by senior guard Chelsea Marandola, who McGraw views as one of the best players in the Big East.

“Marandola, she is a first-team Big East, really, really good player,” McGraw said. “She is just a very savvy guard. She can do it all. She has a great 3-point shot, she can put it on the floor and she has a nice pull-up. She can do it all.”

Marandola is leading the team in points per game with 18.3, as well as in steals (41), assists (47) and rebounds per game (4.8).

McGraw said the only way to defend Marandola is to play solid all-around team defense.

“We weren’t very successful against [West Virginia senior guard] Liz Lepella,” McGraw said. “Marandola is probably the same type of player, and she probably does a little bit more. There has to be an awareness of where she is in the zone.”

The Irish intend to answer the Friars’ attack with good team defense, but will also rely heavily upon freshman guard Skylar Diggins, who won Big East freshman of the week honors for the third time this season. She is only the fourth Irish freshman to win the honor three times in a season, following former players Ruth Riley, Alicia Ratay and Jacqueline Batteast.

Diggins has also emerged as a scorer for the Irish, scoring a team high 13.5 points per game.

“My expectations for [Diggins] are really high,” McGraw said. “I expect that she is going to be a great defender, set the tone for our defense and get the press going, and she is going to rebound and also score. She really has got to do everything.”