Rebounding a key for IrishPublished 5:23pm Saturday, March 17, 2012
Rebounding and transition offense will be the keys for Notre Dame’s opening game of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon.
The No. 1-seeded Fighting Irish (30-3) will take on No. 16-seed Liberty (24-8) in the second game of the doubleheader at Purcell Pavilion. In the opener, No. 8 California (24-9) will face No. 9 Iowa (19-11) will play at 12:10.
Both games can be seen on ESPN2.
Notre Dame, winners of the Big East regular season championship, is still haunted by the one that got away last season.
The Fighting Irish knocked off Connecticut in the national semifinal and looked poise to win their second national championship before being upset by Texas A&M in the title game.
Notre Dame loves to force turnovers and get out in transition. The Flames average nearly 20 turnovers a game. But Liberty is the top rebounding team in the nation with a margin of 16.4. the Fighting Irish are 12th in the country as they outrebound their opponents by more than nine caroms a contest.
Veteran Irish coach Muffet McGraw knows her team must get on the boards if it wants to run against Liberty.
“They are the top rebounding team in the nation,” she said. “They are very strong inside and they rebound very well. The have some big bodies and their guards rebound well. It is definitely a worry for us. We can’t get our transition offense going if we don’t rebound well.
“We have spent a lot of time working on rebounding this week. We have tried to emphasize boxing out. Rebounding is definitely one of the keys to the game for us.”
Junior point guard Skylar Diggins, who was named the Big East Player of the Year, leads the Fighting Irish. Diggins averaged 19.3 points per game during last year’s run to the championship game. She will be counted on again to lead the charge for Notre Dame. Diggins is averaging 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.”
If Liberty, the Big South champion, is going to pull off the huge upset, it will lean on 6-3 center Avery Warley, who averages 13.1 points and 16.9 rebounds a game. Devon Brown leads the Flames in scoring average at 16.9 points per contest.