January 2012 Archives

It's Like Christmas, But for Fax Machines

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Wake up, wake up, wake up ... it's the first of the month.

Biggest day of the year for fax machines. We're ready to roll. Join us here to get your Notre Dame Football Signing Day fix. You'll thank us.

Andy Katz's Team of the Week

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ESPN.com - Mike Brey is putting together the best coaching job of his career, and that's saying quite a lot for a guy who's won three Big East Coach of the Year awards in the past five years.

Is No. 4 on the way? The Irish were gutted by graduation losses, a surprising early defection to the NBA and then a season-ending injury to their best player, Tim Abromaitis.

There were some humbling defeats early in the season to Missouri, Georgia and Gonzaga. But the season changed Jan. 7 at Louisville. Notre Dame stunned the Big East with a double-overtime win over the then-No. 10 Cardinals. That was followed up by an 11-point win over South Florida.

The Irish fell back to the pack with consecutive losses to UConn and Rutgers, but they had five days to prepare for top-ranked Syracuse and Notre Dame shocked the Fab Melo-less Orange with a nine-point win.

And then came this past week. Notre Dame swept a road swing through Seton Hall and Connecticut by clamping down on defense. Neither the Pirates nor the Huskies scored 50 points as the Irish beat the Pirates 55-42 (the Hall's lowest point total since 2005) and the Huskies 50-48. Notre Dame wasn't tearing it up offensively either, but controlling tempo and the clock worked.

Nine games into the Big East season, the Irish are tied for third with Georgetown and surprising South Florida. The 6-3 record can turn quickly with a game against Marquette and a pair of matchups with West Virginia to come. But the schedule is certainly laid out for Notre Dame to make a run at an NCAA bid. If that happens, you can book Brey for Big East coach of the year honors.

Classic Homecoming for Connaughton

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The Salem News - Notre Dame senior guard Scott Martin surveyed the somewhat chaotic but deliriously happy postgame scene at the XL Center here yesterday and just shook his head.

Hundreds of people from the North Shore and his hometown of Arlington had come out to see former St. John's Prep great Pat Connaughton play against the University of Connecticut and now, after a stunning 50-48 upset over the No. 19 Huskies, it seemed that everyone wanted a piece of him.

Martin was thrilled for his freshman teammate and friend.

"Yeah, just look at this," Martin said. "I don't even KNOW as many people as (Connaughton) is seeing today. And they all came to see him play this game? This is something else."

Connaughton has never been one to call attention to himself in an artificial kind of way. He lets his play on the court speak on his behalf, and lately the volume has been turned up.

Anyone who said that Connaughton would never be able to play against the so-called big boys at the highest level of college basketball, particularly as a freshman, should've seen this game.

Connaughton nailed a pair of 3-pointers and finished with eight points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. He hit two critical free throws with 51.9 seconds remaining, making it a two-possession game in favor of the Fighting Irish, 47-42. Overall, his impact was much larger than anything that showed up on the stat sheet.

From the opposition's standpoint, Connaughton is an aggravating player. Why is it that, at 6-foot-5, he rebounds better than guys who are bigger and stronger? He plays intelligently, too, clearing himself for three-point opportunities or making backdoor cuts when the defense falls asleep. And hard-nosed defense has become one of his staples.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun displayed his respect for Connaughton yesterday by often putting sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb on him. Lamb is merely one of the most gifted and athletic players in the country.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't think about (Lamb)," Connaughton said. "You just go out and play the game. He (Lamb) was just the guy on the other team."

Smiling From Ear To Ear

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whitholloway.jpg Now that the first semester of my freshman year is officially over, here is a little insight on how it went, both academically and basketball-wise.

First off, I would like to say that Notre Dame is exactly what I expected and more! I couldn't be happier with my choice to attend Notre Dame and I am absolutely loving every moment of it. Of course, times can get rough, like challenging classes and hard practices, but I know it will all pay off in the end.

Coming to Notre Dame, I knew that I would be challenged academically. I remember during summer school at a meeting for all of the freshmen athletes they told us that there would be no shortcuts. They told us that just because we were athletes, there would be no special treatment, no backdoors, no side doors, no entitlements, none of that. We have the same exact expectations as other students. I wasn't expecting any easy ways out, but at the same time, this was a little scary when I thought about the fact that roughly 70 percent of accepted Notre Dame students rank in the top five percent of their high school class and have extremely high ACT and SAT scores. I was hoping my college preparatory high school education would pay off!

I took five classes last semester - statistics, philosophy, common human diseases, social problems and adolescent psychology. Philosophy was definitely my hardest class, but I worked hard in the classroom and finished off the semester with a 3.1 grade-point average.

Now it's time for the exciting part - basketball! When I put on that Notre Dame uniform for the first time for our first game, it felt like the best day of my life. It felt so surreal! Seeing my name and number on a Fighting Irish jersey just made me so happy and excited, and I felt so blessed.

I committed to Notre Dame at the end of my sophomore year in high school, so after waiting nearly two years, taking numerous visits to campus, and watching the team play game after game, the only thing I could say was "finally!"

When I ran out on that court for the first time with "Here Come the Irish" playing and all of our wonderful fans cheering, I knew that college basketball would be the best thing ever. Honestly I don't think I stopped smiling that whole game! I kept looking up in the stands right at my parents with a huge smile on my face. Both my parents and I were extremely excited, and it was even more exciting when I got into the game for the first time.

On a side note, I had to miss the exhibition game because of an ankle sprain I had done in practice just a few days before the game, which was really depressing. But I did lots of treatment with our amazing trainer Anne (Marquez) and I was only out for about a week to 10 days.

When basketball practice first started, I thought it was very challenging, and it still is. Having to guard and be guarded by teammates like Skylar Diggins, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel, Brittany Mallory, Kayla McBride and Kaila Turner isn't an easy job, and neither is competing against all of my other amazing and talented teammates. But I love it because each and every day at practice, they make me better by challenging me and never going easy on me just because I'm a freshman or just because I'm small. I know for a fact that this type of challenge will pay off in the long run. In fact it already does in the sense that the games are easier than practice.

I love my teammates and coaches more than anything! My teammates are all like the big sisters I never had. We have so much fun together and most of them love picking on me (jokingly, of course!) because I'm small and a freshman but I love it and wouldn't want it any other way :)

As for my coaches, having a Hall of Fame coach is amazing. It attests to how great of a coach Coach McGraw has been and still is today. But even more than that, Coach McGraw is an amazing woman. She cares about more than just basketball. She genuinely cares about her players and staff and it is easily shown. Coach Ivey, Coach Owens, and Coach Tsipis are the same way. They are all amazing coaches and people. They are the same people now as when I first met them as a freshman in high school. I have a particularly special relationship with Coach Ivey. She is my position coach and helps me out more than she probably even realizes. I really admire her.

Not having to do with academics or basketball, I have to give a shout out to my dorm, Pangborn Hall! I live in Pangborn and Pangborn is also the former home of Natalie Novosel when she lived on campus. It may not be the nicest-looking dorm on campus, but it has great people in it and it is near South Dining Hall!

Go Irish!

- Whitney Holloway ('15)

Strong of Heart - Teddy Hodges

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To find out more about Teddy Hodges' incredible story, check out Al Lesar's piece in "Strong of Heart: Profiles of Notre Dame Athletics 2010".
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SI.com - Both Skylar Diggins and Devereaux Peters are strong-minded, opinionated women so don't read too much into it if you hear them engage in some R-rated language every now and then. Last week following a blowout win over Tennessee, Peters admitted that she and Diggins will curse each other on the court one minute and be fine the next, and when her words were read back to Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, the coach let out a hearty laugh.

"I'm sure that the [Notre Dame] priests were not really happy to read that and even I cringed a little when Devereaux said that," McGraw said. "It's unusual for women to be able to do that, but it's great for the coaches because we don't have to be the bad guys when they hold each other so accountable. Those two hold each other to a high standard and their expectations are so high that they can get on each other. And I love a point guard [Diggins] who can get on people, bring their best out, and still be a leader who is respected."

Things were strictly G-rated between pals Diggins and Peters on Saturday afternoon during a 71-56 win over a feisty St. John's team, though Red Storm fans were likely cursing the Notre Dame duo out of respect. A 6-2 fifth-year forward with boundless energy and arms that seemingly extend to Canada, Peters finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals. Diggins, a junior guard and Player of the Year candidate, had a game-high 24 points to go along with six assists and three blocks. The two combined for 42 points on 17 of 27 shooting. "We both have extremely strong personalities," said Peters, when asked how graphic the language gets between she and Diggins. "When Sky gets upset, she yells and people get silent. But being who I am, I yell back, too. Nobody takes it personally and it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it does. We just want to make each other perfect."

Notre Dame (21-1, 8-0 Big East) has been close to perfect this season. The win over St. John's (13-8, 5-3) was the team's 18th consecutive victory, the third longest winning streak in program history and its longest run since it won 23 consecutive games to open the 2000-01 season. The Irish entered the game leading the nation in scoring offense (84.5 points), and ranked second in steals (14.4 spg), assists (20.0), field goal percentage (.491) and scoring margin (34.8 ppg) "And I still don't think we've played our best game yet," said Diggins, who leads the Big East assists-to-turnover ratio and whose teams are now 81-15 since she arrived at Notre Dame three years ago.

Two first half runs, including an early 19-2 run and a late 14-0 run, gave Notre Dame a 20-point halftime lead. The Irish were sloppy with their shot selection in the second half -- St John's cut the lead to 11 and outscored Notre Dame in the second half -- but the No. 2 ranked team had too much scoring depth and too much Diggins and Peters. "They are really a special group, the way they share the basketball, find each other, make extra passes, plus Peters is playing outstanding," said St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico, whose team has faced both top-ranked Baylor and Notre Dame this season. "I would find it hard for someone to beat them down the stretch the way they are going."

Notre Dame entered the season at No. 2, their highest ranking since the final poll of the 2000-01 season, and returned six of their top seven scorers, including Diggins, the Big East preseason player of the year, Natalie Novosel, a senior guard who is averaging 15.4 points and Peters, the 2011 Big East defensive player of the year. The squad has been bent on redemption all season. In last year's title game in Indianapolis, Notre Dame blew a 48--41 lead to Texas A&M early in the second half. The final score -- Texas A&M 76, Notre Dame 70 -- is written on the main whiteboard in Notre Dame's locker room.

So far the Irish have played with the urgency a champion needs. Notre Dame's only loss came at Baylor on Nov. 20, a game that wasn't as close as the 94-81 final. Baylor center Brittney Griner finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds and sophomore point guard Odyssey Sims controlled the perimeter with 25 points, six assists, six steals. McGraw said she does not think about that game often, but believes her team is better than it was in Waco two months ago. "Maybe if we were undefeated and No. 1 in the country we would be a little more complacent," McGraw said. "This keeps you hungry because there is somebody ahead of you."

Notre Dame's immediate task is a road game at No. 11 Rutgers on Tuesday. In late February, the team will travel to Hartford to face the No. 3-ranked Huskies after they snapped Connecticut's 57-game Big East winning streak earlier this month. Prior to last year's national semifinals, UConn had beaten Notre Dame 12 straight times. "Now we have beaten them back to back," said McGraw. "I think that's continued to feed our confidence."

That confidence grew last week after a 72-44 pounding of Tennessee, the worst loss suffered by the Lady Vols in 28 years, and the fewest points scored by a Tennessee team in Pat Summitt's coaching career. McGraw said the defense played by the Irish that night was as good as she's ever had a team play, especially because Notre Dame did not press much. One place the Irish must improve is rebounding -- Diggins said the team has been working hard on the defensive glass and making better decisions in transition -- because Notre Dame is undersized in the post. It's also why Peters must stay out of foul trouble -- her bugaboo -- because she's a terror when she plays extended minutes. She is averaging 18 points and 9.2 rebounds over her last five games. "She's long, she's athletic and she's relentless on the boards," said Diggins. "We need Devereaux in the game. When people see her in there, they change their shot. You see the blocks and the steals, and she's someone who can guard either a guard or a post player."

McGraw described her team as more businesslike than previous Irish teams, and she's marveled at how this group has used last year's championship loss to self-motivate. "I'm really pleased with the way we are improving, and I love the way this team is ready for a challenge," McGraw said. "We go into practice with something to fix and they are completely engaged with how we can get better. They want to be challenged. We never talk about, 'Wasn't that a great game? or 'We beat UConn, wasn't that awesome?' For this group, it's let's move on to the next game."

- Richard Deitsch

Williams Weathering Basketball Storm With Faith

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montywilliamsformer.jpg SI.com - Monty Williams walks where no NBA coach has walked before. He leads a New Orleans team that is owned by the league and shaped by the commissioner. He guides a club that began training camp with only five players under contract and today boasts nine new faces. He coaches a squad that endured seven days of near trades, a vetoed deal and collapsed proposals before All-Star point guard Chris Paul was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers.

In exchange, Williams received a new team: Extreme Makeover, Hornets Edition. With the departure of Paul and leading scorer David West to Indiana, the franchise lacks star power. With the arrival of new bodies and spare parts, the Hornets have gained lottery power. The Paul trade allowed the team to clear cap space, secure an unconditional first-round pick in June, add young shooting guard Eric Gordon and build for the future.

But Williams doesn't intend to wait. "We don't feel like we are starting over," he said after Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu arrived from the Clippers. "We plan on winning and we plan on winning big."

If the Hornets win big with their current roster, Williams will be in Coach of the Year contention. New Orleans has lost 11 of its first 14 games, hobbling. Gordon has missed 12 games with a bruised knee; Trevor Ariza missed eight with a strained groin before returning Wednesday against Memphis. He led the Hornets with 18 points, but New Orleans lost its fifth straight. Through Wednesday, the Hornets rank 28th in three-point shooting (27.5 percent) and 28th in scoring (86.7 points per game).

Williams faces challenges beyond shooting and scoring. There's no playbook for a team without a human owner. There's no manual for moving forward after a trade saga like Paul's. "I've never seen anything like this," Williams said.


Babcock Looks to Add to Rich Irish Tradition

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4226656.jpeg Winston Churchill. Pee-wee Herman. Charlie Chaplin. Louis Farrakhan. Krusty the Clown. There have been only a few powerful figures in American history who have had the courage and fashion savvy to rock the bow tie. We can now add Colin Babcock to that list. The man has swag for days and swim strokes for weeks. - @NDsidJorge

The Observer - After a wild ride with the University's Admissions Office, sophomore swimmer Colin Babcock distinctly remembers how it felt to be accepted to Notre Dame.

Babcock grew up in a house divided between Louisiana State and Notre Dame athletics.

The product of Saint Paul's High School in New Orleans, La., Babcock's uncles were constantly in his ear about the possibility of one day attending their alma mater and competing for the Irish.

During his senior year of high school, Babcock visited Louisiana State, William & Mary, and Notre Dame.

Following his visit to South Bend, he said his decision was a no-brainer, provided that he was accepted to the University.

"I was basically raised to go to this school," he said. "It was ranked the No. 1 business school in the country, and who doesn't love Notre Dame?"

When he spoke with the Notre Dame Admissions Office in April of his senior year, however, Babcock was informed that he had not been accepted to the school he had dreamed of attending for as long as he could remember.

"I took all the Notre Dame stuff off the wall. I kind of made a burn pile and I might have punched a hole in my wall, I can't remember," he said.

Just five hours later, Babcock received a phone call from Irish associate head coach Matt Tallman. Admissions had placed the Irish recruit on the list of rejections by mistake.

"I couldn't speak. I was stammering on the phone," Babcock said. "It was an awesome feeling. It was kind of like, 'Alright I guess I'll put [the posters] back up on the wall.'"

Babcock said he was attracted to Notre Dame in part because of his Catholic faith. Attending Basilica Mass as often as possible, he said his relationship with God plays a huge role in his everyday life.

"Sometimes when I'm really feeling down, [I think] I'm here for a reason. I wouldn't have had such a weird experience with getting in if I wasn't supposed to be here," he said. "It's really strenuous like finals week and exams, it's like, 'This is really stressful. I can't handle it.' I believe that God would tell me, 'I'm putting you here for a reason. You can handle it.'"

An exceptional role model for the team's 16 freshmen, Babcock's passion for Irish sports became evident at an Irish volleyball match several months ago.

"The first match, I think the girls lost, so we were like, 'We've got to pump these girls up,'" he said. "We ran to [our] locker room and put on our speedos. We put on eight articles of clothing. Every time the team scored three times, we took off an article of clothing. When it got to the end, the 25th [point], we ended up in our speedos and just ran around the court."

Babcock said he is confident that his plan ultimately affected the outcome of the match.

"I'd like to say we're the reason that they won," he said. "I don't know if they'll admit that, but I'd like to think we got an assist for that."

Aside from providing entertainment at volleyball matches, Babcock said he hopes to impact the lives of those he meets during his time at Notre Dame.

"[By my senior year] I would like to have made a difference," he said. "I would like to leave here knowing that either I changed the school or my team, my dorm in a positive way. I'd like to say I did something."

Last year, Babcock was a recipient of the Beeler-Hipp Award, which is presented annually to the freshman who best demonstrates vitality, competitiveness and love for Notre Dame. The award is named in honor of former Irish swimmers Meghan Beeler and Colleen Hipp, two freshmen who died in a bus accident Jan. 24, 1992.

"What all my coaches seem to have taught me is that you get out what you put in. Basically, whatever you want to do, you can do," Babcock said. "I try to set the pace in every practice. I'm a fun-loving guy outside the pool, [but] I try to work as hard as I can every time I enter the pool."

Hear It From a Student - Baseball Practice Begins

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The calendar read Jan. 27, but the weather resembled that of a mild April day as Notre Dame held its first baseball practice in preparation for the 2012 season. Beneath sunny South Bend skies and temperatures surpassing 40 degrees with no snow on the ground, the Irish held part of their practice outside of the Loftus Indoor Sports Complex.

The outfielders used the field-turf surface of the football practice fields to shag fly balls and perform other drills.

Meanwhile, the majority of the practice occurred inside Loftus, where the Irish will prepare for their season once the South Bend winter returns. Notre Dame opens its season with the Big Ten/Big East Challenge against Illinois on Feb.17 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"The biggest challenge [of practicing in Loftus] is using your imagination to project where a ball would have been hit," second-year Irish coach Mik Aoki said. "It's a big adjustment for our outfielders but doesn't really make a difference for our infielders and pitchers."

Despite the disadvantages that come with practicing indoors, Aoki believes the Notre Dame baseball program possesses the resources to adapt to and succeed in the South Bend climate.

"To succeed in a northern climate, [your program] needs strong indoor facilities, which we have in Loftus and our indoor batting cages," Aoki said.

He also described how Notre Dame baseball has key financial backing to travel south for a month of games early in the season. In addition, Aoki stressed the importance of Notre Dame's support personnel who help the baseball student-athletes develop both physically and mentally.

The Irish look to improve on a 23-29-1 record from the 2011 season, which ended with two losses to Big East regular-season champion and NCAA Super Regional qualifier Connecticut in the conference tournament.

However, the team enters this season with much youth on its roster, as 13 out of the 32 players are freshmen.

Yet, Aoki has been encouraged by the team's approach to this upcoming season as he believes they have brought a strong focus and all understand expectations.

"The energy we bring to practice and lifting along with the tempo at which we work is much improved compared to the start of last season," Aoki said.

- Matt Unger ('14)

Brey Has Notre Dame In the Mix ... Again

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CBSsports.com - Just about every year, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey enters the season hoping to make things interesting. He knows what he's up against in South Bend, going up against guys named Boeheim, Calhoun, Pitino, Huggins and even Dixon and Wright for a chance to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

It's not an easy task.

This year it became more than just interesting when Brey's top player and one of the elite guys in the Big East, Tim Abromaitis, went down with a season-ending injury after playing just two games.

"If you told me we'd be 5-3 in the league after Gonzaga made us look like a JV team for 40 minutes, I'd have fallen off my chair into the showers," Brey said. "But that's what's so great about our game and the length of the season."

Especially, Brey maintains, in the Big East.

"You just have to pick off a few," Brey said. "You don't have to win them all, but if you win the right ones, you can be in the discussion."

Well, Brey and the Irish have picked off Louisville and Seton Hall on the road -- and got a huge one last weekend when they handed Syracuse it's lone setback of the season.

"As proud as I was of our guys Saturday against Syracuse, I was even more proud of them against Seton Hall," Brey said. "They had every reason not to be ready to go after what happened Saturday. Fans were still talking about our Syracuse game, but we figured out a way to win on the road against an NCAA tournament team."

Now Notre Dame, the team that lost to Georgia back in late-November and also couldn't get past Maryland in early-December, has made its way into the discussion. Brey said that it's taken time to get accustomed to being without Ambromaitis and a few other guys.

"We had a dysfunctional November and December," Brey admitted. "Abro was in and out, Scott Martin (ankle) missed three weeks of practice, (Jack) missed the Maryland game and Atkins missed two games, It was crazy."

What's nuts is that we're talking about Notre Dame, even after losing the potential Big East Player of the Year, being in the mix for the NCAA tournament. Brey said he wasn't expecting to hand the keys over to his sophomore backcourt -- Atkins and Jerian Grant. However, that's exactly what he's done and the duo has responded.

"We've never had two guys with that kind of speed and athleticism in the backcourt," Brey said. "It changes us on both ends of the floor."

And Cooley is starting to become known for his play on the court instead of his facial comparison to ex-Irish star Luke Harangody. He's averaging 12.9 points and 9.8 boards in league play.

Next up for the Irish is a trip to Hartford and a matchup against UConn on Sunday. But Brey is smart enough to realize this game won't define Notre Dame's chances to make the NCAA tournament for what would be the fifth time in the past six years.

"Two years ago, we went from 6-8 in the league and a flat-out NIT team to a number six seed," Brey said. "That's what's great about our league. But on the flip side, a few years back we lost seven in a row. It can bite you quick, but you always have opportunities."
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Follow Asst. Coach Gerry Byrne on Twitter:
@byrneirish First practice at Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame athletic programs. He recently sat down with men's lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan to talk about the upcoming season and the team's trip to Florida.

Though it might not feel like it on campus, it's almost springtime - at least if you look at Notre Dame's upcoming sports schedule. With baseball and softball set to begin in three weeks in Florida and California, respectively, the men's lacrosse team kicks off its season this weekend with a trip to Orlando. The Irish will participate in the 2012 Champion Challenge at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex where they will play a pair of exhibition games against Jacksonville and the U.S. National Team.

The Orlando weather report looks good, with temperatures in the 70's this weekend, but don't be fooled into thinking Notre Dame has headed south for anything but business. "This is a 100% work trip. We're going to practice twice per day on Friday and Saturday. We're going to scrimmage two times and we're going to get a lot of good concentrated work, which I think is exactly what we need at this point in the season," head coach Kevin Corrigan says.

That being said, the Irish are less concerned with the outcome and more focused on preparing for Feb. 18 and their season opener against #2 Duke, the team that has ended their postseason run in each of the past two years - overtime of the 2010 national championship, and more recently, in last season's quarterfinals.

"We're still at the stage where we're just trying to get better. That's all we're trying to do. What I'm concerned about right now is the quality of the work that we do and not about any results that we get on a day-to-day basis," Corrigan says.

Looking ahead to the season for his ninth-ranked Irish squad, Corrigan keeps it simple. "We don't set goals. Because to me, I guess I just work backwards off the premise that there's never been a game that I ever played in that the object wasn't to win. So, I don't know why you need goals if every time you play, you're doing everything you can conceivably do to win."

Instead, the Irish are focused on making each day as productive as possible, recognizing that wins, conference titles and championships are the outcome of focusing on the process, not on the results.

"To me, the only goal that I have is for us to work every day with a sense of purpose and urgency to become the best team that we can be."

