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ND Women’s Basketball: Grand victory

Molly Sammon | Monday, December 6, 2010

Though Irish coach Muffet McGraw called Notre Dame’s 72-51 win over Purdue Sunday an “ugly present,” the win that fell on her birthday was nonetheless a present for McGraw and her young team. The win came just four days after Notre Dame’s 76-65 loss to No. 2/3 Baylor Wednesday, and marked the 1,000th game in program history.

“They’re physical. They work hard. They’re a good team,” McGraw said of the Boilermakers. “Like us, they’re still young and finding their way on their first road game, which was a struggle for them, but by the end of the year, [Purdue coach] Sharon [Versyp] is going to have them right where she wants them to be.”

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins put up Notre Dame’s first six points. She scored 14 points in the game, all in the first half. The No. 16 Irish (6-3) started out strong with an early lead and kept the score in their favor while not allowing the Boilermakers to come close to tying up the game.

Diggins had emphasized the importance of getting the game off to a good start as a crucial team goal heading into Sunday’s game, which McGraw agreed with in her post-game press conference

“I thought that Skylar’s first six points of the game were key to just get on us on track and to get the running game going a little bit,” McGraw said.

Aside from the early lead, the Irish benefited greatly from the Boilermaker’s 24 turnovers throughout the contest. McGraw attributed this number to Notre Dame’s strong defensive effort.

“We forced them into some travels, and we didn’t have a lot of steals, but I thought that we played pretty good defense to get them to turn the ball over. And then we capitalized,” she said.

The Irish found offensive and defensive balance in freshman forward Natalie Achonwa. She scored 12 points, had two steals and one block.

“I think Natalie had one of the best games of the season for her, a complete game, both on defense and offense,” McGraw said.

Junior guard Natalie Novosel was the leading Irish scorer with 16 points.

Purdue’s performance was weakened largely by the loss of two players this week. Sophomore Boilermaker guard KK Houser and junior forward Drey Mingo are both out for an invariable amount of time. Mingo was recently released from a hospital in West Lafayette, Ind., after receiving treatment for bacterial meningitis while Houser suffered an ACL injury in the team’s opening contest against Austin Peay on Nov. 12. With Mingo and Houser out, Purdue has not been able to find the right team dynamic that makes up for the missing pair of contributing players.

“The reality is we are down two starters. We could be better. We have to perform better. We have to execute better. We have to share the ball better,” Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. “It is reality and we have to take hits and make adjustments and become better.”

Adjustments are necessary on the Irish side as well as they head into their next contest, McGraw said. She pointed to the post game as an area to improve before Notre Dame’s next game against Providence.

“You know we’ve been working on that at practice, and we were trying to get the ball during the first part of the game to Becca [Bruszewski]. We ended up finding Natalie [Achonwa] inside quite a bit, so she really did some good things. But we need some scoring from the post, and that’s what I was most concerned with,” McGraw said.

The Irish will face the Friars at 7 p.m. at Providence’s Alumni Hall to begin the in-conference portion of their season.