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ND Women’s Basketball: Notre Dame looks to halt road troubles in Philadelphia tonight

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Irish recovered from a three-game losing streak on the road by winning their last three home games, including Sunday’s victory over DePaul. They will try to put an end to their away-game troubles tonight at Villanova.

Notre Dame’s offense will be led by guard Charel Allen, who this week was named Big East Player of the Week for her play against Louisville and DePaul. Allen averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game in those two games while shooting 51.5 percent from field-goal range. Against DePaul, Allen dropped 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the team’s 78-70 win.

Villanova (7-17, 1-10 Big East) has sputtered of late, losing a school-record nine straight games to fall to last place in the conference. The Wildcats dropped their last game against Seton Hall 56-51 in the final seconds, and they are just 3-7 on their home court. But they lost those nine games by an average of just 7.6 points, and five games were decided by 10 points or less.

“Villanova’s always a tough game for us to play,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said Sunday after Notre Dame’s win over DePaul.

The last six regular-season meetings between the teams have been decided by an average of 2.8 points per game. Notre Dame leads the overall series 13-8, but Villanova has won five of the last seven games.

McGraw was pleased with the Irish play against DePaul, but felt improvement was needed.

“I think we got to continue to work on our defense,” she said. “We gave up 70 points tonight, and I don’t know how many they scored in the last two minutes but it was way too many.”

Recently, the Irish have greatly improved other facets of their game. Notre Dame out-rebounded its opponents 41 to 29.7 in the past three games, and it held Louisville, the top rebounding team in the Big East, to a season-low 29 boards.

“We’re doing a much better job on the boards and we’re doing a good job executing the offense,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame’s offense underwent a slight shift against DePaul, featuring a higher dose of freshmen guard Ashley Barlow in place of center Melissa D’Amico to offset the Blue Demons’ smaller lineup.

“This a group that we can play with at times during the game whether we start them or not,” McGraw said. “They’ve been pretty effective so far.”

McGraw also acknowledged the need for stronger inside play.

“I think we need the post,” she said. “We need the post scoring and we’ve got to be able to score on the block.”

Villanova’s frontcourt players all average in double figures and are led by forward Jackie Adamshick, who scores 13.8 points per game. Forward Stacie Witman averaged 17.5 points in her last six games and scored a career-high 26 points against Seton Hall. Witman has averaged 12 points per game on the season, up from four the previous year.

Traditionally, the Irish play strong in February. The team is 68-17 in the month since joining the Big East in 1995.

With an Irish win and losses from both South Florida and Pittsburgh, Notre Dame could move into a tie for third place. It is currently tied for fifth in the Big East standings with five games to go before the tournament.

“Now we’ve got to win some games on the road,” McGraw said. “It’s always a tough stretch for us.”