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ND Women’s Basketball: Squad ready for DePaul rematch

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 22, 2008

When Notre Dame first played DePaul on Jan. 22, Irish coach Muffet McGraw called her squad “the worst defensive team in the Big East.” How things have changed.

Over No. 14 Notre Dame’s last six games – a five-game win streak ended by a 57-51 loss to No. 5 Rutgers on Tuesday – it has only allowed 60.2 points per game. McGraw credited the improvement to a change from a mostly man-to-man defense to an exclusive zone scheme.

“I was really pleased with the defense [against Rutgers], and I have not been most of this season. I am really happy with the zone,” she said.

The defensive improvement is even more impressive considering the amount of injuries the team has suffered in the last few weeks. The Irish lost forward Devereaux Peters for the season against Pittsburgh on Feb. 10 with a torn anterior crucial ligament.

But McGraw said the team has been fine without Peters so far this season.

“We are controlling things, we can control and a lot of players have been able to step up without [Peters],” she said.

This week, guard Tulyah Gaines injured her shoulder against Syracuse and forward Becca Bruszewski broke her hand against Rutgers.

The Irish will get a chance to show the Blue Demons their new and improved defense Sunday afternoon in Chicago. DePaul – like last season – is Notre Dame’s only repeat game this year.

The last time DePaul hit the court Wednesday, it beat Georgetown 82-78 in the McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C. – the same court on which the Irish beat the Hoyas 104-86 on Jan. 19.

McGraw said she thinks DePaul has improved since the teams’ first matchup, in large part because of senior guard Allie Quigley. Quigley had 36 points on 15-of-21 shooting against the Hoyas on Wednesday.

“Allie Quigley took over the game last night [against Georgetown]. She seems to be playing like a senior who is refusing to let her team lose. She is carrying the team,” McGraw said.

The Irish have their own senior who has taken over the team this season. Charel Allen leads Notre Dame in scoring for the second straight year, with 14.3 points per game. The senior guard also has 63 assists and 53 steals.

“Charel Allen is a unanimous first team Big East player this year,” McGraw said. “She has been our go-to player for almost four years.”

Sophomore Ashley Barlow has given Allen help offensively, but McGraw said that she is more of a behind-the-scenes player than Allen.

“She does a lot of dirty work and a lot of little things,” McGraw said. “She will shoot some late threes, but Charel still gets the first look.”

Tipoff is at 2 p.m. on ESPNU.