ND Women’s Basketball: Peters dominates paint in win over Louisville
Andrew Owens | Monday, March 7, 2011
HARTFORD, Conn. – Before the Big East quarterfinal matchup between No. 7 Notre Dame and Louisville Sunday, Irish forward Devereaux Peters was honored as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Once the game got underway, it was time for the senior to shine — on both ends of the court.
The senior scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and recorded six blocks in Notre Dame’s 63-53 victory, advancing th
e Irish to a semifinal showdown with No. 12 DePaul.
“I was really pleased with Devereaux’s game tonight,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought she played very well defensively — six blocks tied a career high. She carried us through a large stretch of the game.”
The underdog Cardinals hung with the Irish throughout the first half, thanks to a balanced scoring effort and strong defensive play. Louisville held Notre Dame’s top two scorers, sophomore guard Skylar Diggins and junior guard Natalie Novosel, without a field goal in the half.
“They’re a great team,” McGraw said of the No. 6 seed Cardinals. “They’ve got a deep bench, they pressure, they play physical, they play hard, and will be really difficult in the NCAA tournament.”
Notre Dame scored the final six points to take a 32-24 advantage heading into halftime. The backcourt duo of senior forwards Becca Bruszewski and Peters combined for 14 points and eight rebounds in the half.
“I didn’t think the guards did their job on the boards, but I thought the post did,” McGraw said.
Peters continued to impose her will on the Cardinals in the second half as she scored 11 of Notre Dame’s first 16 points to extend the lead to 19, the largest lead of the game, during a 22-5 run.
“We sat her for five minutes in each half and they went off on big runs when she wasn’t in the game,” McGraw said. “She’s a good double-teamer, good in the press, and she does so many things. Having her on the floor makes us a very different team.”
Louisville went on a 16-4 run after letting the Irish pull ahead, while Peters sat resting on the bench. The Notre Dame backcourt stepped up in response, as Diggins and Novosel hit shots on back-to-back possessions to make it a 12-point game.
The Cardinals, however, would not give in. All-Big East first team forward Monique Reid cut the deficit to six with a layup with 2:33 remaining. That was the closest Louisville would get, as Notre Dame put up the next five to hold on to the win.
Diggins hit a layup with 59 seconds remaining to give the Irish an 11-point lead, eliminating any doubt of an Irish victory. On the previous Louisville possession, the Irish knew they needed one more stop.
“We had talked in the huddle that we needed one more defensive stop,” Diggins said. “You know that’s just a part of pressuring the ball.”
With No. 12 DePaul’s 66-54 win over St. John’s, the stage is set for a battle among Big East heavyweights tonight. The only time Notre Dame and DePaul faced each other during the regular season on Feb. 28, the Blue Demons scored with six seconds left to claim the victory. With both teams finishing 13-3 in conference play, the tiebreaker went to DePaul because of that game.
The only impact that tiebreaker will have on tonight’s game is that Notre Dame will be wearing blue instead of white, but McGraw said the Irish could still learn a great deal from their close loss to the Blue Demons. Facing a hostile environment, Notre Dame appeared poised for its biggest win of the season until a late basket by DePaul senior forward Felicia Chester ended those hopes.
“We’ve got to play better,” McGraw said. “I thought Chester played really well … Becca [Bruszewski] only played 13 minutes, and it was hard for us to have a freshman [Natalie Achonwa] in the game guarding a fifth-year senior [Chester].”
The Blue Demons carry a deep bench with nine players averaging double-digit minutes. Much of their success is due to their ability to put so many players out on the court and rest their starters.
Both teams will be well-rested tonight because of the double byes they earned by virtue of being a top-four seed. Both the Irish and Blue Demons enter the contest having played only one game in the tournament up to this point.
“We’re glad we got the double bye,” Diggins said on March 1. “We got the chance to rest a little bit and get ready for the second game.”
The winner tonight will advance to the Big East championship game, and neither team has won a Big East title before. The teams will tip off at 8 p.m. on ESPNU in Hartford, Conn.