Just two weeks into preseason play, Coach Corrigan plans to use these scrimmages to focus on the little things that will help prepare the squad for regular season play. "We have to figure out who the best guys are to put on the wings on our face-offs. We have to figure out the most effective grouping of our midfielders. We've got a bunch of good defensive midfielders and we've got to figure out how most effectively we can use them in game situations," he says.

When the Irish play on Saturday, they may recognize a familiar face in goal, as former All-America goalie Scott Rodgers ('10) will be suiting up for the U.S. National Team for the second consecutive year. "It makes it fun and certainly challenging for our guys. We all know how good Scott is, but I think we both had fun last year," Corrigan says.

"Getting on each other, and pushing each other and challenging each other. It's not a lot different than being teammates, when you're playing kind of what they might call a 'friendly' in soccer. It's a competitive game, but there's nothing at stake, so I think our guys will enjoy being down there with Scott."

While Rodgers' lacrosse career has continued even after graduating from Notre Dame, several other Irish laxers may also get a chance to continue playing. Seven former players were selected in December's Major League Lacrosse Supplemental Draft and senior defenseman Kevin Randall was picked by the Charlotte Hounds in the seventh round of this month's MLL Collegiate Draft.

Although Coach Corrigan and his staff are happy to see their former players getting a chance to continue their lacrosse careers after college, it's not something they spend much time focused on.

"We're concerned with their experience that they're having here at Notre Dame. I'm glad to see them get the respect that they deserve, when it comes to playing at the next level or being selected to play at the next level," he says.

The 2012 season will be a unique one for Corrigan, as his son, Will, a midfielder and graduate of Saint Joseph's High School, is among the 10 freshmen on the team.

"Will and I have a great relationship and it's only growing through this experience...He's my son. I love him. I love being with him and I love having him as part of our team. He and I have always kind of had a relationship around the game because he grew up watching our team as a little kid, and certainly there's an emotional involvement with the team when you're the son of a coach," Corrigan says.

After the Orlando trip, the Irish will have one more exhibition contest on Feb. 5 against Robert Morris before opening the season at 1 pm ET on Feb. 18 vs. Duke in a nationally televised game on ESPNU.

Playing against a team of Duke's caliber is a challenge that Corrigan and his team look forward to, as they do each season. "First of all, there's nothing more important in terms of achieving the highest level you can reach as a team, than good competition," he says.

"So playing a team like that is only going to help us. And when it comes to getting in the tournament at the end of the year and getting a seeding in the tournament, playing top teams is an essential thing."

The Irish regularly play a difficult schedule, and Corrigan says that if he would schedule all of his games against the best teams in the country, if it were possible.

"Logistically it doesn't always work out that way with league obligations and everything else, but we're not afraid of that challenge. We actually look forward to that and are building on that."

Now in his 24th season in South Bend, Corrigan never envisioned spending more than two decades with the Irish. A Charlottesville, Va. native, Corrigan stayed close to home and played college lacrosse at the University of Virginia. Later, he returned to UVA and worked as an assistant coach for two seasons under Jim "Ace" Adams. Between 24 years in Charlottesville and 24 at Notre Dame, Corrigan, 53, laughed at the fact that he has spent most of his life in two places. Still, he couldn't imagine a better opportunity than the one he has here at Notre Dame.

"It's been a terrific place to coach. It's a great place to live and raise a family. I've been really fortunate to be around the great people that Notre Dame attracts," he says. "And the great kids that I've had an opportunity to coach make it awfully hard when you look at going somewhere else. You look and you go, 'Why would I want to?' For me personally, I can't imagine I could have ended up in a better place for me over the last 24 years."

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Never Forgetting

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PNDP-O1992-0127-p01.jpg The Notre Dame swimming community came together last night - and shared stories, smiles, hugs and tears - at a Mass of Remembrance on the 20th anniversary of the University of Notre Dame women's swimming team bus accident. Notre Dame's president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., presided, and its president emeritus, Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., delivered the homily at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 24, 1992, in the midst of a heavy snowstorm, a bus bringing the Irish women's swimming team back to campus from a meet at Northwestern University slid off the Indiana Toll Road and rolled over. Meghan Beeler from Granger,Ind., and Colleen Hipp from St. Louis, both freshmen, lost their lives in the accident. Most of the other swimmers, coaches and staff were injured, including Haley Scott, also a freshman, who was paralyzed for more than a week.

Some 18 hours after the accident, Father Malloy presided at a Mass in the Basilica for the Notre Dame community to mourn and pray. The Mass on Tuesday was in memory of Meghan and Colleen, in thanksgiving for healing, and in appreciation to members of the Notre Dame and South Bend communities who responded at the time of the accident and beyond.

Father Malloy talked about being in a hotel room in Washington, D.C., when he received a call with details of the accident. He flew back to campus the next morning and immediately was driven to the crash site alongside the Toll Road, where he remembered seeing personal belongings strewn by the roadside.

The current Irish women's swimming team attended last night, all wearing their long blue winter parkas with Notre Dame on the back that became so familiar in conjunction with the tragedy 20 years ago.

Hear It From a Student - Working for the Weekend

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In a marquee weekend for Notre Dame sports that included an upset of No. 1 Syracuse by the men's basketball team and a 76-43 drubbing of Villanova by the women's hoops squad, the hockey team faced CCHA rival Michigan in a two-game home series.

After a split series against the 10th-ranked Wolverines, the Irish had played their eighth straight game against a top-10 opponent, going 4-4 over that span.

"Every game we've played since break has been against a top-10 team in the nation, so that's made the guys in the locker room have to be ready for every game," sophomore goalie Steven Summerhays said. "That's kind of the mentality we've had: know that our opponents are just as good as us and we've got to out-create them and out-work them."

Goaltending was the story this weekend as Summerhays battled Michigan senior Shawn Hunwick. The Michigan goalie is 10th in the nation in save percentage and first in total saves. The Wolverines also entered the weekend on a nine-game unbeaten streak, presenting quite a challenge for the Irish.

Summerhays held his own in the series split, allowing three goals (all power-play) on 55 shots. Hunwick was phenomenal, giving up three scores on 73 shots.

On Friday night the Irish sealed the 3-1 victory with Billy Maday's empty net goal, and Summerhays and Hunwick were named the first and second stars of the game, respectively.

"It was one of those nights when you're seeing pucks. The defense was doing a great job of clearing guys out in front," Summerhays said after the game. "So just seeing pucks - watching them into my glove and blocker - was a big help."

The Irish surrendered two power-play goals in the first period of game two, but answered quickly in the second with a goal by Austin Wuthrich. However, Hunwick stopped everything after that, ending with 38 saves and only one goal.

"He saw the puck well this weekend," said sophomore forward Anders Lee, who earned an assist on Wuthrich's goal. "We tried to get it in his face, and we probably didn't do a good enough of job of that, but he's a good goaltender, and he was able to see around our screens and find it.

"I think the biggest thing is you've got to keep shooting because the more shots you get, one's bound to go in. Unfortunately, we didn't do that tonight. He's a great goaltender, and we've got to be able to put some behind him."

Although the Irish fell to 1-3 over their last four games with Saturday night's 2-1 loss, head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with the team's caliber of play, despite missing suspended forward Riley Sheahan.

"I thought we played a really good hockey game," Jackson said after the game. "Our special teams could have been better, and that's where you miss a guy like Riley Sheahan.

"But the guys that played, I thought they played a really good hockey game. Give kudos to Hunwick. He played extremely well. I think we needed to get more traffic in front of him, but we did a lot of things really well. I was really pleased with our performance tonight."

With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Irish will attempt to improve their stock in the CCHA standings. They currently sit sixth, despite being only five points out of first place.

"It will go to the last night, and you may have four teams competing for first place and four teams competing for fifth place," Jackson said. "That's the way our league is right now. You've got eight teams in the top 20 in the country. You know, things don't get easy around here."

- Craig Chval ('15)

Chicken Toss Training Showdown

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VS.

Irish Connection - Episode 34

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Sky's Now the Limit for Irish

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ESPN.com - Run the court with Skylar Diggins and the bruises and bruised egos teach you to expect the unexpected, the ball likely to arrive out of thin air, whistling through a thicket of torsos only to arrive where it knows hands ought to be. But by far the point guard's greatest skill is making what was once unexpected entirely expected.

On a night Tennessee set a dubious program record with its fewest points in a game and suffered its most lopsided defeat in nearly 30 years, only the seismic scale of Notre Dame's 72-44 win felt at all out of the ordinary in watching these two teams compete.

Tennessee wasn't in Notre Dame's league. All you had to do was ask Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick, who spoke for the team. She's the one who said it.

Notre Dame played Tennessee 20 times before Skylar Diggins arrived on campus. It lost every one of those games.

The Fighting Irish have played the Lady Vols twice with Diggins. Monday's victory makes her 2-0.

More to the point, the win against the Lady Vols makes almost the entirety of this Notre Dame roster perfect against the most decorated program in women's college basketball (only fifth-year seniors Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory were around for a Sweet 16 loss against Tennessee in 2008). And it is an entire team that looks as good as any in the nation right now, including the Baylor team that handed it its only loss. It's a team that recorded assists on 25 of 30 field goals against Tennessee. It's a team that got 27 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals from Diggins, but also one that got 16 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and three blocks from Peters. It's a team that got 17 points from sophomore Kayla McBride, 11 of them in the first half for a player sneaking up as a scoring asset the team didn't have last season.

But it is Diggins' team. It has been since she spurned Stanford to stay home in South Bend. It's her team that became just the second to beat both Connecticut and Tennessee in back-to-back seasons, joining North Carolina in 2005-06 and 2006-07. It's her team that drew the fifth sellout crowd of the season to Purcell Pavilion, the 16th full house during the Diggins era for a program with 22 in its history. It's a team that followed her lead to turn an all-around ugly game in the first half into a historic rout.

It didn't start out that way, looking at times early on more like a game that might set the sport back a few decades than make history. With the notable exception of McBride, nobody on either team could put the ball in the basket in the first half. The teams combined to miss 48 shots in those 20 minutes. The Lady Vols missed layup after layup and free throw after free throw, while the Fighting Irish either forced shots or gave away the ball.

Diggins was as guilty as anyone, forcing passes as the Fighting Irish teetered on the fine line between familiarly frenetic and flat-out frantic.

"I think we got the shots we normally get and normally make, but they weren't falling," Diggins said. "Bad choices on my part in some transition things that I usually make better decisions in, that we usually make better decisions as a team in."

With seven minutes remaining in the first half, Diggins had three turnovers and had hit just 1 of 5 shots from the floor. A quick scan of the Tennessee box score would have revealed similarly ineffective lines from top to bottom, be it Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen, Ariel Massengale or anyone in orange.

But where the Lady Vols never did figure out where to turn for an answer, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw never even pondered the question.

"I trust her implicitly," McGraw said of Diggins. "I know she's going to get going. I have total confidence in her ability, and she can turn it around instantly. I think that she did a really good job of managing her own frustration at the way that we started and really turned it on in the second half. To hit those 3s -- she hit some huge shots when the game was a little bit in question. She hit a shot and then we got a steal and a layup, it was her getting a 5-0 run that I think turned the game around."

As poorly as Tennessee played in the first half, it trailed just 23-18 with fewer than two minutes to play before the break. Diggins followed with a 3-pointer and closed the half with two free throws to push the lead to 28-18. Still, the Lady Vols had a pulse, if only they could convert some of their offensive rebounds or hit free throws at any reasonable rate.

Then Diggins hit a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the second half and found Peters for an easy basket barely a minute later. By the time she put together one more one-woman, 5-0 run with a little more than 14 minutes to play, the game was over but for the formality of time running off the clock. The exclamation point won't be recorded for posterity, Diggins whistled for a foul that could have gone uncalled when she slid along the baseline, rose and met the 6-foot-3 Johnson in the air to block a shot.

She had 13 3-pointers in her team's first 20 games this season. She broke Tennessee's back with five on Monday night. Whatever is required.

Diggins and Notre Dame outlasted Tennessee in a 73-59 victory in the Elite Eight last season. This time the Fighting Irish outclassed the Lady Vols.

"This one they kicked our butts by quite a bit," Warlick said in a simple summation of the difference between then and now.

