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Irish just another big name to UTM

Irish just another big name to UTM

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 12:00 pm

By KEVIN WEAKS
Press Sports
Add Notre Dame to UT Martin’s list of stars.
The Skyhawks will play the Fighting Irish in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, on Sunday, tipping off at 3:05 p.m. local time.
One of the biggest names in college basketball is just another big target for UTM this season.
After playing Baylor and Stanford in Hawaii, Louisville and Purdue at home and Missouri in the Show Me State, UTM will certainly be impressed by its latest Goliath but likely not in awe.
“Notre Dame is one of the top teams in the country, and it goes right along with our theme this year,” UTM head coach Kevin McMillan said. “We’ve played Baylor and Stanford, Purdue and Louisville, and they all were ranked in the Top 10 when we played them. So, now you just throw Notre Dame into the mix. I don’t think any other mid-major in the country has played that kind of schedule.”
UT Martin does not have a win over any of those teams, but the Skyhawks kept most close for awhile anyway. And, junior guard Heather Butler believes, UTM is tougher because of those games.
“Playing Baylor, Stan-ford, Purdue, all those big teams has definitely prepared us for the tournament,” said Butler, the program’s all-time leading scorer and the only UTM player — man or woman — with over 2,000 points. “Playing against Brittany Griner (Baylor) in the post and the good perimeter players at Stanford definitely got us ready for the tournament.”
Butler is one half of one of the nation’s most prolific scoring duos. Fellow junior guard Jasmine Newsome is averaging 22.9 points a game this year to Butler’s 22, making them the only teammates among the top 10 in scoring.
In Notre Dame, that twosome will face a very formidable backcourt pair as well.
Skylar Diggins is one of the nation’s top players, averaging 17 points a game with 188 assists and 98 steals, while Kayla McBride is top-notch as well with 15.4 points per game. In all, the Irish have four players averaging double digits in scoring.
“They arguably have the best guards in the country, so that’s going to be neat for us,” McMillan said. “We’re going to walk in there our two little no-names and see if we can play against the best in the country. That’s what I want to see: How good are our kinds against a team like Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame comes in with a 31-1 record and has not lost since a 73-61 setback to Baylor on Dec. 5. In its impressive run to a No. 1 tournament seed, the Irish have beaten UConn three times, Louisville twice and Tennessee in their meeting at Knoxville.
The No. 16 was somewhat of a surprise to McMillan, who thought his team’s brutal schedule would impress the selection committee into a bump up.
“I was a little surprised because there were teams with lower RPIs than us, and our strength of schedule was stronger than some of them,” the coach said. “After the men’s bracket was drawn, the committee members came out and said, ‘We told you to go out and play people.’ Well, we went out and played people and ended up a 16 seed.”

Published in The WCP 3.19.13

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