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Women’s Basketball Media Day: Squad looks to improve perimeter shooting

Bill Brink | Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Notre Dame’s 3-point shooting fell short last season. This season, the Irish have plans to make sure the long-range game comes back on line.

The Irish shot okay from behind the arc in the regular season – they hit 29.2 percent of their threes. In the postseason, however, that number dropped to 23.1 percent. In the final game of the regular season against St. John’s, a Big East tournament game against Pittsburgh and a Sweet 16 game vs. Tennessee (all losses), Notre Dame hit only three 3-pointers.

Associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis said last year’s problem with hitting 3s stemmed partially from the fact that the team had lots of shooters that could hit midrange jump shots, but not necessarily threes. This year, he said, the team wants to correct that imbalance.

“The girls have kind of taken it on themselves as a personal challenge to be more ready and more consistent from the 3-point line,” Tsipis said.

Head coach Muffet McGraw said lots of the players can step out on the perimeter and hit a shot, and she and Tsipis said two freshmen – guard Natalie Novosel and forward Kellie Watson – will contribute to the perimeter game. How many they make in the game depends on their work beforehand; the players said their ability to hit 3-point shots depends on getting good practice.

Novosel said she and the other freshmen come to the JACC at night to practice their shooting. A helpful device they call the “gun,” a ball retriever that sends basketballs back to the shooter at varying speeds, allows the player to take a high volume of shots in a short amount of time.

“It’s really effective,” Novosel said.

The beauty of the gun, Novosel said, is it helps her work on her quick release, the biggest shift in the 3-point shot from high school to college.

Watson agreed, saying the gun’s variable speed helps her practice getting the shot off quicker.

“If you don’t get the shot up in time you’ll get hit with it,” she said.

Novosel, a self-described night owl, said the machine also saves energy late at night.

Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner said the gun allows her to take 300-400 shots in a 45-minute period. For her, however, she said taking shots in game situations and building confidence would foster improvement.

“I didn’t attempt many shots last season so I think that’s going to be something you’ll see more from me this year,” she said.

What the team needs, Lechlitner said, is the confidence bred from shooting during games.

“We’ve got a lot of good shooters coming in and I know the returning players have been working on our threes a lot more,” Lechlitner said. “We still have the confidence to knock them down. We know we can hit them, it’s just a matter of doing it.”

Sophomore guard Brittany Mallory said the 3-point shooting game works in conjunction with the inside game. When the defense expects a drive to the lane, she said, the players can pull up and shoot a three. And should the defender come out to guard the three, the players can drive.

“It goes hand in hand. We’ve been working on that a lot this year,” Mallory said. “It opens up a little more inside because the help’s not going to be there. It gets good looks for everybody else.”

Tsipis echoed Mallory’s assertion that the deep ball opens up the rest of the offense.

“To just be out there and be a threat, be someone the defense knows is a 3-point shooter, I think that opens everything else up,” he said.


uTeam doctors cleared sophomore forward Devereaux Peters to play. Peters suffered a torn ACL in February.

uMallory will miss the team’s opener at LSU as a punishment for her incident with law enforcement at an off-campus party. Mallory was one of 37 Notre Dame students, many of them athletes, arrested at a party on Sept. 22.