ND Women’s Basketball: McGraw readies ND for Penn
Kelsey Manning | Thursday, December 1, 2011
Following a last-second victory over Duke that featured a school record-tying comeback, the No. 3 Irish return home to face Pennsylvania, a program that has never beaten a top-25 opponent, on Friday.
Nevertheless, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said Notre Dame (3-1) has no intentions of losing focus and emphasized the importance of tonight’s contest.
“This is a really big game for us because our rebounding has been so bad,” McGraw said. “We need to get back out and play. We’ve had a week off, so we’ve had a chance to work on some things, and tomorrow’s going to be a big test for us to see how we do with what we’ve been working on all week at practice, which has mostly been rebounding.”
McGraw has continually stressed Notre Dame’s need for improvement defensively, particularly after giving up 95 points to No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20. Facing another top-10 team in No. 7 Duke, the Irish continued to struggle defensively in the first half. According to McGraw, the turn around in the second half showed Notre Dame’s potential on the defensive end.
“We were really disappointed with the defense in the first half, and I thought we really took more pride in the second half,” McGraw said of the Duke game. “I thought we got really determined and we made some really good plays, some really smart plays. I was really pleased we were able to hold them to 54 points when they’re averaging [77 points entering the contest], so that’s really great defense.”
The Irish look to continue the momentum from their strong defensive showing against Duke.
“It’s tough when you have Friday-Sunday games, especially when you have to travel in the middle of it, so we really need to stay focused and take care of what we need to work on,” McGraw said. “We need to be sharp defensively and offensively. We certainly haven’t played our best game yet, so we really have a lot of things to improve on, so we’re anxious for another game.”
Pennsylvania (4-1) is enjoying its best five-game start in school history and will travel to South Bend fresh off two wins on the road. Sophomore guard Alyssa Baron, last season’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, leads the Quakers’ offensive efforts. Baron was also the first freshman in Ivy League history to lead the league in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game in her first season.
“They have a really good guard in Baron and she’s averaging about 20 points a game,” McGraw said. “She’s a really good three-point shooter and she’s really crafty with the ball. They’re off to their best start ever, so they’re coming in with a lot of confidence, and she’s a really good player.”
The Irish take on the Quakers tonight at the Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m. before traveling to Omaha, Neb., to face Creighton (3-2) on Sunday.
Contact Kelsey Manning at email@example.com