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ND Women’s Basketball: Notre Dame to travel to Bahamas for tourney

Molly Sammon | Monday, November 21, 2011

After dropping their first game of the season to No. 1 Baylor 94-81 Sunday, the No. 4 Irish will spend Thanksgiving Break in Freeport, Bahamas, for the Junkanoo Jam, with hopes of starting a new winning streak.

Notre Dame (3-1) will play two games on its Caribbean trip. The first is against USC on Friday, with the second against either No. 7 Duke or Gardner-Webb on Saturday, based on Friday’s results.

The Trojans (1-2) had a spot in the national rankings until they dropped out from No. 23 in this week’s coaches’ poll.

“They were in the top 25 before and [are] definitely a formidable opponent [with] some great players and outstanding guards,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They have a well-balanced team.

“We’ve played [USC] a number of times and we used to play them every year. We just stopped in the last year or two. We’ve got a pretty long tradition of playing them, but not in the last couple of years.”

Though the Irish have played the Trojans before, many changes have come for Notre Dame and USC over the few years their schedules did not intersect that will make this game a new experience.

“We have a lot of new players since the last time we’ve seen them. [Playing USC] is like playing a team for the first time,” McGraw said. “They have a lot of new players and a new coach.”

On Saturday, the Irish will play either currently undefeated Duke (3-0) or winless Gardner-Webb (0-4). Should the Irish defeat the Trojans, they will play the winner of the Blue Devils and Bulldogs. A loss to USC will result in a matchup with the loser of the game between Duke and Gardner-Webb.

“We haven’t played Duke in quite a while and we have never played Gardner-Webb,” McGraw said. “These are some new teams to look at. We’re just excited to be able to play in the Bahamas.”

The last time the Irish took to the court, they lost a tough fight to the Bears as the then-top two teams in the country played each other in the championship game of the preseason WNIT.

Despite senior guard Natalie Novosel’s career-high 28 points and junior guard Skylar Diggins’ 27 points, the Bears held tightly to their top ranking.

“I think we played very well offensively, particularly Natalie with a career-high points, and Skylar had an outstanding night,” McGraw said. “I think they both did everything they did to help us win as many games as we could.”

Diggins earned the first Big East Player of the Week for the 2011 season. Both Diggins and Novosel were named to the WNIT all-tournament team based on their statistics offensively and defensively in the four total games of the tournament.

Though they shined on offense against each of their WNIT opponents, McGraw said she is looking for better defensive play from the Irish on Friday and Saturday.

“The biggest thing that we need to do is rebound better,” McGraw said. “That was our weakness — the whole team. We did a lot of good things, but we were disappointed with how our rebounding went and with our defense.”

The Irish tip-off against the Trojans at 5:45 p.m. Friday. If they win against USC, they will play either Duke or Gardner-Webb in the championship game at 8:00 p.m. Saturday. If they lose to the Trojans, they will play the loser of the other game in a consolation match at 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

 

Contact Molly Sammon at msammon@nd.edu