As Eric brought up earlier in this week's edition of Irish Athletics, Coach Muffet McGraw, Skylar Diggins and the Lady Irish will play for a spot in the Final Four tonight when they take on #5 Maryland in Raleigh, NC.
Tip off is scheduled for 9pm and will be broadcast live on ESPN/ESPN3
A full preview after the jump.
A few notes before we begin:
- This is the first time in program history that the Irish have reached the Elite 8 in consecutive seasons (Fourth time over all '97, '01, '11, '12)
- The Irish won their second Big East Title ever this season (First as the outright champion)
- Maryland leads the all time series 4-1 including 75-59 win in 2007
After taking down Liberty 74-43, then holding off a strong Cal team in the first round 73-62 and finally blowing out St. Bonaventure 79-35 in the last matchup, the team comes into this game well rested and prepared to take on one of the best teams in the country tonight.
Expect this game to be tough for the Irish from the getgo as the Lady Terps' greatest strength is the size, strength and skill of their frontcourt as the trio of Alyssa Thomas,Tianna Hawkins and Lynetta Kizer combine for 40 points and 22 rebounds every game. They're flanked in the perimeter by sharpshooting sophomore guard Lauren Mincy who chips in 13 points, 5 rebounds and nearly 2 three pointers a game. The squad is led by senior captain and point guard Anjale Barrett who is a solid passer in the backcourt.
The Irish generally play a 1 in 4 out set in the halfcourt with forward Devereaux Peters inside surrounded by four guards Skylar Diggins (whom we ALL have a crush on - but I called dibs like 2 years ago), Natalie Novosel, Kayla McBride and Brittany Mallory. Notre Dame's greatest strength is its playmaking backcourt of Diggins and Novosel who combine for 32 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists each game. However, considering the matchup, expect to see a lot of sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa (also, a Canuck!) together with Peters in the paint for long stretches.
This game will likely come down the stretch and in basketball as long as you have the best player on the court down the stretch, you're likely to be in good hands. Skylar Diggins, without question, is the best player in this game and her playmaking in the clutch will determine whether ND will make it to its second consecutive Final Four.
If the Irish win tonight, they will face the winner of Connecticut/Kentucky with the potential of playing Geno Auriemma for the fourth time this season.