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ND Women’s Basketball: Second-half scoring surge leads Irish to win over Cinci

Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, February 4, 2008

Though Notre Dame played what Irish coach Muffet McGraw considered solid defense in the first half against Cincinnati, allowing just 26 points, she still felt she needed to switch defensive schemes. The result was a dominating performance.

The Irish outscored the Bearcats 47-15 in the second half – including a 21-0 run spanning 13:22 – and controlled the game at both ends of the court in a 73-41 win Saturday in Cincinnati. It was Notre Dame’s ninth 30-point win of the season.

“We extended the defense. We played a little man-to-man full court, when [forward] Devereaux [Peters] came in,” McGraw said. “And we tried to trap them in the back court a little bit more. We played a little more zone than we did in the first half; I thought that was more effective. I thought we rebounded better too, which I thought helped us.”

The Irish forced 13 turnovers with the press in the second half after tallying only six takeaways in the opening period.

“In the second half we switched our press up to take away the sideline pass that they had been throwing in the first half,” McGraw said. “And it helped our traps; we got more steals and suddenly we were able to get out and run in transition because we were getting steals.”

McGraw said she was “thrilled” with her defense’s performance. This came less than two weeks after saying her team was “certainly the worst defensive team in the Big East” following an 81-80 loss to DePaul.

Throughout the first half, Notre Dame and Cincinnati played each other tight, with seven ties and five lead changes in the opening 20 minutes. Cincinnati went on a 9-0 run over a 2:52 span in the first half before the Irish responded with one of their own to leave the score tied at 26.

McGraw said the defense of junior guard Lindsey Schrader late in the first half supplied the energy for the second-half surge.

“She was really helping us defensively and making things happen – really being able to push the ball in transition,” McGraw said. “So I thought bringing her back in for the last three minutes of the half really helped turn things around.”

McGraw said her team struggled early on partly because it came out “sluggish” in the first half. She compared it to the beginning of Notre Dame’s game against Providence on Jan. 30. Notre Dame scored only two points in the first five minutes of that game, but pulled out an 85-54 win.

“Just didn’t have any energy and weren’t able to get anything going. We only had a couple steals, we hadn’t any transition points, we weren’t rebounding,” McGraw said. “We played okay defensively holding them to 26, but we couldn’t get anything going offensively and that really changed in the second half.”

One reason for the team’s sluggishness was that its flight out of South Bend was delayed for three hours on Friday, meaning it missed its usual shoot-around.

The Irish got into some foul trouble early – Peters committed her first two infractions after playing less than four minutes. Peters has averaged 4.4 fouls per game during eight Big East games this season.

“I think she’s just got to learn that she can’t go for steals early,” McGraw said. “She’s got to come in and get comfortable in the game before she tries to get steals, block shots. She’s really been working on that in practice; she was a little disappointed with herself this game. But she’s really been working hard on it in practice.”

On the other bench, Cincinnati was playing with a limited roster due to injury and had to stick with players in foul trouble for most of the game. Guard Kahla Roudebush finished with four personals and guard Stephanie Stevens fouled out with 1:27 to play.

Since the Bearcat starters still played most of the game, McGraw said, she did not notice that they were in any foul trouble.

Notre Dame finished with four players in double figures for the 13th time this season. Guard Charel Allen led the charge with 16 points, followed by Peters with 12 and guards Tulyah Gaines and Ashley Barlow with 11 apiece.