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ND Women’s Basketball: On the road again

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, January 23, 2007

When Irish guard Charel Allen was asked Tuesday about the difficult stretch quickly approaching, coach Muffet McGraw reminded the junior that “Marquette is the next game.”

McGraw has kept her team focused on the task at and as Notre Dame (13-5, 4-1 Big East) travels to Milwaukee today to face off against the No. 19 Golden Eagles (17-2, 5-1) tonight at 7 p.m.

Following the game at Marquette, the Irish will continue the road trip to No. 5 Connecticut and No. 25 Pittsburgh.

The Irish have played well so far in the Big East – with only one loss to South Florida in overtime – but will face their first real test against the Golden Eagles. So far in Big East games, the Irish have won three games at the Joyce Center against Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse and have one road win under their belts against Seton Hall. But overall this season, the Irish have struggled outside of Indiana, with their only other road win coming with a 60-59 victory at Valparaiso.

“I think it will be a nice change for us to go on the road, have a chance to get a road win,” McGraw said. “I think that’ll help our NCAA Tournament resume, but they are three very, very good teams.”

But going into the Al McGuire Center and coming out with a win has been difficult this season. The Golden Eagles are a perfect 8-0 in front of the home crowd, scoring 75.5 points per game.

“It’s a hostile environment. We just want to stick together as a team and play our game,” Allen said. “We don’t want to feed into the fans – their fans – we just want to go out there and play together and have each other’s back.”

The Golden Eagles are led offensively by a trio of players averaging double figures – guard Krystal Ellis with 19.3 points per game, forward Christina Quaye with 15.7 and forward Danielle Kamm with 10.6.

Ellis has caused McGraw the most thought – the sophomore shoots 47.1 percent from the floor and 38.2 percent from beyond the arc.

“Krystal Ellis is their best player,” McGraw said. “She’s really improved from last year, she’s playing really well, she’s a good shooter she can drive the ball, and she’s just an all-around really good player.”

But Marquette is not the only team on the court with a productive guard. Charel Allen – recently named Big East Player of the Week – averages 15.4 points per game overall, and over 20 against conference opponents.

In the front court, Quaye and Kamm lead the Golden Eagles on the glass, averaging 6.4 and 5.7 rebounds per game, respectively. This pair out-rebounds opponents by 6.4 boards per game and has 58 blocked shots this season.

“Their inside player Quaye – she’s a really tough matchup because she can run the floor and shoot threes but she can also score on the block, shoot a little quicker than our posts and runs the floor a bit better,” McGraw said.

The Irish have not prepared specifically for Marquette, choosing rather to tweak potential shortcomings in their own game, mainly on the defensive end. The main defensive focuses remain defending the three-point shot and team rebounding, according to McGraw.

Despite facing a much stronger opponent on paper, McGraw is confident about her team’s chances tonight. With a strong start to its Big East schedule, Notre Dame has already exceeded preseason expectations of an 11th place Big East finish.

“We’re peaking right now,” McGraw said. “We’re right where we want to be, right where we need to be. We’re in great shape. We’re now back to the underdog role; we haven’t really had that in a while because we’ve been playing some teams we thought we should beat.”