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ND Women’s Basketball: All hands on deck

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Impressing its coach and shaping up its defense may be the hardest tasks No. 8 Notre Dame faces tonight when it hosts Seton Hall in a Big East matchup, but Muffet McGraw knows her team has it in them.

“I was disappointed with our defense in the South Florida game [on Saturday], so I hope that we can defend a little bit better,” the Irish coach said. “I think we need to come out with a little more aggressiveness. I think it’s in them to come out and just play a little bit harder.”

The Irish (20-4, 9-1 Big East) have won their last seven games since falling to No. 2 Connecticut, 79-76, on Jan. 8., and held four straight opponents to 50 points or lower prior Saturday’s 76-68 victory. McGraw said the win was not a strong showing of the team’s talent.

“We’re first in the Big East in steals, but then we only had five, and we normally have 12,” she said. “We hold teams to 53 points a game, and they had 68. I think the team was disappointed in their defensive effort, and I think they will come out tomorrow with a renewed energy on the defensive end.”

Notre Dame’s defense has been especially useful in its transition game and getting points on the board. Essential to these efforts are sophomore guard Skylar Diggins and junior guard Natalie Novosel, the team’s leading scorers. Diggins came out of Saturday’s contest with 17 points while Novosel scored a team-high 19 with eight rebounds.

“We’ve been scoring in transition, I think we’ve been feeding off our defense when we go in transition, and Skylar and Natalie are both extremely hard to guard on the open floor,” McGraw said. “They’re so savvy with the ball and they can really attack the basket, they can both hit good jumpers, so it makes them really hard to guard.”

But the Irish guards aren’t the only important forces on the offense.

“We really are back offensively, I’m really pleased,” McGraw said. “The posts are playing well, they’re scoring, they’re shooting well, guards are playing well. Offensively, a lot of good performances from each individual player. Everybody who goes in the game is scoring and we’re doing a pretty good job of that.”

McGraw said she has been pleased with Notre Dame’s post play, particularly the contributions from freshman Natalie Achonwa and seniors Devereaux Peters and Becca Bruszewski.

“Devereaux is having a fantastic year. Becca Bruszewski has really come a long way, scored her thousandth point [at Syracuse], she had 16 the other night, she had double figures, she’s rebounding better, and then Achonwa coming off the bench, she’s scoring I think about 14 points and only playing 19 or 20 minutes,” McGraw said. “I think all three of them are really playing well. We need to get them the ball more and their shooting percentages have been tremendous. They’re all shooting well, I think over 60 percent in the last four games.”

The Irish will look to their scoring to earn them their 19th series win over the Pirates tonight as the two teams face off at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.