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Chippewas up next for McGraw and Co.

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, November 20, 2007

After falling to No. 3 Maryland in the third round of the Women’s Preseason NIT, No. 23 Notre Dame will start its regular season with a road game against Central Michigan tonight at 7.

McGraw said that her team made some crucial mistakes that cost the team in the 75-59 loss – things that have to be corrected before the game against the Chippewas.

“Just one person does something wrong and it affects the whole team, so we have to be more disciplined,” she said.

One of the highlights in the loss at College Park, Md., was the team’s turnover margin. The Irish committed only three turnovers during the contest and Maryland had no steals – both Notre Dame records. On the other end of the court, the Irish forced Maryland to 18 turnovers, two shy of McGraw’s goal of 20 for every game.

McGraw said that one reason for the stark turnover differential was Notre Dame’s refusal to force the ball inside as often as Maryland did.

One bright spot after three games this season has been the play of freshman center Devereaux Peters. Peters had 12 points and six rebounds in the 34 minutes.

“She really came in and played well. I thought that she got some really good shots,” McGraw said of the freshman. “She played a little more on the perimeter than she had in the first couple of games and she looked really comfortable. I think that she got a lot of good looks.”

McGraw said one of the reasons that she feels confident before playing Central Michigan is because of her team’s play in the NIT – especially against Maryland, despite the 16-point loss.

“It’s always good to play a ranked team and a really good team and a probable Final Four team. I think that’s how you get better,” she said.

McGraw said the team’s practices have focused on the 3-point line on both ends of the court. The Terrapins dominated the Irish from beyond the arch, scoring on 60 percent of their shots. On the other hand, Notre Dame was only 1-of-12 from 3-point distance.

“That whole line is a problem for us. It’s a problem at both ends. It’s disappointing,” McGraw said.

McGraw said she expects guard Ashley Barlow to have the best 3-point shooting percentage on the team this season because she is more selective with her shots from long distance. McGraw also expects freshman Brittany Mallory to step up and be the consistent 3-point threat the Irish need.

The coach also said that one reason her squad hasn’t gotten many looks is because the teams they have played this season have played a lot of man-to-man defense against the Irish. McGraw added that she doesn’t expect to change her offensive philosophy considerably, because pull-up jumpers are working best for Notre Dame this season.

The Chippewas have spread the ball around on offense this season. Their leading scorer so far is guard Angel Chan (12.0 points per game), while guards Latisha Luckett (11.3) and Shonda Long (9.7) are not far behind.

Even though Central Michigan does not have any post players as tall as Notre Dame’s duo of 6-foot-3 Erica Williamson and 6-foot-5 Melissa D’Amico, it has five 6-footers on the roster, which could create matchup problems for the Irish.