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Women’s Basketball: Ready to go

Laura Myers | Friday, November 13, 2009

No. 4 Notre Dame played an intra-squad scrimmage last weekend to ward off the rust in a two-week layoff between its Nov. 3 exhibition against Indianapolis and Sunday’s season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Now, it’s time for the Irish to start playing games that count.

“I think they’re ready,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They’re getting to the point where they’re ready to stop practicing and start playing someone else.”

The Golden Lions play Friday at Mississippi State before coming to the Purcell Pavilion in hopes of upsetting a Notre Dame team that has won its last 13 season-openers and its last 14 home-openers.

“They’re going to get the jitters out Friday,” McGraw said. “Meanwhile we’re going to have the jitters. It’s going to take a while for us to relax a little bit and kind of get into our game plan.”

McGraw said the veteran presence on the team should ease the nerves, however. She will keep the same starting lineup from the 97-53 win over Indianapolis, which includes senior guards Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Shrader, sophomore guard Natalie Novosel and junior forward Becca Bruszewski.

“I’m going with the veteran team,” McGraw said. “They’re all playing well. We’ve got probably eight people that are playing really well right now. It’s actually tough to pick a starting lineup.”

Players on the bench should play a significant role in the game as well. Freshman guard Skylar Diggins came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 17 points against Indianapolis and should see plenty of playing time Sunday, McGraw said.

“We’d better outscore our opponents every single game with our bench because we have 10 people that are able to help us,” McGraw said. “We’re going to wear them down and we’re going to be able to run more, we’re going to be fresher at the end of the game.”

Sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who also scored 17 points off the bench against Indianapolis, is questionable for the game after rolling her ankle in practice, McGraw said.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff returns its leading scorer from 2008 in guard LaQuisa Slaton. She scored 21 points in a Nov. 7 exhibition game against the Arkansas Stars. The Golden Lions had a losing record in 2008, but McGraw said the Irish are still concerned.

“There’s a lot of apprehension because this team has a new coach, so we can’t look at the film and say they ran this, they defend this way,” she said. “It’s a whole new system, a whole new philosophy.”

The Irish will tip off the 2009 season Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.