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One-win Friars to host Irish

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Providence has won just one game all season, and tonight it is likely to stay that way. Red-hot Notre Dame travels to Alumni Hall this evening to face the Friars (1-19, 0-9 Big East), who have struggled all year.

Meanwhile, the No. 6 Irish have hit a midseason stride as they carry a seven-game win streak into tonight’s matchup.

“Right now, I’m so excited about the way we’re playing,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Notre Dame (20-3, 8-2) comes off a 75-47 win at Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, when they used a late 14-0 first half run to put the game away for good. The Irish held the Panthers to 25 percent shooting and pulled down a season-high 50 rebounds.

“So many people are playing well and playing to their potential,” McGraw said. “We look sharp – we had just two turnovers at halftime.

The win at Pittsburgh was especially important for the Irish as they came into the game with two big wins against then-No. 9 Connecticut in Storrs, and then-No. 16 Boston College at home.

“It was just one of those games, where you’re coming off two big games, and you think you’re gonna have a letdown,” McGraw said. ‘It’s so important to play well, and I gain more and more confidence every time we play like that.”

Leading the way for the Irish Saturday were two players from the bench – Courtney LaVere and Charel Allen.

LaVere finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and Allen had 16 points in front of a hometown crowd in her native Pennsylvania. Allen was named the Big East Freshman of the Week last week after averaging 12.5 points on 62.5 percent shooting and 4 rebounds per game off the bench for the Irish.

“She’s really kinda surpassed our expectations,” McGraw said of Allen. “I thought she’d play a lot, I just didn’t think she’d play as well in the big games. And she has stepped up really well in the big games. She doesn’t get flustered, she doesn’t get nervous. Playing in front of your hometown – that’s hard for some people, and she just had her regular game. I don’t think anything fazes her.”

Allen and the Irish face a weak Providence team tonight who lost to No. 11 Connecticut 71-24 Saturday, after scoring just six points in the first half. Led by sophomore Shauna Snyder, who averages 12.7 points per game, the Friars have struggled this season after returning just four letter winners from last year’s team. The Friars were also hurt when lone senior Gayle Nwafili (12.3 points, 8.3 rebounds per game last season) suffered a season-ending knee injury during exhibition play.

In her absence, sophomore Jill Furstenburg has stepped up, averaging 10.4 points per game. The Friars only win this season was a 59-56 win over Troy Dec. 30, snapping a 10-game losing streak to start the season.

Notre Dame is led by All-American Jacqueline Batt-east’s 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and Megan Duffy’s 11.4 points and 5.6 assists per game.

Tonight the Irish will focus on themselves, and try to keep the momentum from their seven-game win streak alive.

“We’ll concentrate on ourselves,” McGraw said. “We’re going to work on a lot of different things defensively, try to execute without turning the ball over, try to work on our presses. Really, just play it and see what we can learn.”

Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.