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Irish to take on DePaul in Pink

Chris Masoud | Friday, February 12, 2010

Donning their elegant pink jerseys, the No. 3/4 Irish will defend their unbeaten home record this Sunday when they host DePaul in the annual Pink Zone game. While conference records and playoff implications are on the line, they will be the undertones to breast cancer research and awareness.

“I just think it’s so important for us to get involved in something as important as fighting breast cancer,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “The great thing about this game for us and our involvement is that 75 percent of the money actually stays right here in St. Joe’s County.”

A victory would be the ideal ending to complete Sunday’s ceremony, but to do so Notre Dame (22-1, 9-1 Big East) will have to stay focused against a DePaul team that has traditionally caused problems for the Irish.

“They’re always a dangerous team,” McGraw said. “It’s always a huge rivalry between us and DePaul. We’ve had some great games over the years, and it’s always been a battle for us.”

Currently ranked ninth in the conference standings, the Blue Demons (16-9, 5-6) are coming off a blowout loss to Connecticut last Wednesday. DePaul is led by junior Sam

Quigley, an explosive point guard whose 16.6 points and 4.9 assists per game are good enough for top-10 in the conference. Quigley’s numbers are even more impressive considering she is averaging 40.2 minutes per game, the most in the conference.

“She is having a great year,” McGraw said. She’s playing really well, playing a lot of minutes for them. I don’t think she ever comes out. Our goal defensively is just try to keep the pressure on her.”

But the Blue Devils are hardly one-dimensional. Anchored by freshman Katherine Harry and sophomore Keisha Hampton, DePaul has developed an effective post game to complement its perimeter offense.

“They’re big,” McGraw said. “They’ve got some really good players inside. They’ve got a back line that could go 6-1, 6-2 and 6-4, and of course that’s a much bigger line than we’re going to put up.”

DePaul’s size advantage will be the biggest threat for the Irish, who rank in the bottom half of the conference in rebounding and blocked shots. McGraw said rebounding will be the team’s focus in practice leading up to Sunday’s matchup.

“They’re a very good rebounding team,” McGraw said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us on the boards. We’ve got to really, really work on the fundamentals of boxing out and getting good position.”

To that end, McGraw will rely on the improved performance of her guards to provide support in the post in addition to their scoring role on the outside. Based on recent success, the tandem of guards senior Ashley Barlow, junior Brittany Mallory and freshman Skylar Diggins should be more than capable of keeping the Blue Devils in check.

“I’m really thrilled with the guards right now and their rebounding. Ashley Barlow has been doing a great job all year long, but in the last game Brittany Malloy got her career-high with 8 rebounds against Cincinnati and the game before that Skylar got her career-high with 10 against Pitt,” McGraw said. “The guards are finally getting down there and helping out the post, so that’s something that we’ve really kind of needed all year long.”

Tipoff is at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion.