You can add Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw to ever-growing Tina Charles Fan Club. Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy might have been short with her comments after Charles torched the Hoyas for 33 points and 15 rebounds Saturday.
But McGraw had a lot to say following practice this afternoon. And why not, Charles finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds in a 70-46 victory over the Irish at Gampel Pavilion Jan. 16. She needs just 13 points and five rebounds at a sold-out Joyce Center tomorrow night to become UConn’s career leader in scoring and rebounding.
“She passed (Diana) Taurasi (on the scoring list),’’ McGraw said. “I didn’t think anybody was going to pass Taurasi. That is really remarkable. I, honestly, would’ve voted for her for Most Improved Player in the league as well as best player in the league. I just think she got that much better from last year. I think it’s amazing. We looked at tape from last year to this year. She’s really gotten a lot better. I’m really impressed with her. She’s not turning the ball over as much. And she’s just so much more efficient, really efficient. She’s scoring well. Her field goal percentage is good. She’s improved her range a little bit. Now you’ve got to guard her out away from the basket. And she’s playing with more of an intensity I think every minute.’’
McGraw even joked about using a gimmick defense in an attempt to try to contain Charles.
“We’re thinking about a box-and-1, with the box on her,’’ McGraw said. “I don’t think that’s going to work either. Maybe a triangle-and-2.’’
McGraw and the Irish are, obviously, hoping for a far different outcome in the rematch. They trailed 17-2 out of the gate last month and by as many as 26 in the first half.
Notre Dame established season-lows in scoring, points in a half (19, first), made field goals (18), field goal percentage (.269) and also committed 19 turnovers. Leading scorer Skylar Diggins, who is averaging 14.3, was held to six points – tying her season-low – on 2-of-13 shooting in 34 minutes.
“Just our attitude when we came out … We looked like we didn’t think we could win, I thought,’’ McGraw said. “I don’t know if (the game) should be out of our minds. I think we need to remember how poorly we came out and just have a different attitude. And I’ll be pleased if we come out with a good attitude. That’s something that has to be there from the tap.’’
Said senior guard Melissa Lechlitner: “That was pretty embarrassing for us. We didn’t play like we know how we can play. Individually, no one stepped up. And as a team we just kind of threw the game away. So it’s really important for us just to prove ourselves a little bit and show that we can play with them.’’
Notre Dame held its Senior Night last Tuesday against Marquette rather than tomorrow against the Huskies. The reason was because the game is being aired nationally on ESPN2. But Lechlitner thought it would have been fun to hold it with UConn in the house.
“It would’ve been, but I think with the TV game and everything it kind of interfered,’’ Lechlitner said. “So I think that was pretty much why we had to do it.’’
Senior Lindsay Schrader scored a team-high 12 points and played 24 minutes Saturday in her second game back after missing two with a sprained left ankle. She suffered the injury on a drive to the basket against DePaul Feb. 14.
Schrader, who continues to experience soreness, is averaging 14.5 points (13-of-20 FG) and 4.0 rebounds since her return. She is currently tied for second on the team in scoring (11.6) and is third in rebounding (5.4) in 25.3 minutes.
“Just getting her back it just makes such a difference for us because she’s a presence for us emotionally,’’ McGraw said. “Just having her out there I think is good for the rest of the team. So we’re happy to have her back. She’s not 100 percent yet, but it’s great to have her out there.’’
There is a strong likelihood that UConn-bound recruit Michala Johnson, a 6-foot-3 post player from Lombard, Ill., will be in attendance tomorrow.