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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish cruise on Senior Day

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, February 28, 2011

The No. 8 Irish entered Saturday’s game against Cincinnati with nervous excitement and a bit of emotion, but an explosive 21-0 run to start the second half gave Notre Dame a 66-48 win on Senior Day, in forward Becca Bruszewski’s final game at Purcell Pavilion.

“We were a little giddy, almost, before the game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Senior Day for Becca, everybody had a little bit of emotion and they wanted to do well for her. But I think we didn’t have the same type of focus that we normally do.”

However, Bruszewski still said the game, overall, was “great.”

“It was definitely something I always dreaded as an underclassmen to see the seniors go,” she said.

Bruszewski’s classmates Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory are also senior starters for the Irish (24-5, 13-2 Big East), but both have another year of eligibility.

Bruszewski made sure to make the day special with 12 points. Peters chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds while junior guard Natalie Novosel had 11 points.

“I thought [Peters] came out and had a really good game,” McGraw said. “She played well and I think she carried us through the game, you know, in the first half with her defense and her rebounding and her scoring.”

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins also finished with 12 points after giving up her starting position to walk-on senior forward Mary Forr. When McGraw announced that Forr would start, she didn’t know whose spot she would take. Both Peters and Mallory were quick to offer their spots, but Diggins had another idea.

“Everybody was willing to give up their spot for her. Then Skylar came up to me after practice and said ‘You have to start the seniors. [Peters] is a senior and she needs to start and I’ll come off of the bench.’ That kind of was the attitude with the whole team, and I thought was great. It was great for Mary. It was Becca’s day, but I thought it was great for Mary to be out there. I think she got a thrill being a starter.”

Forr finished with two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes of action.

Bruszewski didn’t mind sharing her day with Forr, but McGraw couldn’t help but single out what Bruszewski has brought to the Irish team.

“I think her contribution over four years has been outstanding. But her contribution this year from a leadership perspective has surpassed everyone’s expectations. I think she has taken this team and really set the tone the entire year,” McGraw said. “She is the most amazing competitor I think I have ever coached. She will never ever quit. She just doesn’t have that word in her vocabulary and the team feeds off of that.”

The Irish fed off of Bruszewski’s energy Saturday, with six players coming off the bench for 11 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Kaila Turner had nine of those 11 points with three 3-pointers in the second half.

Notre Dame entered the half up only eight points, 28-20, but started the second half with a 21-0 run that gave the Irish the boost they needed.

“We wanted to get back to our defense and intensity,” McGraw said about the changes after the break. “I was disappointed, and I think they were, too. So we just talked about what we needed to do, and they went out and did it.”

The Irish will have to do it again tonight when they travel to Chicago to face No. 7 DePaul to close the Big East regular season and determine which team will be the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament. The Blue Demons (25-5, 12-3) are coming off of a 60-53 loss to No. 24 Marquette on Saturday night and have fallen to Notre Dame the last four times the two teams have met.

The Irish will face the Blue Demons tonight at 9 p.m.