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ND Women’s Basketball: Purdue visits, causes a Joyce Center sellout

Jay Fitzpatrick | Friday, December 5, 2008

On Sunday, Notre Dame renews its rivalry with Purdue, who Irish coach Muffet McGraw said will be her squad’s biggest non-conference test of the season.

The two Indiana schools have met 21 times before, with Purdue holding the edge 14-7. But that trend has been reversed in recent years, with the Irish having won three of the last four games in the series, including McGraw’s first ever win in West Lafayette, Ind., last season.

The Irish have by far the biggest win in the series, coming on April 1, 2001.

“The fact that we beat [Purdue] in the [2001 NCAA] Championship game, I think that makes this a pretty good rivalry,” McGraw said in a telephone interview with The Observer.

McGraw said the rivalry is also strong because of the two schools geographic proximity.

“We both have a lot of players from the Midwest, so I think that makes it a bigger rivalry, especially for the players from Indiana,” she said.

This season, both teams come into the game ranked. The Irish are No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the coaches’ poll; Purdue is No. 17 and No. 20, respectively.

McGraw said both teams’ ranking will not affect the level of play on Saturday, because it is always a hard-fought game.

“It’s a great game to play every year. I would say the majority of the years, at least one of us was ranked, if not both of us. So, I think it would be just as intense as if neither team were ranked. It’s just that kind of game,” she said.

The last time out, Notre Dame beat Eastern Michigan 83-63 in Ypsilanti, Mich. Although the Irish pulled out the win, they did not shoot particularly well, going only 38.9 percent from the floor. Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski had a particularly disappointing night, making only one of her 10 shots in 27 minutes. But McGraw said Bruszewski and the rest of the Irish just had an off night that night

“I think that was an anomaly. I think that when you look at our shooting percentages overall, individually Becca is shooting 54 percent from the field and Erica Solomon 64 percent from the field,” McGraw said. “Everybody’s shooting the ball a lot better than they did in that particular game. I’m not worried about that, and we’re playing at home, so we are definitely going to shoot the ball a little bit better.”

Purdue fell to 5-2 Thursday night after losing to No. 8 Maryland 70-59 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Terrapins held the Boilermakers to only 2-of-17 shooting from 3-point land, an impressive feat considering Purdue’s prolific scoring from beyond the arc.

After the loss to Maryland, Purdue is shooting 40 percent of its 3s as a team, with guards Jodi Howell (12-of-25) and Brittany Rayburn (13-of-36) leading the way. Junior FahKara Malone is also shooting 34.5 percent from distance.

“I think that those three are a threat from the perimeter. And they didn’t have Rayburn or Jodi Howell last year, so they definitely have improved their shooting threat,” McGraw said.

McGraw said the Boilermaker bigs will be a test for her post players, and that forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton is the best player her team has seen to date.

“She gives us concern not just with her size but with her mobility. She’s going to be a real tough challenge for us,” McGraw said.

Tip-off for the game is at 2 p.m. on Sunday.


uThe Purdue game is the first sell-out of the season for the Irish, and the third in two years for the Joyce Center.

Although tickets are gone for fans, there are still 300 student tickets available for the game. The first 300 arriving students will also receive a free T-shirt and a McDonald’s gift certificate.