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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish hit the road to play DePaul

By Samantha Zuba | Friday, February 22, 2013

No. 2 Notre Dame will not venture far from home to play DePaul in Chicago on Sunday. But though the drive is short, the Irish (24-1, 12-0 Big East) will face an unfriendly environment for this conference road game. The Blue Demons (18-8, 7-5) will defend their 14-1 record at home when Notre Dame arrives at the McGrath-Phillips Arena. The game could be quite a challenge for the Irish, coach Muffet McGraw said.

McGraw said the DePaul fans’ energy will produce plenty of noise, as tickets for the game sold out Wednesday.

“I love to play it here,” McGraw said. “[The McGrath-Phillips arena] is like a high school gym, so it’ll be very loud, and it’s going to be difficult. It’s a struggle to play up there. They are really, really tough at home.

“We expect [Blue Demons senior guard] Anna Martin to be back,” McGraw said. “She’s their top player that’s been out for three weeks. That’ll give them a huge lift. It’s going to be a tough game for us.”

Martin anchors a starting lineup that features three players who average double-figure points per game. DePaul’s two starting forwards, senior Katherine Harry and junior Jasmine Penny, stand at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, respectively. McGraw said the Blue Demons use their size to spread the floor and create space on the perimeter for their sharp-shooting guards. Harry and Penny present particularly difficult matchups for Notre Dame and have consistently been a tough game on the Irish schedule in recent years, McGraw said.

“Last year, Penny had a really good game against us here and Harry is a tough matchup for us too,” she said. “So, those two guys inside are tough for us to guard. They’re playing really well right now, and they have a good team because you can’t double team them because their guards shoot the ball well.”

The Irish are coming off a resounding 87-49 victory over Marquette on Sunday in which senior guard Skylar Diggins put up 23 points and moved into sole possession of second place on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list. Junior forward Natalie Achonwa chipped in 17 points and 10 rebounds to record her Big East-leading 14th double-double of the season.

McGraw said Diggins, Achonwa and the rest of the Irish will need to commit extra attention to DePaul shooters in transition. But she said the offensive side will be business as usual.

“Defensively, I think we need to worry about transition defense and finding them on the 3-point line,” McGraw said. “Offensively, I think we’re just looking to display our own game.”

Notre Dame plays DePaul at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu