ND Women’s Basketball: Irish seek to continue streak
Brian Hartnett | Friday, February 1, 2013
As No. 2 Notre Dame looks to extend its season-high winning streak Saturday at Purcell Pavilion, it will face a Cincinnati squad currently trending in the opposite direction. The Bearcats (8-12, 0-7 Big East) have lost seven straight games since their last victory, a win over Long Island on Dec. 30.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame (19-1, 7-0) has won 14 straight games since losing to current No. 1 Baylor on Dec. 6. Over the course of the winning streak, the Irish defeated four ranked teams, including then-No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 5 and No. 9 Tennessee on Monday. Senior guard Skylar Diggins poured in a career-high 33 points in the 77-67 win over the Lady Vols, turning in a performance coach Muffet McGraw said was possibly the best in Diggins’ Notre Dame career.
“[Diggins] has actually always played well against Tennessee, but [Monday’s game] was phenomenal,” McGraw said. “For her to shoot 50 percent from the field and score that many points while still getting assists and running the team, it was all-around a great game on both ends of the floor.”
Under Diggins’ leadership, the Irish offense has been clicking since the start of conference play. Notre Dame is second in the Big East in scoring offense, averaging 82 points per game, and the Irish have scored more than 70 points in all seven of their league games.
“I think we’re executing a little bit better,” McGraw said of the team’s offense. “I think we’re setting better screens, we’re being a little bit more patient, while being more aggressive at the same time. We’re looking for each other and being very unselfish.”
Notre Dame will face a Cincinnati team that has had its share of offensive woes. The Bearcats average a conference-low 53 points per game. Nonetheless, the Bearcats possess a talented scorer in senior guard Dayeesha Hollins who leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game.
“She’s hard to guard, she has great speed and can really score,” McGraw said of Hollins. “We had trouble last year trapping her, and we weren’t really successful in anything we tried.”
McGraw said the best game plan to counter Hollins involves strong communication on defense, an area she believes the Irish have excelled in since the start of conference play.
“We’re going to have to have good team defense,” she said. “I think everybody on the team will have to be aware of where [Hollins] is all the time, and I think we’ve started to play a little better defensively the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we’ll be able to know where she is.”
The Cincinnati game falls in between two difficult road tests for the Irish. Notre Dame concluded a stretch of four games in nine days with the Tennessee game in Knoxville, Tenn., and the team travels to Villanova next Tuesday. McGraw said the team used this week to recover and heal for the next stretch of conference play.
“We had a really tough stretch where we had four games in nine days, so we were able to take a couple of days off this week and get some rest,” she said.
Saturday’s contest also marks the team’s annual Pink Zone game. The game will include a halftime ceremony featuring cancer survivors and a silent auction, with all proceeds from the game going to support both national and local cancer funds.
“I think we’re excited about this game for a lot of reasons, but one of the major reasons is that it’s our Pink Zone game, which is always one of the best games of the season,” McGraw said.
Notre Dame and Cincinnati will meet Saturday at 2 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.
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