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ND Women’s Basketball:’They’re that good’

Chris Masoud | Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Notre Dame failed to defend its home floor for the first time this season, falling to Connecticut 76-51 in a rematch with major Big East tournament seeding implications. The Irish pulled to within 14 points with 11 minutes to go in the second half, but the nation’s No. 1 team broke off a 13-0 run to push its winning streak to 69 games.
“Last game we weren’t in it at all, so if we’re in it for 10 minutes tonight, that’s improvement,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think there’s definitely more highlights for us in this game. They’re just really, they’re that good. They have to play poorly and we have to play well. And we didn’t play well, and they didn’t play poorly. That was a tough combination.”
Junior forward Becca Bruszewski finished with 15 points and Devereaux Peters added seven rebounds and a career-high 15 points to lead No. 6 Notre Dame (25-4, 12-4). Despite the unexpected contributions in the post against a much larger Connecticut frontcourt, the perimeter offense was nonexistent against the Huskies (30-0, 16-0). The Irish shot 31 percent from the field and only made 4-of-14 attempts from behind the arc.
“[Peters] played well last time we played them,” McGraw said. “She was able to score on them, and she got some nice baskets off assists and a couple of rebounds. Becca created a lot of her own, especially in the first half, really kind of kept us in the game. Both of them really did well. I thought overall we were pressing a little bit, trying a little too hard to score.”
Huskies senior forward Tina Charles, who entered Monday’s contest needing 13 points and 5 rebounds to become the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in school history, delivered the game’s top performance. Charles accomplished both goals, finishing with 18 points and 8 rebounds, as the Irish had no answer for the first-team All-American.
“I thought Tina Charles was an amazing player,” McGraw said. “Congratulations to her for getting the record. I thought we guarded her fairly well in the first half. In the second half, we forgot to go down and double her. We let her get better position, and I think she attacked a little bit more.”
Charles may have been the unanimous player of the game, but the highlight of the night came in the second half in the form of a no-look, behind-the-back pass from Irish freshman guard Skylar Diggins to Peters, who finished with a reverse layup. Diggins finished with eight points, but the Connecticut defense frustrated the Irish guards all night.
In addition to breaking Notre Dame’s 14-game home winning streak, the loss drops the Irish into a fourth-place tie with No. 16 St. John’s in the conference standings. The Irish will be the fifth seed in the Big East Championship after falling to the Red Storm earlier in the year, but McGraw said she is confident the team can regroup for the postseason.
“I think they have to learn that your attitude is so important in how you approach things and how you go into the game,” McGraw said. “We’ve done it twice now, and we didn’t learn the lesson the first time, which I thought we learned. So now we got to figure out how we’re going to approach the rest of the season.”
Benefitting from a first-round bye, the Irish will take the rest of the week off before heading to Storrs, Conn., for a second-round conference tournament tilt Saturday against the winner of Friday’s first-round game between No. 12 seed Pittsburgh and No. 13 seed Louisville.