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ND Women’s Basketball: Season-opening tilt finally arrives

Laura Myers | Friday, November 12, 2010

A week and a half is a long time to go between games. No. 12 Notre Dame won’t have that problem again for a while, though.

The Irish will face New Hampshire in their season-opener today, nine days after beginning their 2010 campaign with a 102-30 exhibition win over Michigan Tech on Nov. 3.

“We got our first exhibition game out of the way, and we had a scrimmage so it’s kind of nice that it’s real and we’re starting to get into the season when we have a couple games back to back and not a week and a couple days to wait,”

senior captain Brittany Mallory said. “We’re excited and antsy to get out there.”

The contest against the Wildcats will be the first of four games over the next 10 days. Notre Dame will take on Morehead State Sunday before games against No. 16 UCLA and No. 9 Kentucky next weekend. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fine-tuning before the Irish face the ranked teams.

“It’s hard because you want to have the players have a little rest but the schedule’s tight,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s very difficult because you want to watch film and work on things but you have to prepare for the next one.”

The game is also the first of the season for New Hampshire, which fell 78-51 in an exhibition to Division-II Bentley Monday.

“We’re definitely going to be able to outrun them in transition, and I think we’re just a little bit more disciplined than they are,” senior captain Becca Bruszewski said.

Bruszewski, a forward, and Mallory, a guard, took over as captains this season after all three of last year’s captains graduated. They join junior guards Natalie Novosel and Skylar Diggins and senior forward Devereaux Peters as the starters entering the season.

While Diggins and Bruszewski were starters for most of the year in 2009-10, Novosel and Mallory were strong contributors from the bench. Their promotions don’t mean a lack of depth for Notre Dame, though.

“I think every one of the starting five will set the tone for the whole team,” Mallory said.

“We’ve got a couple freshmen on the bench who are going to come in, we have [sophomore guard] Kaila Turner who’s been working her butt off in practice. It’s a whole team effort.”

Against Michigan Tech, freshman guard Kayla McBride finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while freshman forward Natalie Achonwa led the team with nine rebounds. McGraw said the two would be a significant part of the team.

“I was counting on them to be able to contribute right away,” McGraw said. “We lost a lot from last year’s team and we needed someone to come in at both the guard spot and the post. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m really pleased with them.”

Despite the lopsided score against Michigan Tech, Notre Dame had plenty to work on, including zone offense and man-to-man defense, McGraw said.

“We felt there’s some things we could do fundamentally,” she said.

That may be all the time they have to go through the basics for a while, which McGraw said is fine with her team.

“From the players’ perspective, generally there’s too much practice and not enough games,” McGraw said. “They’re definitely ready to get to the games.”