[Skylar] Diggins doesn't guarantee the Fighting Irish anything. But she does make it easy to believe in the possibility of everything.

With the lack of confetti as concrete proof, even a record-setting win against Tennessee doesn't clinch a thing for Notre Dame in January, just as it doesn't doom the Lady Vols to a spring of despair. Notre Dame beat Duke on a neutral court in November and routed Purdue on the road, but signature wins against Kentucky, Connecticut and Tennessee came in South Bend. The rest of the major tests will come on the road, beginning with a tricky two-game trip to the Northeast to play St. John's and Rutgers this weekend and continuing with the possibility of two games in nine days against Connecticut in Hartford at the end of the regular season and in the Big East tournament.

Diggins doesn't guarantee the Fighting Irish anything. But she does make it easy to believe in the possibility of everything.

"I've never been a part of anything like this, so this is amazing," Diggins said. "So many good players on the team, so unselfish and just a great coaching staff that's willing to work. And you've got girls coming in putting in the work. I'm excited to see what we have coming up and to get back in the gym and get better and continue this run with this team."

Notre Dame has been a part of a championship before, but when it comes to Diggins, the feeling is mutual.

It has never been party to anything quite like her.

Via @grahamhays

Coaches Corner

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ESPN.com - The day after his team handed previous-No. 1 Syracuse its first loss, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey wanted just one thing: a local watering hole, some good friends and a few hours of football.

There is little time to enjoy the good times in college basketball, especially if you are a team like the Fighting Irish -- good, but not great, talented but raw. The sweet taste of victory has the staying power of a court-storming, over and cleared out almost as quickly as it started.

But Brey was going to give himself and his team a 24-hour respite from the hamster wheel, a Sunday to celebrate a win. The victory elevated the Irish to 4-3 in the Big East, 12-8 overall, a respectable record for most teams, an extraordinary one under the circumstances for Notre Dame. The Irish lost senior leader Tim Abromaitis in November. Considered middle-of-the-pack to begin with, Abromaitis' injury took Notre Dame off the radar.

But Brey has made a career out of surprising people. He memorably led the Irish through a tortoise-paced run without Luke Harangody and has quietly made Notre Dame into a consistent winner.

ESPN.com caught up with Brey on the one day he allotted himself a little euphoria and a temporary escape before digging in his heels again for a Wednesday date with Seton Hall.

Dana O'Neil: When Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL, what did you tell your team?

Mike Brey: I used Luke [Harangody] going down as an example. I hit that really hard in our first meeting and that first week. We were 6-8 when Luke got hurt. Of course, while I'm selling it to them, I have my fingers crossed behind my back. But I felt like, if we could just inch along and be at our best in New York City [for the Big East Tournament], we'd be OK. That was really the only way for me and my staff to keep our sanity.

It's different than last year. There's more teaching, being positive and giving confidence. The second day after Abro got hurt, we were standing at halfcourt and practice wasn't very good and for that one moment, I think I might have said, "Oh boy, we're not that good." And like a good assistant, Martin Ingelsby said, "You know what? This is going to be a great challenge for us. Let's have some fun with it." And I thought, "You know what? You're right. I'm good.''

Could you have survived this maybe 15 years ago? At an earlier point in your career?

MB: That would have been ... oh God, I would have been all over the board. I think I've learned to be older and wiser. Then I would have been much more anxious, not sleeping so good. But I've learned to pace myself. But at this point in my career, I'm having fun with it. I'm not trying to fight for my job. I'm enjoying and teaching and knowing, that, OK, we took some punches and we'll take some more in the future, but we're playing with house money. When Tim went down, we had nothing to lose. We were so far off the board, no one expected anything out of us.

And now that you're back on the board, by beating Syracuse, how do you get your team to refocus for Seton Hall?

MB: When you get one like we did, you get where 9-9 [in the league] is in range and you think, hey we're being talked about. If you told me after we lost to Gonzaga in the locker room, that we'd be 4-3 and beat Syracuse, I would have fallen off my chair. I told them normal teams are supposed to lose on Wednesday. They just are. If you're normal, an average Joe, you take that bullet because you're not supposed to get that one. So that's the thing? Are we just normal? If we can bounce back and get this one on the road, that's showing signs of being something special.

Have you ever seen the Big East so wildly unpredictable?

MB: It's more turned upside down than ever. We're not that top-rated league, but everybody is still watching. The drama that comes out of our league, whether on the court or off, that's why people watch. When the league started last year, we had nine teams that had the look [of an NCAA Tournament team]. This year, we've got maybe four or five in October. So if you're a team that doesn't have the look then, you feel as if there are spots to get. Last year, if you weren't one of the nine, you're thinking on Jan. 5, "Geez, I hope we can get to the NIT."

Why is the league so unstable?

MB: I think that, other than Syracuse, the margin for everyone is really thin. It's really fragile. We've got new faces playing key roles and it's about handling success or handling not playing well. Guys don't know how to do that. I think that's why we see the roller coaster. But it's great for the league.

Look at our repeat opponents. We did the straw poll in June. No one knew Andre Drummond was going to show up at Connecticut. We repeat with them. We repeat with Rutgers and West Virginia. If I told you in July that West Virginia would be tougher than Pitt, you would have said, "Shut up, Mike." If I would have told you Rutgers would have been tougher than Villanova, you would have said, "Shut up, Mike."

That's why it's such a roller coaster. The straw poll, what's expected, is upside down.

Hear It From a Student - Legendary Night

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From the moment I walked into the student section of the Joyce Center last Saturday night, I knew there was a chance I'd see history. There was an electric feeling in the air as the video screen showed clips of previous No. 1 teams that had fallen to the Fighting Irish. Once the game actually tipped off and the Irish quickly jumped out to an early 11-2 lead, the atmosphere became even more intense. Something magical was in the air.

Saturday's game was a showcase for the perseverance and resiliency of this Notre Dame team. Many declared the Irish season over when tri-captain and starting forward Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season to an ACL injury. But the team kept fighting back, and refused to admit defeat in the face of immense obstacles. New faces like Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton emerged as key contributors, while captains Eric Atkins and Scott Martin kept the team focused on their mission. The result has been a team that refuses to give in to any opponent.

