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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish dominate in sole exhibition game

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NCAA women’s basketball returned to Purcell Pavilion at the JACC, but this time with an international accent as the Irish welcomed in defending Canadian national champion Windsor.

In the only exhibition game of the season, the Irish used an overpowering defense to capture an 83-34 victory.

Second-ranked Notre Dame showed some rust in the early minutes with several missed shots and turnovers, but the Irish quickly settled in to capture a lead they would retain for the entire game.

“I thought [we had] a little bit of a slow start, which I think was expected,” Irish coach Muffett McGraw said. “I think that we were trying too hard initially to get a big lead the first play of the game. I thought we settled down.”

After surrendering the first bucket to Windsor just more than a minute into the game, the Irish did not allow another point for over seven minutes. A key agent of Notre Dame’s defensive success was senior guard Fraderica Miller, who came off the bench with four minutes left in the first half and helped push the 11-point Irish lead to 26 by the break.

“[Miller] came in and really gave us great energy,” McGraw said. “I mean, she turned the game around. We went on a huge run, credit her defense for that.”

Miller recorded four steals on the night and added 12 points and was one of several Irish players to contribute a big performance on the night. Graduate student forward Devereaux Peters reigned in eight rebounds and netted 16 points while junior guard Skylar Diggins racked up eight points to go with her seven assists and five steals. Also turning in a big night for Notre Dame was sophomore guard Kayla McBride, who had a team-high 21 points, six rebounds and six steals.

“I think we’ve all seen what [McBride] can do and what she has been doing in practice every day,” McGraw said. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence, she can score in so many ways, she’s rebounding well … and she’s been so versatile to just whatever we need. I couldn’t be happier with the way she is playing right now.”

After seeing time in the first 19 games of Notre Dame’s season last year, McBride missed the last half of the season for personal reasons. With McBride back this year, the Irish have gained a high-volume scorer.

“First and foremost coach [McGraw] wants me to score and she puts me in a lot of different positions where I can do that,” McBride said. “I think this [game] helped me a lot, just getting my confidence up and knowing that I can score in all these different ways and doing it for the team in any way possible, it’s just a good confidence booster.”

Happy to be back with the team, McBride said she was eager to get her first game behind her.

“It felt great,” she said. “I was loving it. It’s great to be back on the team, playing here. It was an adrenaline rush, I was a little nervous, a little anxious but the team … they were right there, they knew I was nervous and they were right there just to let me know that they have me. It was good, it was fun. It was a lot of fun.”

But even in their blowout victory, the Irish found plenty of areas in which they could improve. Notre Dame held Windsor to 28.6 percent shooting on the night, but was far from perfect on defense, McGraw said.

“I thought we made some defensive mistakes,” she said. “I thought our intensity was good, I thought our pressure was good. I would have liked to have rebounded better, I think that was the one thing we didn’t do well tonight.”

The Irish shot 51.5 percent in the game, but made only one three-point shot in 13 attempts in a shooting performance that McGraw called “abysmal.” As they prepare for the regular season, the Irish realize that they must strive to make improvements in their game.

“I feel we need to be so much better,” Miller said specifically of the Irish defense. “We have a lot to work on, it’s clear to us. It might not be evident to everyone watching … but we know there are a lot of little things that we are missing and when we figure out those little things and get them right, this team is going to be amazing on defense.”

Senior guard Brittany Mallory, who started for the Irish, left the game early in the first half with a knee injury and will undergo an MRI today.

Notre Dame will host Akron a Purcell Pavilion its first non-exhibition game in the Preseason WNIT on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m