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ND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolverines travel to JACC

Heather VanHoegarden | Friday, November 18, 2005

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw wishes she had another week of practice instead of tonight’s first regular-season game, despite what her players may say.

“I always feel like we need another week of practice, and the players always feel like, ‘[Gosh], can we just play a game,'” McGraw said. “So I think that’s the point we’re at right now – they’re ready for a game, I’m ready for another week of practice. … We have a lot of stuff to put in that we haven’t worked on.”

But if the No. 15 Irish win tonight against Michigan, it will be McGraw’s 500th career win, making her the 27th NCAA Division I coach to reach that milestone and the 10th to do so before age 50.

However, Michigan won’t be as easy to defeat as its 5-23 record and last-place finish in the Big Ten a year ago may indicate.

“I just think they’re a threat,” McGraw said. “You can’t look at last year’s record. It’s a whole new team, a whole new attitude, and we’re a whole new team too. We’re still trying to figure ourselves out.”

Michigan, which has played two regular season games already this year, has been led by freshman Stephany Skrba, who averaged 13.5 points and six rebounds per game. Skrba earned all-tournament honors at the Women’s Sports Foundation Challenge in Eugene, Ore., in addition to being named the Big Ten Player of the Week. Skrba was joined by fellow freshman Jessica Minnfield, who averaged 10.5 points per game. The Wolverines lost their first game 65-48 to No. 21 Temple, but defeated St. Francis (Pa.) 80-52 in the second game. These two games were in addition to the two exhibitions played by Michigan, something McGraw sees as a distinct advantage.

“They’ve had four games already,” she said. “That’s a big difference when you’re talking about the opening night.”

McGraw also said she is concerned with the defense of the Wolverines.

“They press a lot, they’re quick, they’re very active defensively,” McGraw said. “[Michigan head coach Cheryl Burnett] is kinda known for her defense. She’s just a really good defensive coach. They play hard, they get up in the passing lanes, they deny. They’re really going to make it tough for us.”

Meanwhile, the Irish are led by senior point guard Megan Duffy, who should be joined in the backcourt by sophomore Tulyah Gaines. Freshman Lindsay Schrader is expected to start her first ever collegiate game, and rounding out the lineup will likely be forwards Crystal Erwin and Melissa D’Amico.

Erwin is a player who McGraw has been very happy with in the early part of the season.

“Crystal’s attitude has been fantastic, in that she’s in here all the time saying, “[Coach] Angie [Potthoff], can I watch film?'” McGraw said. “She came in great shape and really ready, but she’s like a sponge. She’s just trying to learn everything she can, and we’ve just been really thrilled with her work ethic in every way.”

Tipoff is set for after the football pep rally tonight at 9 p.m. in the Joyce Center.