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Irish women's basketball embracing tough competition

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame women's basketball still stands above the rest, ranked number one in the nation after its latest trip out West to Vancouver, Canada.

The Irish captured the Vancouver Showcase crown with three wins in three days, beating Gonzaga, Drake, and ninth-ranked Oregon State. That level of competition matched with the back-to-back-to-back schedule is exactly what Notre Dame was looking for in order to get an early taste of tournament season in March.

“It was good for us to be playing against somebody good every night and someone that’s testing us every night," said junior guard Jackie Young. "[The staff does] a really good job of making us have a tough schedule so we’ll be ready for it when the tournament starts. We really enjoyed it and we got to go out and see what Canada was like. A really good experience overall.”

That experience also gave the Irish a few learning moments, falling behind by double-digits against OSU before mounting a comeback to win the title.

“I think it’s taking a little more time than I’d like for us to really get to where we look sharp," said head coach Muffet McGraw. "I don’t think we’ve had that game yet, even for some moments where we look really sharp.”

Those three wins improved Notre Dame's record to 6-0 on the year, but the return home offers no relief.

The Irish will play two more high-profile games this week - first against No. 14 Iowa on Thursday then the always anticipated rivalry with No. 2 UConn on Sunday. However, that constant competition is nothing new to the defending national champions.

And they know the key to coming out of this stretch unscathed is staying focused on the task at hand.

“Just taking it day by day, I think that’s what we’re best at," said senior guard Arike Ogunbowale. "Not looking forward to the future, we just focus on each game. Everybody’s going to give us their best game so we definitely have to be prepared every night.”

And even with the rematch of the Final Four win over UConn looming large, that mentality means worrying solely on the Hawkeyes.

“We have so many tough matchups," said McGraw. "I mean we’re playing a lot of top teams, so we have to be ready every single game. Iowa’s a really good team, and I know we’re very focused on them.”

Thursday's game is set to tip at 7 p.m. while Sunday's matchup against the Huskies will start at 4.

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