ND Womens Basketball: Irish hope for win on road before break
BY JOE HETTLER
Notre Dame has a reward awaiting them after their road game against Providence Sunday — a week off from any games.
"We really could use a break and I think a couple days off is really what we need right now," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "We'll take some time off at the beginning of the week and maybe then put some new wrinkles in. We don't have any time between our last game and the Big East tournament so this will be a great time for us to make some changes."
But for Notre Dame to truly enjoy their game-free week, the Irish need to gain an important road win against the Friars. Providence is 9-13 on the season and 3-8 in Big East play.
Sophomore guard Michal Epstein, who averages 15.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, leads the Friars. She hasn't gotten much help though, as no one else on Providence's team averages double figures in scoring. The Friars also use a four-guard offensive set, which could potentially cause problems for a bigger, but slower Notre Dame team.
McGraw wants her team more focused on playing well, then trying to stop Providence.
"We really need to [play our game]," McGraw said. "We're making great strides. We want to continue working on fundamentals at practice and work on rebounding and passing and defense. Then if you do those things well, it doesn't matter so much what they do.
"If you're taking care of your business, and doing what you're supposed to do, then you don't need to worry as much."
The Irish improved in all those areas Wednesday night during their 76-48 victory over St. John's. Notre Dame out-rebounded St. John's 33-29 and held the Red Storm under 35 percent shooting for the game. That marked the fifth time in their last six games the Irish have accomplished such a feat. Notre Dame also kept an opponent below the 60-point barrier for the fourth time in their last six contests.
The defensive improvement can be attributed to a new scheme. McGraw changed the defensive set from a 2-3 to a 1-3-1. McGraw said the team saw the change as a new challenge and they've quickly adapted to running it in games.
"I think the 1-3-1 is just something different," McGraw said. "When you go through the whole year, you just get tired of the same old thing, so I think it was good for them because it was a new challenge. For our opponents, it was something they hadn't seen before so it was a little tougher for them. Then we had success with it and that led to confidence."
After the Providence game, Notre Dame won't play again until Feb. 23, when they face No. 1 Connecticut. The Huskies won their 62nd straight game Wednesday night and beat the Irish at the Joyce Center on Jan. 20, 72-53.
Sunday's tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
All Sports Stories for Friday, February 14, 2003