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ND Women’s Basketball: Senior Day set to restart streak

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, February 25, 2011

The No. 8 Irish came back from a devastating loss to No. 2 Connecticut to take down No. 19 West Virginia Tuesday — and hope to start a winning streak Saturday when they host Cincinnati on Notre Dame’s Senior Day.

“There’s a lot of momentum going in,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “With DePaul losing last night, we’re now tied for second [in the Big East], so we have a lot of momentum going in with that big win on the road, just such a quality win for us against a top-25 team. We executed our offense really well, we played great defense, so I think we’re feeling good right now.”

Notre Dame (23-5, 12-2 Big East) will feel even better when it steps back on its home court Saturday for the first home game since Feb. 12. The Irish will also be honoring their lone graduating senior, forward Becca Bruszewski, as she plays the final home game of her four-year career.

“[It’s] a huge sigh of relief for being home,” McGraw said. “We’ve had three of the last four on the road to finish the season and in some tough places to play. We’ll be even more excited than usual to play in front of our home crowd, especially for the last time. It’s going to be a very emotional day for Becca, and kind of a commending of sorts for her, the last home game in her career.”

Bruszewski, one of the team’s co-captains, has been essential to the Irish offense this season. She has averaged 9.2 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds.

Alongside Bruszewski, Notre Dame’s other starters scored all but five of the team’s 72 points. Junior guard Natalie Novosel had a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds to lead the team, followed by senior forward Devereaux Peters’ 16 points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins scored 10 and senior guard Brittany Mallory had nine.

Coming off the bench were freshman forward Natalie Achonwa and sophomore guard Kaila Turner, who played a combined 39 minutes and added six rebounds.

McGraw said her team demonstrated its ability to focus on the game ahead of it, not the one before.

“This team has done a really good job, and I think Becca’s a lot of the reason why we have been able to really focus on the next game,” she said. “No matter who we’re playing, if we’re playing a team at the bottom of the standings or at the top of the standings, it hasn’t really affected us. We’ve played well in every game and I think that’s because we have such good focus in every game.”

Saturday’s focus will be not only on defeating Cincinnati (8-18, 1-13 Big East), but doing it in an appropriate way to commemorate Bruszewski and what she brings to the team.

“[Becca] sets the tone in the locker room,” McGraw said. “She’s got a mental toughness and a fearless attitude. She’s never intimidated, she’s very, very competitive, she wants to win, and I think her attitude is it. She’s definitely the most physical player on our team, and I think people respond to that and the team really responds to her and her leadership.”

But playing tough has never been hard for this Irish team, and McGraw said Saturday won’t be any different, especially with the extra incentive to win at home.

“Since it’s our last home game, I think there’s going to be a lot of excitement for us to be in front of our crowd again. I know we’re going to play hard-we do every game, and to send Becca out. We all want to play well for her, so I think there’ll be a little extra incentive to play well for her on Saturday,” McGraw said.

The Irish and the Bearcats will tip off at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Purcell Pavilion.