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WOMEN’S’ BASKETBALL: Irish hope to continue winning ways

Joe Hettler | Wednesday, January 19, 2005

After losing two straight conference games, the Notre Dame team that went 13-1 to start the season reappeared Sunday when the No. 10/11 Irish smoked No. 20 Purdue 86-69 at the Joyce Center.

Now the Irish hope to keep the momentum going in a road contest against Big East foe Syracuse.

The Irish (14-3, 2-2 Big East) travel to Syracuse to battle the Orange for a 7 p.m. tip-off inside the Carrier Dome tonight. Syracuse (10-5, 2-2) looks to avenge a Jan. 5 loss to the Irish, who posted a 75-58 win at the Joyce Center. In that game, Irish coach Muffet McGraw was not pleased with her team’s performance, despite the 17-point victory.

“We’ve been ranked in the Top 25 for some time now,” she said in the post-game press conference. “We’ve really held our poise and played well. I think that tonight was the first time we had a letdown.”

McGraw was right with her assessment. The Irish lost their next two games, before getting back on track with the Purdue win.

Now McGraw wants her team to continue making strides as the calendar draws closer to February.

“We can’t afford to have a letdown,” McGraw said. “We’ve got to stay focused.”

Notre Dame hopes to not only pick up another Big East victory, but also stay confident heading into a tough stretch of games. The team will face Rutgers and Connecticut in the next 10 days.

“A lot of times [confidence] has to do with you get on a roll, start playing well and everything’s fun, then you slip up and lose confidence,” McGraw said. “The key is maintaining the intensity with everything.”

Notre Dame is led by the tandem of Jacqueline Batteast and Megan Duffy. Batteast averages 18.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game, while Duffy adds 11.6 points, five assists and two steals.

The Irish have also been getting solid contributions from the rest of the team. Teresa Borton played exceptional against Purdue, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Freshman Charel Allen and Tuylah Gaines, along with sophomore Breona Gray also played well for Notre Dame.

Syracuse, meanwhile, has already surpassed its win total from a season ago when the Orange went just 6-21. The team lost all-time leading scorer Julie McBride but opened the season with five straight wins and are a respectable 2-2 in conference. Senior Chineze Nwagbo is the team’s leader in points per game (11.3), rebounds (8.7) and field goal percentage (.475). The team has won two straight Big East games since losing to Notre Dame a couple weeks ago.

McGraw said her team needs to play well to come back home with its third conference victory.

“We’ve got a lot to improve on,” she said. “We can’t look past anyone.”