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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish want more D vs. Friars

Bill Brink | Friday, February 27, 2009

Defense defense defense defense.

That’s not a chant. It’s Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw’s mantra.

She said after No. 23 Notre Dame’s 90-79 win over Syracuse Tuesday she wanted to see better defense and was comfortable playing a game with the score in the 60s. This after a game where senior guard Lindsay Schrader scored 23 points, and all five starters scored in double figures.

But the team is on board. McGraw said the players realize the defense needs to improve.

“I think they’re a little disappointed at what’s been going on also,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame (19-7, 8-6 Big East) will have a chance to improve Saturday when it travels to play Providence at 2 p.m. The Friars (10-17, 4-10) only score 58.1 points per game, which gives the Irish defense a chance to make a statement.

“We’d sure like to,” McGraw said. “That’s our goal is to hold them under their average. If we can do that, especially on their home court, that would be a good sign for our defense.”

A large part of McGraw’s defensive focus this season has been on guarding the perimeter, and the Irish will have a chance to put it to use against Providence. Senior guard Catherine Bove has made 33.7 percent of her 3-point attempts and junior guard/forward Brittany Dorsey has sank 32.9 percent of hers.

McGraw said she continues to work on perimeter defense and search for the definitive answer.

“We pretty much try to do the same thing and sometimes we’re more effective than others,” she said. “I wish I knew what the answer was for when we’ve played it well.”

To play strong defense, Notre Dame will have to neutralize senior guard Chelsea Marandola. She leads the team in points per game (11.5) and free throw percentage (85.1) and can also shoot the three. McGraw said she sat out last season because of an injury, so the Irish haven’t seen her in a while.

“She’s their best player, she led their team all year long, she can handle the ball [and] shoot the ball,” McGraw said.

The Irish have gotten good production out of Schrader and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski for the past few games. Against Syracuse, however, junior center Erica Williamson took full advantage of her 29 minutes and had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

“We expect that she’s going to continue to rebound well and score around the basket,” McGraw said. “That’s what she’s working on. We also need to give her more opportunities.”

Williamson’s blocks, combined with her willingness to take a charge, McGraw said, make her a tough defender in the paint.

“The great thing about Erica is I don’t know whether she’ll take the charge or block the shot,” McGraw said. “If someone comes in there out of control she’s going to take the charge. She can be really difficult to score on.”