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ND Women’s Basketball: ‘Cat napping

Bill Brink | Friday, January 23, 2009

Notre Dame’s close shave against St. John’s on Jan. 17 presented the team with plenty of room for improvement: in the press, on defense, rebounding, scoring in the paint. But taking some time to rest, coach Muffet McGraw said, benefited the team most.

“We took a couple days off,” McGraw said. “I think that probably helped us more than anything.”

The No. 13 Irish had a full week between the St. John’s game and their next game, on the road at Villanova tomorrow. McGraw said after the St. John’s game that she wanted to use the week to focus on fundamental, rather than game-specific, skills.

“We’ve worked a lot on defense,” she said. “We’ve worked on some different things just trying to get ready for the second part of the Big East season.”

The Fighting Irish are 15-2 and 4-1 in conference play, with their only loss coming on the road to Marquette on Jan. 13. Villanova is 10-8, 2-2 in conference play, but the Wildcats have lost to both ranked teams they faced – No. 6 Baylor on Nov. 28 and No. 23 Rutgers on Jan. 14.

Villanova displayed two different styles in its 67-60 loss to George Washington Wednesday. The Wildcats scored only 13 points in the first half and couldn’t quite muster a comeback despite out-scoring GW 47-45 in the second half. Senior forward Laura Kurz led the team with 29 points; in fact, she’s led the team in scoring in all but six games this season. How to stop her?

“I don’t think you do,” McGraw said. “They take advantage of the mismatches. She’s able to drive the ball, shoot the ball, pass the ball, she’s just a great player. I don’t think we can go into a game thinking about how to stop her.”

Kurz, former Irish forward Rob Kurz’ sister, averages 18 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Kurz also made 3-of-7 3-pointers she attempted against George Washington, which poses a challenge to Notre Dame’s 3-point defense. The Irish defense sometimes lost shooters on the perimeter and allowed them open shots against St. John’s. McGraw didn’t mention specifics, but she said the team has worked on keeping track of the shooters.

“We put a lot of emphasis on that,” she said. “We’re doing some different things, moving some people around, and trying some different looks, and I think it’s going to be pretty effective for us.”

Junior guards Tia Grant and Maria Getty will test the Irish perimeter defense. Grant makes 41.5 percent of her threes and Getty hits 33.8 percent of hers. The team as a whole, however, is shooting only 29.5 percent from 3-point range.

The freshman have received more playing time off the bench this season because the Irish lost both forward Devereaux Peters and guard Brittany Mallory to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, and McGraw said she’s happy with their play. They are making positive contributions, she said, and also receiving good experience for the future.

“Not only are they learning a lot, they’re getting better every game,” she said.

Freshmen Erica Solomon and Natalie Novosel both average more than seven points per game.

McGraw said she’s also pleased with the play of sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski, especially with her versatility.

“I think that teams are worried about [guard Lindsay] Schrader, [guard] Ashley Barlow and [guard] Melissa Lechlitner, and she’s the one that they forget about,” McGraw said. “I’ve just been really happy with the way she’s been able to just play her game. She takes what comes her way.”