Women's Basketball

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Notre Dame-Liberty Preview
Natalie Novosel in Saturday's practice
 
Natalie Novosel in Saturday's practice

March 18, 2012

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Skylar Diggins was raring to go after a couple of days off. Notre Dame's star point guard, like the rest of her teammates, had been waiting for the NCAA tournament to come around since they were beaten in the championship game last season.

After 30 wins, a regular-season BIG EAST title and a disappointing loss in the conference tournament finals, the Irish have a No. 1 seed and now they're ready for what's ahead. Their NCAA trek starts Sunday at home against Liberty in the Raleigh region.

"We were able to rest our bodies and recover," Diggins said. "Now, everybody is so anxious to get back on the court that that is going to play into it. We're fine. We're prepared."

The Irish won their way into the NCAA championship game a year ago by beating Tennessee and UConn back-to-back with Diggins leading the way, averaging 19.3 points and nearly six assists in six tourney games. Then came a six-point loss to Texas A&M in the finals, a defeat that's been a motivating point all season.

Coach Muffet McGraw is convinced Diggins is even better than a year ago, studying film and expanding her game. She's averaged 17 points a game this season.

"She really managed the game better this year. Last year, she did a really good job and in the NCAA tournament, she really stepped forward," McGraw said.

"She knows when to pass and when to shoot. She is comfortable passing, and she isn't trying too hard to score or to make a pass. She takes what the defense gives her. ... Her ability to see the floor and go full speed with the ball makes us a dangerous team in transition."

During practice sessions since losing to UConn in the BIG EAST final March 6, the Irish have worked hard on rebounding, one of Liberty's strengths.

 

 

Liberty (24-8), the Big South champion, outrebounded opponents by an average of 16.4. And 6-3 center Avery Warley averaged 11.6 boards and 13.1 points per game. Devon Brown led the Flames with a 16.9 point average. Liberty must cut down on its turnovers - about 20 per game - and be able to handle Notre Dame's defense led by Diggins.

"It wasn't a shock. We kind of had an idea that we would be playing them," Brown said of facing the Irish.

"It's just another game for us."

The winner will meet either No. 8 Iowa or No. 9 California on Tuesday, also at the Purcell Pavilion, where Notre Dame was 15-1 this season.

"It's out of our control," Liberty coach Carey Green said of Notre Dame's home court advantage.

"In the dynamics of women's basketball, just from a financial economic perspective, women's basketball is doing what they have to do right now. In the future, as it continues to grow, the women's tournament will probably venture away from these home court advantages. It is what it is."

The Irish's three losses were at Baylor, at home against West Virginia and then in the tournament championship to UConn, a team they also beat two twice.

"I think there was a little bit of a relief when the regular season was over and we got the No. 1 seed," McGraw said.

"It was incredibly difficult to be expected to win every game we were going into and to handle it as well as we did and to never be really able to celebrate it because there was something more coming. ... Now it is back to zero."

Event Calendar

Delta

February 4
W, 82-46
North Carolina State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)
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ESPN3
February 7
W, 66-61
Louisville
Louisville, Ky. (KFC Yum! Center)
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February 14
1:00 PM
Miami
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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Pink Zone/Play4Kay Game
February 18
7:00 PM
Wake Forest
Winston-Salem, N.C. (Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum)

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February 22
7:00 PM
Florida State
Tallahassee, Fla. (Tucker Center)

ESPN2 - Big Monday
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February 25
7:00 PM
Clemson
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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February 27
1:00 PM
Boston College
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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Senior Day
March 2
TBA
ACC First Round
Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Coliseum)

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March 3
TBA
ACC Second Round
Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Coliseum)

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March 4
TBA
ACC Quarterfinals
Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Coliseum)

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March 5
TBA
ACC Semifinals
Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Coliseum)

ESPNU
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March 6
TBA
ACC Championship
Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Coliseum)

ESPN
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March 18
TBA
NCAA First Round
Campus sites

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March 19
TBA
NCAA First Round
Campus sites

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March 20
TBA
NCAA Second Round
Campus sites

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March 21
TBA
NCAA Second Round
Campus sites

ESPN/ESPN2
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March 25
TBA
NCAA Regional Semifinals
Selected sites

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March 26
TBA
NCAA Regional Semifinals
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March 27
TBA
NCAA Regional Finals
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March 28
TBA
NCAA Regional Finals
Selected sites

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April 3
TBA
NCAA National Semifinals
Indianapolis, Ind. (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)

ESPN/ESPN2
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April 5
TBA
NCAA National Championship
Indianapolis, Ind. (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)

ESPN
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