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ND Women’s Basketball: Team earns title with three weekend wins

Chris Masoud | Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Following back-to-back losses against ranked opponents in No. 13 UCLA and No. 9 Kentucky, Notre Dame returned to the win column in convincing fashion over the weekend. The Irish took down IUPUI, Wake Forest and Butler to claim the WBCA Classic title at the Purcell Pavilion.

Junior guard Natalie Novosel was named tournament MVP, while junior forward Erica Solomon and senior forward Devereaux Peters were named to the all-tournament team. Novosel finished with a combined 55 points over the three-day event.

“I thought she [Novosel] had just a fantastic three-day tournament — shot the ball extremely well, got to the foul line,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Offensively, did pretty much everything we could ask for her. She really was just so hard to guard. We’re going to need that all season long.”

No. 18 Notre Dame (5-2) defeated the Jaguars (1-5) Friday, 95-29, to snap its two-game losing skid, before overcoming the Demon Deacons (5-1), 92-69, on Saturday. The Irish closed out the tournament with an 85-54 victory over the Bulldogs (3-3).

The Irish struggled to pull away from Butler early in Sunday’s contest, as the Bulldogs trailed just 16-14 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Butler’s timely three-point shooting kept the contest close, as the squad shot 30 percent from beyond the arc.

“They had 10 wide open 3s in the first half,” McGraw said. “They were really open — that’s a problem for our defense. We got caught in screens, we didn’t communicate — we just weren’t paying attention enough. I wasn’t really happy with the three-point defense today.”

Notre Dame’s struggles at the three-point line continued. The team went 0-for-7 from three-point land in the first half, but finished 3-for-13 after Novosel and senior guard Brittany Mallory connected in the second.

“We actually weren’t going to shoot any [threes] in the second half,” McGraw said. “Our best offense was going inside — the mid-post was really open in their zone. We had the weak-side pin. We really could have exploited the post a little bit more, but we didn’t.”

Lifted by Novosel’s 20 points and 5 rebounds, the Irish took advantage of a porous Butler defense late in the first to extend their lead to 37-21 at the break. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins chipped in 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the squad closed out its third game in three days with a win.

Diggins said the intense schedule over the weekend should benefit the team as it prepares for its upcoming match against No. 2 Baylor (7-1) on Wednesday.

“Definitely playing against feisty opponents such as Butler and Wake Forest and those teams that don’t quit require me playing more minutes than you would like,” Diggins said. “I think this is good for us. We needed more in-game experience for our freshmen. We got to just take care of our bodies and continue to try to stay mentally tough.”