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ND Women’s Basketball: Team handles Purdue to open new millenium

Laura Myers | Monday, December 6, 2010

There was no panic. The jumbotron stayed on even after the clock counted down to zero. The Irish won over a depleted Purdue squad.

All in all, Notre Dame’s move into its next millennium was a fairly uneventful one.

Sunday’s 72-51 win over the Boilermakers marked the Irish program’s 1,000th game. While this one game may not have been the most dramatic, it was a milestone for a team full of important moments. And by the looks of this year’s team, there should be more important moments, and soon.

It began 33 years ago, almost to the day, on Dec. 3, 1977, with a 48-41 win over Valparaiso.

Since then, Notre Dame has won 694 more games, including its first conference game (in 1984), its first postseason game (in 1985), its first game as a ranked team (in 1991) and its first game as a member of the Big East (in 1995).

The 1,000 games included 24 against Purdue, none more important than the game 10 years ago when Ruth Riley hit two free throws at the end of the game to top the Boilermakers 68-66 for a National Championship.

Speaking of Riley, nine All-Americans were among the players of those 1,000 games. Ten players went on to the WNBA, including Riley and present Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey.

Now the Irish look not at their last 1,000 games or to their next 1,000 games, but to their next 20, which make up the rest of the regular season.

They begin Big East play Wednesday at Providence and start their conference-only schedule in early January.

In the nine games Notre Dame has played this season, the team has done just what it should have — it won big in those games that should have been wins, and fought hard in those games that should have been battles. If the Irish continue to play the same way, the struggles that went against them so far this season could turn in their favor.

As we saw in November when they took No. 15 UCLA to double-overtime, last week when they turned a 22-point deficit to a six-point gap against No. 2 Baylor, and Sunday when they used speed and skill to hold off a pesky Purdue team, this team fights.

Each player contributes something to a scrappy team that should be a major player in a Big East that currently has five teams in the top 25.

Senior forward Devereaux Peters, who wears braces on both knees after multiple injuries, is never afraid to go in for a contested rebound or fall to the ground defending a move on the inside. She did so Sunday, leading the team with nine rebounds.

Sophomore point guard Skylar Diggins does everything she can to get her team moving, whether she needs to create opportunities for others or make the key baskets on her own. She showed that on Sunday as well, getting away from a slow start with six points to begin Notre Dame’s scoring, then adding six assists along the way to the win.

Seniors Brittany Mallory and Becca Bruszewski provide leadership to a young team. Junior guards Natalie Novosel and Erica Solomon and sophomore guard Kaila Turner have shown marked improvement and should continue to be a major presence.

Freshmen Natalie Achonwa and Kayla McBride have made an immediate impact on the court and in the team dynamics.

With this core of players, and with Muffet McGraw at the helm — as she has been for 736 of Notre Dame’s 1,000 games — the Irish look ready for the next 20 games, and for the possible 11 more that could come in post-season play.

Many significant games have already gone for Notre Dame. Many more are yet to come.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers2@nd.edu