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Irish Insights

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Tough enough ... other notes

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said if you want to make money off this year's women's basketball team, you need to be an ice supplier or knee brace supplier.

The Irish, who play Texas A&M in the championship game Sunday in Conseco Fieldhouse, have dealt with a litany of injuries this season.

Natalie Novosel, Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters all have problems with their knees. Bruszewski became the latest to join the list after injuring her left knee in a Dayton Region semifinal victory over Oklahoma only to come back and help the Irish defeat Tennessee in the regional finals.

Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's national semifinal victory over Connecticut near the end of the first half, but the senior returned to finish the game. And in one sequence during Sunday's game, Skylar Diggins, Mallory and Novosel all got bloody noses at the same time.

But no player has missed a lot of time this season.

"I think what it all comes down to it, we are incredible tough," Novosel said. "We don't get enough credit for our toughness. I think right now, injuries aside, we can push through it for one more game."

As for Mallory, the senior said her left shoulder feels fine a day after she jammed it while diving for a loose ball.

"I can move it fine," Mallory said. "It's just a little sore, a little stiff. I'll get a little heat before practice today, just kind of work it out. I'll be fine. I came back in (Sunday), and I was in a little pain. I will be fine now."

Coach's view

Here is Texas A&M coach Gary Blair's analysis of Notre Dame:

"They're more physical with their halfcourt defense. We do it with speed and fronting the post and pressuring the ball. They do it by old-school ball. They know how to play. Their guards have always got their forarms out. Mallory and Novosel, they're just smart. Skylar is similar to Colson. They're out there flying around, and they are very similar to what they like to do.

The post players, I think size-wise, we matchup a little bit better than what we did against Stanford with the size. God, Stanford was just oh so huge. With Danielle we had to convice her to use her mid-range game instead of her low-post game because they were building a camp fire around her there.

Notre Dame runs their stuff. What's good about Notre Dame is it's a five-person team, not a one-person team. All five people can score. And if somebody is not hot they use her as a screener or a defensive player. That's the way this team is here. You are going to see balance."

Helping hands

McGraw isn't the only person on Notre Dame's bench that has experienced winning a national title.

Irish assistant coaches Niele Ivey, who works with the guards, and Carol Owens, who works with post players, also had a hand in the program's 2001 national championship.

Ivey was the point guard for the Irish when they defeated Purdue to win the 2001 title, and Owens was midway through her first stint as a Notre Dame assistant when the team won the championship. Owens returned this season after spending the last five at the head coach at her alma mater Northern Illinois.

"It helps me tremendously, and it helps the team," McGraw said of having assistants with championship experience. "I think they can look now and say here's my position coach whose been to the Final Four. She knows what it takes.

"Niele as a player gets so much respect from the team, because they know she came through the ranks just like they are doing. She knows what it takes. She knows what the pressure is going to be like. She can really related to them on a completely different level than I can."

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