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ND Women’s Basketball: ND looks to hold winning streak

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, January 26, 2012

Riding a 17-game winning streak and coming off a decisive defeat of Tennessee, the Irish will resume Big East play when they travel to Saint John’s on Saturday.

No. 2 Notre Dame has won its past 17 games by an average margin of victory of almost 36 points, the most recent victory being a 28-point home victory over No. 9 Tennessee. Despite being in the midst of the third-longest winning streak in program history, the Irish (20-1, 7-0 Big East) have honed in on their next task.

“We approach each game as a separate game,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “[Tennessee] was a great win for us, and now we’ve moved on and we are looking forward to Saint John’s. It’s the most important game on our schedule right now.”

The Red Storm (13-7, 5-1) come into the game having won six out of their last seven contests, a stretch that has made them candidates for a national ranking.

“They are a team that is a potential top-10 team,” McGraw said. “They’ve got a great athletic team. They’ve got really good guards, good post play and, for them, this is a huge game. If they can beat us they are going to jump into the rankings, so we’ve really got to be ready.”

Saint John’s already has a pair of wins against top-15 teams this season, both coming at home against Big East opponents. It took down No. 14 Louisville with a 72-64 victory on Jan. 1 before capturing a 62-57 upset victory against then No.7 Rutgers on Jan. 17. McGraw said the Irish will need to take to the road ready to play if they are to avoid being the next victims of an upset.

“I don’t worry about a letdown so much as we’ve really got to be playing our game,” she said. “Teams are going to take their best shot at us — we’ve got to be ready for it. We are going on the road, hostile environments. We’ve got to be ready for everything we face and we have to keep getting better.”

Offensively, junior guard Eugenia McPherson leads the Red Storm with 14.2 points per game and ranks in the top-15 of the Big East in both scoring and three-point field goal percentage (.364). McPherson has scored in double figures in 15 straight games and was selected to the conference weekly honor roll on Monday for the third time in the 2011-2012 season.

Still, the Irish come into the game with confidence on their side. Notre Dame has won each of its previous five games by at least 20 points, led in part by junior guard Skylar Diggins. Diggins is contributing 16.6 points and 5.8 assists per game for the season and is a key part of Notre Dame’s transition offense, a facet of the game that has powered the Irish offensively.

“I think we have a lot of confidence,” McGraw said. “We are playing well … we feel like transition is our game. We can really go. And that’s something we have been working on all year long, that is where we are at our best – when we have the ball in our hands and we are running the floor.”

The Irish will put their winning streak on the line when they travel to Saint John’s Saturday for a 12 p.m. tip-off.