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ND Women’s Basketball: Maryland awaits in WNIT semi

Jay Fitzpatrick | Friday, November 16, 2007

Notre Dame has won every game this season in a blowout. Even when Irish coach Muffet McGraw has said that her team did not play well, the Irish have won by a wide margin.

But that is likely to change today when the Irish take on No. 3 Maryland in College Park at 7 p.m. in the second round of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

McGraw affirmed Maryland’s status as one of the top teams in the country, and she already predicts a deep postseason run for the Terrapins.

“I think that this is a great opportunity [to play a team] that everybody, including myself, thinks will be in the Final Four,” McGraw said. “I think they’re one of the most talented teams in the country. They’ve got depth, they’ve got size, they’ve got speed. They’ve really got everything that you need to get to the Final Four.”

Maryland has been just as dominant as the Irish early in the season – if not more so. In the second round of the Preseason NIT, the Terrapins beat Delaware 91-43 and had four players in double figures. Forward Jade Perry posted the game’s only double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds; forward Marissa Coleman had 16 points, guard Kristi Tolliver added 16 and reserve Ashleigh Newman netted 18 points in the win.

Maryland also beat then-No. 6 Oklahoma in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic 76-66.

“That’s what makes a dangerous team – to be able to see the success we had against Oklahoma and the players that really stepped up to come out and have a night like tonight,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said after Maryland’s win over Delaware. “It’s just how we’re playing so fluid and looking for each other. With all these weapons that we have on the team and no egos, it’s a tremendous thing.”

McGraw said Notre Dame will have trouble matching up with the Terrapins defensively. She also said Maryland is an even better team than the North Carolina squad that beat Notre Dame 60-51 in the second round of last season’s NCAA Tournament.

“They have among the best athletes in the country,” she said. “They have just great, great talent. So it will be interesting when we put our game plan together to see how we are going to guard them.”

McGraw said that playing a team at Maryland’s level will be a good gauge for how prepared the Irish are for the season.

“We get to play a team that’s really talented and we will come home from that game knowing where we stand at that time,” she said.

McGraw also stressed that this is only Notre Dame’s third regular season game and that, even though upsetting a top-tier team on the road would be a confidence boost the Irish, winning is not essential for the team’s growth.

“And so it’s an opportunity for us to see where we are,” McGraw said. “As I told the team, a win in November is not going to get us a free ride to the Final Four. And if we don’t do what we want, we can always come back and work on it.

“I just think the opportunity is tremendous. We have absolutely no pressure on us to play.”