ND Women’s Basketball: Tipping off
Jay Fitzpatrick | Thursday, November 6, 2008
If freshman guard Natalie Novosel and the rest of the Irish had any opening game jitters, they sure had a funny way of showing it.
Every Notre Dame player who played registered at least five points during the team’s 96-30 exhibition win over Div. II Gannon Wednesday night.
“It is a really great opportunity, mostly for the freshmen, just to get in front of a crowd with the uniform on,” McGraw said. “I like these games because we get that jitters out. That’s probably the best part of it.”
Novosel was one of four freshmen who made their debuts during the win.
“I was really anxious just to get out there and then once I get out there not to go in there and try to do everything at once,” she said.
Novosel might have wanted to ease her way into the game before tip-off, but she forced a turnover just eight seconds into her college career.
The entire Irish defense played in midseason form, holding Gannon to only 11-for-49 shooting (22.4 percent), while forcing 46 turnovers – 29 off of steals. In fact, only forward Erica Solomon failed to grab a steal. Instead, the 6-foot-2 freshman had four blocks.
Solomon’s most impressive stretch came in the second half, when Lady Knights guard Abby Bunstine launched a seemingly wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner, only to have Solomon run from the post to swat it out of bounds.
“She was really altering shots. The one she didn’t block, I think she changed,” McGraw said. “For her to run out there – and that wasn’t even her job, she wasn’t supposed to go out there – that was just a heads-up play. She saw that she was wide open and went out to help out and did a great job.”
Solomon was filling in the middle for forward Devereaux Peters, who had to sit out Wednesday’s game because she missed a tutoring session.
The one low point for the Irish against Gannon was their scoring. Even though Notre Dame did drop 96 on the Lady Knights, the team shot only 46.8 percent (37-for-79) from the floor and 58.8 percent (20-for-34) from the free-throw line during the game. The free-throw shooting was particularly unnerving, McGraw said, especially because last year’s Notre Dame team shot 75.8 percent from the charity stripe.
McGraw said executing the offense will be a point of emphasis during upcoming practices this week.
“I thought we did a good job running the floor, but we didn’t really run a lot of [plays],” McGraw said.
One reason the Irish could not run their set offense was because they were almost constantly in a fast-paced offense. Notre Dame managed 56 points off turnovers – including 18 in the fast break.
The fast break was mainly successful because of Notre Dame’s depth. Freshman guard Fraderica Miller played the least amount of time but still notched 13 minutes of game time and added five points and three steals to the Irish effort.
“I think it puts pressure on the defense when you can keep running fresh bodies in and out of the game,” McGraw said. “I thought the pace of the game was very fast because I thought we were pretty well-rested most of the time.”
Starting point guard Melissa Lechlitner could not run the Irish offense early in the contest after committing two fouls in the first four minutes, landing her on the bench for the rest of the first half.
“Nothing you can really do about [the fouls]. The refs make the calls and you just gotta take them and head to the bench,” Lechlitner said.
But the junior found her minutes in the second half, and scored 13 points and had three assists without a turnover.
McGraw said she was pleased with Lechlitner’s performance in the second half.
“I thought the second half is what you’re going to see from Lech all year long,” McGraw said. “I thought she just played great. She made good decisions, she took great shots, she performed well, she defended well, she ran the team. She did absolutely everything she needs to do for us to be successful this year.”
Skylar Diggins, a five-star recruit from Washington High School in South Bend, attended the Gannon game. Diggins took her official visit to Notre Dame last weekend.