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ND Women’s Basketball: McGraw not worried about week-long layoff

Molly Sammon | Sunday, February 19, 2012

The No. 4 Irish will take on No. 19/16 Louisville tonight at the Cardinals’ KFC Yum! Center, marking the 10th time Notre Dame has faced a ranked opponent this season.

“Louisville has a great team,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “They’re 10-1 at home. It’s tough to be here.”

Both teams had the last week off from play, as both the Irish and Cardinals won their last games against Big East opponents nearly one week prior to tonight’s contest.

“We had a good break,” McGraw said. “I think it was a good mental break as well as a physical break. We’re feeling really good.”

Notre Dame has a 7-4 advantage over Louisville and 3-1 record on the road against the Cardinals.

The last time the Irish (25-2, 12-1 Big East) took to the court, they beat Providence 66-47 at home on Feb. 14. Junior guard Skylar Diggins put up 19 points, and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters matched Diggins’ 19 points for the Irish and added 11 rebounds against the Friars.

“I think Skylar [Diggins] has been playing extremely well, as well as Devereaux [Peters], and [sophomore forward] Natalie Achonwa,” McGraw said. “Especially for [senior guard] Natalie Novosel, this is a good game for her being from Kentucky. But we’re all really ready to play.”

Novosel will face two familiar players. Both Louisville junior guard Tia Gibbs and senior forward Monique Reid joined Novosel as the top three Kentucky high school women’s basketball players. Novosel took second place to Gibbs in Kentucky’s Miss Basketball prize in 2008, and Reid followed Novosel in third place.

Cardinal sophomore point guard Shoni Schimmel leads the team in scoring, steals and assists on a squad that returns four of the five starters they had on last year’s Sweet 16 team.

“Schimmel is really good,” McGraw said. “She has good passes and good shooting. She’s got the whole package. That’s something we really have to key on, that’s something that is going to be important for us.”

The Cardinals (19-7, 8-5) sport a two-game win streak, most recently a 71-66 win at Pittsburgh.

After playing Louisville, the Irish only have two more regular season games — both against Big East opponents — before the conference tournament.

“We need to take it one game at a time,” McGraw said. “Every game is important from here on out for seeding in the tournament.”

The game will be featured on ESPN’s “Big Monday” coverage as one of the three games of ranked opponents the network will show. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.


Contact Molly Sammon at [email protected]