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ND Basketball: Show time

Jay Fitzpatrick | Friday, November 10, 2006

Notre Dame will tip off against Central Michigan in each team’s regular season opener today at 4 p.m. at the Joyce Center.The Irish defeated Northwood University 82-35 Nov. 5, but Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw still hopes to see offensive improvement – a theme stressed throughout the preseason. “I think we’re looking at some new stuff offensively and seeing how [it works] out, seeing how different people come in,” freshman center Erica Williamson said. “Just small things people can do when we’re running.”Along with this new look offense will be a stingy Irish defense that shut down its two preseason opponents, limiting them to 28 percent shooting from the floor and forcing 67 turnovers. That swarming defense helped the Irish dominate those first two opponents – outscoring them by an average of 82-45.Despite her team’s performance in the preseason, McGraw is still wary of a Central Michigan threat.”They do a lot of different things offensively, a lot of motion,” McGraw said. “We’re really working on our defense.”Challenging the Irish defense will be Central Michigan’s long-range offense. The Chippewas are shorter than the Irish. Their tallest player is 6-foot-2 senior forward Ann Skufka, whose specialty is shooting from beyond the arc. This three-point offense will test the athleticism of Notre Dame’s two centers, Williamson and senior Melissa D’Amico.”Their big guys can shoot threes, can play away from the basket, so I think defensively it is going to be a big challenge for our post to be able to handle a three-point shooter and someone who likes to put the ball on the floor,” McGraw said. “We’re better against a post-up player, where we can use our size. So I think they’re going to have a tough time guarding them.”This game will also be the regular season debut of Notre Dame’s three talented freshmen, Williamson and guards Melissa Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow. Williamson filled in well for D’Amico in Notre Dame’s two exhibition games. Lechlitner and Barlow also have logged significant minutes running the point this season, enabling McGraw to operate an efficient four-guard set. Now the Irish are ready for the games that matter.”I think as a team we’re pretty prepared. We’ve been working ever since summer started,” Williamson said. “We’ve been working hard, going through all of our offenses and everything. I think we’re just most of all excited to get started.”