Notre Dame will enter McGuirk Arena at 7 p.m. on Thursday as the No. 5 team in the nation.
But with the 12th strongest schedule in the country, the Central Michigan women’s basketball team is no stranger to tough competition.
CMU is 2-2 this season after defeating South Dakota State 88-62 on Friday, who is coming off four-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
The schedule is the toughest in program history, with the next three non-conference opponents having made the NCAA tournament last season.
Head coach Sue Guevara said she liked the way her team performed after changing the starting lineup Friday.
“It was very important for our performance to improve from our previous two games, and it did,” Guevara said. “We changed the starting lineup, and I thought we came out and were very efficient. We were able to move the ball and score. We moved the ball really well, and I liked our defense and how we were talking to each other.”
Guevara started sophomore guard Kerby Tamm on Friday and said she likes what she brings to the lineup.
“She’s a lot like Kylie Welch; they’re both really steady,” Guevara said. “She has a very good understanding of the game and is able to knock down the three.”
Notre Dame is led by senior guard Skylar Diggins, who is coming off a season in which she was named first-team All-American. The team also includes freshman guard Jewell Loyd, who was a McDonald High School All-American in 2012 and was one of five finalists for the Naismith National High School Player of the Year award.
The Fighting Irish are looking to start another championship run, led by a potent offense averaging 80 points per game this season, with an average margin of victory of 29.75 points. They finished the 2011-12 season 35-4, dropping the NCAA Championship game to Baylor, 80-61.
Guevara said she anticipates this game to be very fast-paced, and the Chippewas must try to contain the weapons Notre Dame presents on offense.
“It’s going to be one of those games where we control the pace,” Guevara said. “We like to get up and down, and so does Notre Dame. Skylar Diggins runs that team. We have to try to make things difficult for her.
“Trust me, they have a few other weapons as well, and we have to make sure we know exactly where they are. It will definitely be a real good test for us. There is no doubt that playing this level of competition is beneficial for our team before we begin (Mid-American Conference) play.”
Guevara highlighted the importance of a large crowd taking advantage of holding the home-court edge Thursday night.
“I think it’s really important for the students to come out,” she said. “We had a really nice crowd in here on Friday, and they were into the game. The more noise and distractions we have, the better. That sixth player is huge for us.”