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Irish fresh after their latest win

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, February 17, 2004

St. John’s is 2-7 in its last nine games, but Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw knows records don’t matter when her team plays away from the Joyce Center.

“It’s a road game,” McGraw said. “So it’s a problem.”

All of Notre Dame’s (15-8 overall, 8-3 in the Big East) losses have come on the road this season – the team has a dismal 4-8 record outside of South Bend. The Irish are 11-0 at home this season and have a current 16-game Joyce Center winning streak.

Notre Dame is fresh off an 81-51 victory against Providence on Saturday. The Irish had five players score in double figures, including Jeneka Joyce, who had four 3-pointers and a career-high 14 points. The win, coupled with a West Virginia loss, brought Notre Dame within half a game of second place in the Big East. Connecticut leads the conference at 10-1.

St. John’s (9-13, 3-8) has had a week off after losing to Miami 85-74 on Feb. 10. The Red Storm have a potent offense, led by one of the nation’s best 3-point shooters in senior guard Kim MacMillan. MacMillan averages 3.5 3-pointers per game – the second most per game in the nation – and has connected on over 37 percent of her attempts this season. She leads the team with 15.8 points per game.

Junior guard Secret Stubblefield is second on the team in points, averaging 13.9 per game, while freshman Angie Clark posts 13.0 points. Clark is also second in the Big East in double-doubles per game with eight and has been named Big East Rookie of the Week five times this season.

“They’re a very aggressive and hard-working kind of team,” McGraw said. “They’re scoring a lot of points, so it’s going to be a test for our defense.”

Notre Dame’s defense has been its strength for most of the season, holding nine of the last 10 opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field. The Irish give up just 59.4 points per game this season.

The Irish offense has been led all season by junior forward Jacqueline Batteast, who averages over 14 points and eight rebounds per game.

She also has eight double-doubles on the season.

The only other Irish player to average double figures in points is guard Megan Duffy, who hit all three of her 3-point attempts against Providence on Saturday.

McGraw said St. John’s will throw several defensive packages at Notre Dame’s offense.

“They play a lot of junk defense,” McGraw said.

With only five games, including this one, left on Notre Dame’s schedule, the Irish hope to end the season on a strong note to improve their seed in the Big East and NCAA Tournament.

No matter what seed the Irish are in the NCAA Tournament, though, they will play their first two games at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame has a quick turnaround after tonight’s game, facing Pittsburgh on the road Thursday. Tonight’s tip is at 7 p.m.