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Irish soar past Eagles in Boston

Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, November 24, 2008

Coming off a 96-61 blowout of Evansville Wednesday night, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said there were a number of things her team needed to work on before they played Boston College Sunday.

The team fixed those problems in a big way in Chestnut Hill, Mass. beating the Eagles 102-54 – the largest margin of victory in the 17-game series between the two schools.

But even with the 48-point win, McGraw still said she saw some room for improvement.

“I think we can do a lot of things better. Are we ever going to shoot the ball like that again? I don’t know. I’m just so happy with the defense because that is what we can control. We rebounded well, defended well. I think it just gives us confidence in our defense,” she said in a telephone interview with The Observer.

The Eagles hung with Notre Dame early in the game, and kept the Irish lead to within single digits for the most of the first 10 minutes of the game. But the Irish exploded to finish out the half, sending Boston College into the locker room down 24.

But the Irish did not sit on the lead, increasing their second half lead by leaps and bounds.

“We were up 24 at halftime and we talked about it was 0-0, let’s go out and start over, and we got up 24 again. So we were very consistent from half to half,” McGraw said.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Irish win was the play of their defense, which limited Boston College to 42.4 percent shooting from the floor and forced 28 turnovers. McGraw said she was especially proud of her team’s defensive effort when compared to the Evansville game Wednesday night.

“They want to improve, we’ve got a great commitment at the defensive end today, which I didn’t think we really had against Evansville. I think they came out and played harder on defense,” she said.

On the other end of the court, the Irish had too many scorers to have a standout player on the stat sheet, with six players in double figures. Forward Becca Bruszewski led the team by tying her career-high with 18 points, followed by forward Erica Solomon with 15 and guards Brittany Mallory with 14 and Lindsay Schrader with 13 points. Center Erica Williamson and guard Ashley Barlow each chipped in 10 points in the win.

“Offensively, things just flowed so well. We were incredibly unselfish tonight. We made so many great passes, found each other. It was great team chemistry on the floor tonight,” McGraw said.

The Irish also had a solid performance from 3-point land, going 7-of-8 from beyond the arc.

“That’s really important to continue to shoot the ball well from [3-point range] because it really opens things up for the inside game. We were able to bring the defense out, then we were able to go inside a little bit more. So it worked well for everybody,” she said.

Going into the matchup with Boston College, McGraw said she wanted to see how center Erica Williamson could handle post defense against 6-foot-6 Eagles center Carolyn Swords, who averaged a double-double going into the game. Williamson and Solomon combined to limit Swords to 16 points and seven boards. As a team, the Irish outscored Boston College 54-32 in the paint.

“I thought Erica Williamson did a nice job on [Swords], so did Erica Solomon. They both played well on her. We tried to really pressure the passer and not let them get inside, and when she got it, she was pretty efficient with it,” McGraw said.

The other point of emphasis for this game was rebounding, McGraw said, and it was another facet the Irish excelled at. Notre Dame managed to outrebound the Eagles 36-22 Sunday.

“That was very important after the performance we had the other night. That was definitely one thing we were keying on in practice and working on quite a bit. Worked on the boxed out and I was really pleased with the effort,” McGraw said.

But even after two blowout wins, McGraw is still not satisfied.

“We want to add some things. We want to keep adding some things to the offense, we want to add some defensive looks. We certainly don’t want to stay where we are, we want to keep improving,” she said.