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ND Women’s Basketball: Winning ways continue for ND

Chris Masoud | Thursday, January 28, 2010

There’s nothing like an old-fashioned blowout to iron out the kinks and get a team back on the right track. Providence found itself on the wrong end of said blowout, as the Irish cruised to an 84-59 home victory to keep pace atop the Big East standings.

Notre Dame (18-1, 5-1 Big East) played aggressive, if not perfectly clean basketball for 40 minutes, overcoming its first-half woes to lead the Friars 35-22 at the break. Providence (12-8, 3-4) never posed a serious threat at any point Wednesday night, but Irish coach Muffet McGraw isn’t convinced the team is back to its pre-Connecticut form.

“I thought we were just a little sloppy today,” McGraw said. “We didn’t have quite the intensity maybe that we needed to start the game, but overall offensively I thought we did some pretty good things. I thought Erica Williamson did a great job off the bench, she gave us a huge lift, and Natalie Novosel also. We just needed that punch, and they both provided it for us.”

Williamson entered the game with a total of 6 points in conference play, but finished the game with 8 in 18 minutes of action. Novosel scored 12 to go along with 5 assists and 4 boards in 20 minutes, as the two led an Irish bench that outscored the Friars 31-13.
McGraw believes her squad’s depth will continue to be the difference as the Irish approach the postseason.

“The bench is critical,” McGraw said. “We are wearing teams down in the second half because of the depth that we have. So if we can rest people, good five minute chunks in the first half, and the people come off the bench and are productive as they were tonight, I think that’s going to bode well for us down the line.”

After watching her performance in the offseason, McGraw says Novosel’s contribution Wednesday isn’t a surprise to those who see her in practice every day. Expected to be one of the four starting guards at the beginning of the season, Novosel was delegated to the bench following the rapid development of freshman Skyler Diggins. But the sophomore guard hasn’t missed a beat, quietly putting together a great season in limited action.

“I think I come in with the same mentality every game, which is to every minute I get to make the most of it,” Novosel said. “Tonight I got confidence and I was able to keep being aggressive and attacking the basket, and it opened a lot of things up.”

The starters turned in their usual lines against a porous Friar defense. Diggins finished with 10 points and 4 assists after being held scoreless in the first 30 minutes, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader added a team-high 14 points and 9 rebounds. The Irish exposed the Friars’ biggest weakness, outscoring the Friars 52-26 in the paint.

“Coach was talking at halftime about really getting the ball inside,” Schrader said. “I think everything opens up if we get a touch inside and then kick it out. We had several opportunities in the second half where we got threes or short jumpers because we got the ball inside.”

The best analysis is an honest one, and Providence head coach Phil Seymore gave his take on this year’s Irish.

“Notre Dame is a very good team,” Seymore said. “If I wanted to watch a basketball team play, I would come and watch them play, being on the opposite side, because I like the way they pass the ball. They all have a lot of intangibles with that team. They are really are one unit. They really play together.”