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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish head into NIT semifinal

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, November 16, 2011

After securing one of the biggest margins of victory in school history their last time out, the Irish will retake the court in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT against Hartford tonight.

No. 2 Notre Dame (2-0) enters the contest having rolled to a 99-34 victory over Indiana State on Sunday in a performance that relied on contributions from a variety of sources. Six players scored in double figures for the Irish as the team’s offensive depth was on full display, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

“I think we are much harder to guard when we have a team [comprised of players] that can all really score. We have great balance in our offense,” McGraw said. “I don’t think I would be surprised if anybody was the leading scorer of the starting five, or really even the top six. I think everybody is capable of a big game, but we are a really unselfish team right now and that makes us a lot harder to guard.”

The Irish were led in the scoring column by sophomore guard Kayla McBride’s 16 points Sunday, but junior guard Skylar Diggins, graduate student forward Devereaux Peters and freshman forward Markisha Wright each contributed 14 points. Wright added 11 rebounds to notch a double-double for the night.

Tonight, the primary task for Wright and Peters will be to lead the Irish as they try to put forth a strong defensive performance against Hartford (2-0) and lock down junior forward Ruthanne Doherty, McGraw said. In the Hawks’ 54-45 victory over Long Island in the tournament’s second round, Doherty poured in 18 points and swallowed up 12 rebounds for a double-double of her own.

“She’s a really good player,” McGraw said of Doherty. “I think she is a matchup challenge for us because she’s got good size, and yet she plays like a guard and she’s a really good shooter and she can do so many things. That’s a challenge that we worked on a little bit [in practice], but we are going to need a lot of really good team defense.”

The Irish have had success on the defensive end thus far, piling up 54 steals and holding their opponents to just .370 shooting over the last two games.

In the tournament’s other semifinal game, No. 1 Baylor (2-0) hosts No. 22 UCLA (2-0) tonight at 8 p.m. The championship game will be played Sunday to determine the 2011 Preseason WNIT champion.

For the Irish, the preseason tournament creates an atmosphere that can provide more immediate goals and increase motivation and focus, McGraw said. She also noted that the tournament gives Notre Dame a small taste for the postseason NCAA tournament.

“I think that starting off with a tournament does give you a little more motivation early in the season, that there is some tangible reward after the game — that you would get to advance,” she said. “So it is similar to the NCAA tournament in that way.”

Notre Dame will try to improve to 3-0 and advance to the tournament semifinals when the team tips off its semifinal contest with Hartford at 7 p.m. today in the Purcell Pavilion.


Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected]