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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish look to contain Lucas

Aaron Sant-Miller | Tuesday, December 3, 2013

 

Just seven games into its season, No. 4 Notre Dame will face its third ranked opponent of the year when it travels to No. 10 Penn State tonight.

In the Lady Lions (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten), the Irish (6-0, 0-0 ACC) not only take on one of the best teams in the nation, but also face off against one of the most talented players in the country.

Penn State senior guard Maggie Lucas was the Big Ten Player of the Year last season, a John R. Wooden Award finalist, a Wade Trophy finalist, and a member of the Associated Press All-America second team. Lucas currently leads the Lady Lions in scoring, averaging more than 22 points per game. The second-highest scorer on Penn State, senior forward Ariel Edwards, is averaging more than ten points less than Lucas.

“Lucas is one of the best players in the country,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s probably the pre-season player of the year in the Big Ten. She’s really the focal point of their team.”

Last season, Lucas hit over 46 percent of her 3-point shots, finishing in the top five in the nation in this category. This season, the senior is shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc once again.

“[Lucas is] a great 3-point shooter and one of the best in the country,” McGraw said. “She can really score fast. She’d good off the dribble and can score in a ton of different ways, but she is really an exceptional 3-point shooter.”

On top of her talent from behind the arc, Lucas has hit 43 of her 44 free throws so far this year.

“We don’t want to foul her,” McGraw said. “I think this year, with the way they are calling the game, we have to try to work on not fouling as much. We definitely want to avoid fouling her.”

To counter Lucas, Notre Dame will have to utilize its own scorers. The Irish have six players averaging over 10 points per game and are led by sophomore guard Jewell Lloyd’s 17.2 points per game. As a team, Notre Dame benefits from its 20.8 rebounding margin average, the best in the nation.

“I think this is the best rebounding team I’ve ever had,” McGraw said. “We just have so many players capable of getting a double-double on any given night. I’m really happy with the rebounding and I think it’s the reason we’re undefeated to this point.”

Notre Dame is also second in the nation is assists, averaging 23 assists per game.

“I think we’re a team that shares the ball well,” McGraw said. “We have a lot of great players who can score, but all of those great scorers are always looking for their teammates.”

Notre Dame has continued to move the ball well, despite trying to replace former Irish guard and All-American Skylar Diggins.

“I think [our assist numbers] reflect our team chemistry, especially when you realize it’s not just the point guard,” McGraw said. “It’s in the post and it’s from the shooting guard. Everybody is averaging a lot of assists. It’s a result of great team chemistry and they really enjoy playing together.”

For the Irish, McGraw said, the building of strong team chemistry begins with the recruiting process

“I think we’ve been growing each year,” McGraw said. “When we do our recruiting, we want kids that are a good fit for our program and will fit in well with our offense and our players. Chemistry is an important part of recruiting and we really take that into account when we’re offering scholarships.”

The Irish will look to take advantage of their team chemistry and skills on the glass when they travel to Penn State today for their 7:30 p.m. game against the Lady Lions.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu