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ND Women’s Basketball: Sooner rematch

Jared Jedick | Friday, March 26, 2010

The No. 2-seed Irish will travel to Kansas City, Mo., for their eighth Sweet 16 appearance in the past 14 seasons and a matchup with No. 3-seed Oklahoma. Notre Dame (29-5) defeated Oklahoma (25-10) on Nov. 28 in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 81-71, and will look to repeat that performance Sunday.

“We can look back at the film and see the differences in what we did then and how we’re playing now,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s nice to have that film, but obviously we’re both different teams than we were four months ago.”

The Sweet 16 berth comes on the heels of an 84-66 win over No. 10-seed Vermont (27-7) at the Purcell Pavilion Tuesday. The Irish fell behind the Catamounts early, but played an aggressive defense in the contest and won the turnover battle 25-14, helping them to get back in the game.

“At this point in the NCAA Tournament it’s going to be defense and rebounding, and that’s how you win,” McGraw said. “After it was 20-10 I thought we just did an excellent job.”

Oklahoma defeated Arkansas-Little Rock 60-44 Tuesday to make the Sweet 16.

When Notre Dame played Oklahoma in the fall, freshman guard Skylar Diggins had one of her first breakout performances of her young career, scoring 16 points and leading the Irish to the victory.

Notre Dame was down 51-48 in that contest with 12:53 to go, but the Irish used an impressive defensive effort to hold Oklahoma to 0-of-8 shooting and go on a 20-0 run that sealed the victory.

Diggins will look to repeat that performance in her second match-up with Oklahoma, as she is hot after a career performance against Vermont.

Diggins scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed seven steals against the Catamounts. The guard leads the team with 13.9 points and nearly 2.5 steals per game.

Oklahoma boasts their own star in junior guard Danielle Robinson, who is posting 16.7 points, 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game. The Sooners are also a very balanced team, with five players averaging double-digit scoring.

In what appears to be a very even match, the Irish will rely on the experience of senior guards Lindsay Schrader, Melissa Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow as well as the defensive spark junior forwards Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters provide off the bench.

The Irish plan to utilize that senior leadership and defensive prowess to stop the Sooners’ potent attack, mixing in man-to-man press and zone defenses, McGraw said.

“We want to play a little bit of everything. They really have an excellent point guard in Danielle Robinson, she’s really fast and will challenge our press,” she said.

The winner of this game will advance to face the winner of the match-up between No. 1-seed Nebraska and No. 4-seed Kentucky.

The Irish and Sooners tip off at 7:34 p.m. Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., with the Cornhuskers and Wildcats following at 10:04 p.m.

Note:

Freshman guard Skylar Diggins and senior guard Lindsay Schrader have been named finalists for the State Farm Coaches’ All-America Team, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced Thursday.  The group includes 40 players, 10 of whom will be given the All-America honor. Notre Dame is one of just six schools to have multiple players as finalists.

The State Farm Coaches’ All-America Team will be announced April 3 in San Antonio, Texas between open practices for the Final Four. All finalists not chosen will be named State Farm Coaches’ All-America Honorable Mentions.

“What makes this even more special is that Skylar and Lindsay are such high-quality people and tremendous representatives of not only our program, but the entire University of Notre Dame,”  McGraw said in a press release Thursday. “We couldn’t be happier for their success and are excited to see what lies ahead for both of them.”