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ND Women’s Basketball: Novosel leads Irish past Bulls

Andrew Owens | Monday, February 7, 2011

In a tightly-matched 76-68 win over South Florida on Saturday, the Irish learned there is no such thing as an easy Big East road game.

No. 8 Notre Dame (20-4, 9-1 Big East) held off a strong second half effort by the Bulls (10-13, 1-8) to notch their seventh consecutive conference victory.

“It was a great win,” Irish coach Muffett McGraw said. “We played better offensively than we have in the last couple games.”

Four Irish starters recorded double-digit points in the win.

Junior guard Natalie Novosel scored 12 of her team-high 19 points in the second half to pace the Irish. Novosel also grabbed eight rebounds, matching her career-high for the first time since Nov. 21 at Kentucky. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins followed suit with 17 points and four rebounds.

“Our guards haven’t been scoring as much, so it was great to see them both attack the basket,” McGraw said.

Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and freshman forward

Natalie Achonwa dominated the low post for the Irish against the Bulls, scoring 16 and 14 points, respectively. Bruszewski’s 11 points in the first half helped the Irish to a 42-30 advantage at the half. Achonwa also added eight rebounds.

“The post continued to shoot from a high percentage,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame’s frontcourt also led the way in a 16-9 advantage in second chance points. Several of those buckets came in the second half, which were key to sustaining the Irish lead.

The Irish defense did not play up to the standards that the team has set during their seven-game winning streak. In the last five games, four opponents have been held to 50 points or fewer.

The Irish defense did not play up to the standards that the team has set during the seven-game winning streak. In the last five games, four opponents have been held to 50 points or fewer.

“We could have played better defensively,” McGraw said.

“We didn’t get as many steals as we typically do, and we committed more turnovers than our opponent, which is rare.”

The Irish had 18 turnovers, while South Florida only committed 14.

Notre Dame has now had a 20-win season in 17 of its last 18 seasons.

Notre Dame moved into second place in the Big East with the victory, trailing only Connecticut, whom the Irish will have a road rematch against Feb. 19.

“We need to work on our aggressiveness,” McGraw said. “If we can work on that and our intensity, we will be fine.”

The Irish will host two Big East matchups this week, as Seton Hall comes to Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday and Rutgers arriving for a key conference matchup Saturday.