Womens Basketball: Streaking Irish look to make waves
By JOE HETTLER
Sixth-seeded Notre Dame is playing their best basketball at the right time of the season as they head into the their first round Big East Tournament game against No. 11 seed Pittsburgh Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Irish, winners of seven of their last nine, are looking forward to the challenges awaiting them in Piscataway, N.J.
"We're playing well right now and we're building momentum," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. " 7-2 in our last nine, there are a lot of positives that come from that."
Notre Dame has had at least one player step up her game in all seven wins.
"I think everyone has had a good game for us when we needed it," McGraw said. "Now we're just waiting for everyone to have a good game at the same time."
Senior guard Alicia Ratay has been the spark plug for Notre Dame's recent run. The Lake Zurich, Ill., product has made big shots when the Irish have needed it the most.
"She has really taken the load off of everybody else," McGraw said. "She's done a great job. We've done a good job of getting her the ball, too. She's always been there when we've needed a bucket."
Now the Irish hope to delve deep into the conference tournament. Awaiting them is a familiar foe in Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh Feb. 26 77-69. The Panthers are making their first Big East tournament appearance in three years and are 0-12 all-time against the Irish. The winner of the game will face No. 3 seed Villanova Sunday at 8 p.m. The Irish already defeated the Wildcats earlier this season on Jan. 25, 58-56.
But right now, McGraw is more concerned about getting past the Panthers than looking ahead.
"We need to focus on beating Pittsburgh," McGraw said.
However, McGraw did admit that it's a no-lose situation if Notre Dame ends up playing Villanova. The Wildcats have an RPI ranking of six and are ranked No. 18 and No. 20 in two national polls.
"If you beat [Villanova] that's great, but if you lose you don't lose all that much," McGraw said.
In their last meeting against Pittsburgh at the Joyce Center, McGraw was very displeased with her teams play. After starting the game on a 15-3 run, Notre Dame found themselves tied at 19 midway through the first half. The Irish allowed Panther center Mandy Wittenmyer to score 23 points while guard Laine Selwyn added a double-double.
Courtney LaVere led the Irish with 14 points. Notre Dame had five players score in double figures in that contest.
All Sports Stories for Friday, March 7, 2003