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ND Women’s Basketball: Bouncing back

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No. 8 Notre Dame’s second loss to Connecticut and the end of its nine-game win streak didn’t sit well with the Irish. But they have the chance to take another step toward a second-place finish in the Big East when the Irish take on

No. 19 West Virginia in Morgantown on Tuesday night.

Tonight begins a crucial three-game stretch for the Irish (22-5, 11-2) as they close the season. The Mountaineers (21-6, 7-6) will present a unique threat with their suffocating defense and home-court advantage.

“They are a really good team at home,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “When they lost to Connecticut, they held them under 60 points. They are very good defensively, with a good inside game. They won big this weekend.”

The Mountaineers exploded for 90 points in a winning effort against rival Pittsburgh on Saturday. Their strength lies in a rare balance, with strong units on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court. West Virginia displayed its skills Feb. 8 when it held Connecticut to its lowest point total of the season in a 57-51 Huskies victory.

Notre Dame’s final three games will go a long way in determining whether it is the Irish or DePaul who finishes behind Connecticut in the Big East standings. A large part of Notre Dame’s success will depend on its ability to shake off the 78-57 loss it suffered on Saturday in Connecticut.

But McGraw is confident in her team’s ability to strike back tonight, considering the Irish have won nine of their last 10, and 17 of last their 19.

“We have played really well overall,” she said.

The Irish will need a stronger defensive showing against the Mountaineers to start a new winning streak. The 78 points they allowed the Huskies to score was the most in their nine previous games, when only two opponents were able to score 60 or more points against Notre Dame.

“We want to get back to playing well defensively,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame’s biggest challenge will be the duo of senior guard Liz Repella and senior forward Madina Ali, who combine to power the West Virginia offense. They are the only Mountaineers to average double-digit points, with 13.7 and 13.6 per game, respectively.

The Irish will look to jumpstart their comeback at the West Virginia Coliseum tonight at 7 p.m.