Irish look to improve versus Red Storm
By KERRY SMITH
Assistant Sports Editor
When the time ran off the clock against Pittsburgh Wednesday, the Irish were able to put another notch in the win column, but their sloppy play left a mark on the fifth-ranked squad.
Faltering for the first time in conference action, the Irish allowed the Panthers hang with them too long and let the unranked 13-9 squad come too close to an upset in the 81-74 contest.
As the final stretch of the regular season brings a flurry of tough matchups for Irish head coach Muffet McGraw's 20-2 team, tonight's game against Big East rival St. John's may just be what Notre Dame need to get back on track.
Defending an undefeated conference record and looking to increase an already record-breaking 16-game winning streak, the Irish play host to the Red Storm in the teams' second meeting this season.
`I don't think we'll have the same performance against St. John's," said Irish center Ruth Riley. `We learned a lot from our game Wednesday night. You never want to say that playing bad is a good thing, but there is a lot we can take from that game."
The Irish are all too aware NCAA that the Big East and tournaments are looming and recognize the importance of staying on top.
McGraw will look for more consistent play from her starters in the lane and an improved effort from the bench against St. John's. The Irish have struggled recently getting the ball to the post.
`We've been working in practice now for weeks on throwing the ball high," said McGraw. `It's not that difficult. We continually throw it to the defender. We'll have to keep working on that."
Riley scored 19 points in Wednesday's game, but didn't play a major role on offense until midway through the second half.
Riley knows that she and her teammates will have to stay focused to ensure a win over St. John's.
`A lot of the players on the team weren't ready to play on Wednesday," said Riley. `Each time you play a team twice it's harder to beat that team a second time. It's a great opportunity for St. John's to come here and gain some respect in the polls because we are ranked fifth."
When the Irish traveled to New York in January for the teams' first game, they handed the Red Storm a crushing 69-49 loss. Guard Danielle Green teamed up with Riley to lead the Irish with 16 points apiece.
The Red Storm's Latasha Thompson scored a game-high 20 points and has continued to lead the St. John's squad in their three games since last matching up with the Irish.
The Red Storm, at 8-13, has won only three conference games this season. The unranked squad is coming off an overtime loss to Syracuse Wednesday.
The Irish have never lost to the Red Storm, holding a 7-0 advantage in the series.
All Sports Stories for Friday, February 11, 2000