This team is not defined by a single superstar, but by a group of players who understand each other and care more about winning than their individual numbers. On any given night, any one of several players is capable of rising to the challenge of leading his team to victory. Saturday night, forward Jack Cooley did just that. His 17 points and 10 rebounds were crucial against a tough Syracuse team, and he came up big in important moments. His powerful slam dunk in transition with just over five minutes left to play in the game was the signature moment in a signature win.

Getting to witness such an incredible game and such an amazing effort from the Irish players was something I will never forget. When I ran with the rest of the students to storm the court, I got caught up with everyone else in the emotion of the moment. I couldn't think about how impressive of a win this was, how incredible Notre Dame's dominance when playing at home in Purcell Pavilion has been, or how this win would help our chances of making the NCAA tournament. All I could do was revel in the moment. And I know that those minutes we spent on the court, chanting "We are ND" and singing the Alma Mater together as one student body, will stay with me forever.

They say Notre Dame is a place where legends live. On Saturday night, another legend was born.

- Tom McGuire ('14)

Student. Athlete. Irish.

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What Fueled the Fire?

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Men's hoops head coach Mike Brey played this video - courtesy of @AlDogg44 - for his squad the night before it toppled No. 1 Syracuse. There will be a few more highlights on it the next time Notre Dame faces a top-ranked squad.

Deep Thoughts

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When is someone going to create a Jack Nolan soundboard?

Is Jack Cooley a shorter but more fleet-footed Arvydas Sabonis?

Has any coach in American gotten more out of his team than Mike Brey?

What happened to the referee (middle right of screen) after the 3:35 mark?

That had to be a record for the fastest floor storm in Joyce Center history, right?

Love of the Irish Drives Volunteers

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ESPNW.com - The troops are suited up in lime-green aprons, their names embroidered in blue script over the Fighting Irish logo, making it all the easier to complete a mission that on this day includes selling programs, handing out pompoms and posters and, as usual, greeting 9,000-plus patrons as if they are close friends and relatives streaming through their own front doors.

Their leader is a 70-year-old, no-nonsense former nun named Patricia McAdams, who is stationed at Gate 10 of the Purcell Pavilion inside Notre Dame's Joyce Center and manages this group of about 50 mostly female, mostly senior volunteers that serve as the heart of one of the top-ranked and most highly supported women's basketball programs in the country.

It is this core unit, with hugs and smiles for seemingly every fan who streams by, that transforms Notre Dame's home court on this Saturday before a clash with No. 2 Connecticut, and before every home contest, into a green-filled mass of organized hysteria, making it one of the toughest places for opposing teams to play.

They are a family, they say, drawn together by their shared love of Notre Dame basketball and a desire to see the women's program, the NCAA runner-up last season, and women's sports prosper.

One volunteer, Mary Jane Goodwin, is 94 and pauses in her duties passing out posters to say she played basketball, softball and volleyball as a girl. "Of course, it was hardly anything back then," she said. "I wish I was young, playing today. I'd love to get out there."

Goodwin, who has her fingernails painted green, says she was drawn to today's game because her granddaughter played basketball at Sienna College and because, while nursing her husband who was weakened by a heart condition for 16 years, the two religiously listened to Notre Dame women's games on radio.

After her husband passed away, Goodwin attended games in person and was invited to volunteer with her sister, Marguerite Krueger, who died recently.

"I just love [Muffet] McGraw," Goodwin said of Notre Dame's head coach. "And what a pleasure it is for me to do this for the girls. I feel like I'm part of the program."

David Woods remembers the days when attendance was sparse. He was new to South Bend. A retired colonel, he accepted the post of Notre Dame's ROTC Air Force commander in 1985. Woods and his wife, Eileen, met McGraw and her husband, Matt, when Muffet accepted the Notre Dame women's job and the couple moved two doors down in '87.

"As we got to know Muffet, she let us know that they needed some help in getting fans to come out, and so Eileen and I started to talk it up amongst all our friends," Woods said.

When Woods tried to get out promotional information, he found he was up against a South Bend business community already committed to Notre Dame's men's programs. But he also discovered there was an available niche for the women.

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8:54 pm, Irish 72-44, Final: A dominant, dominant second half performance by the Fighting Irish. They outscore Tennessee 44-26 and cruise to a 28-point victory. Notre Dame improves to 20-1 on the season and the Irish have now won 17 straight games, including six consecutive against ranked teams. It's also their second victory in a row over Pat Summitt's Lady Vols, the team they knocked off in last year's NCAA Tournament Dayton Regional final.

Skylar Diggins finishes with 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, while Kayla McBride scores 17 and Devereaux Peters adds 16. More importantly for Peters, she pulled down 16 rebounds to help the Irish tally a 44-35 advantage on the boards.

The Irish shot 50.8% from the floor, compared with Tennessee's mere 27.9% performance. It wasn't a pretty start for either team, but in the second half, Notre Dame simply dominated the #9 team in the country on national television.

After the game and her radio interview, dozens of fans waited around to take pictures and get autographs from Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, the 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year, and one of the all-time greats among American coaches, in any sport.

With upcoming games at St. John's (Saturday) and #11 Rutgers (Tuesday), Notre Dame will not be returning to Purcell Pavilion until Feb. 5 against DePaul. There's a lot of basketball left to be played, but at this point, it looks like few teams will be able slow down the Irish this season.

It was a perfect basketball weekend in South Bend. In front of three sold-out crowds, the Irish women won a pair of games, while the men knocked off the nation's top-ranked team. It will be more than a week and a half before either team returns to the home floor, but hopefully each can use the momentum from this weekend as they hit the road for some key BIG EAST contests.

8:52 pm, Irish 72-42, 1:05 2nd half: Diggins exits the game to a huge ovation. She finishes with 27 points, including 5-for-7 from 3-pt range. Also adds 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

8:46 pm, Irish 68-40, 3:28 2nd half: Peters makes a great dish from the wing to Diggins inside for another basket, before Sky returns the favor in transition. A couple of great, great plays and the lead is at 28 for Notre Dame. It doesn't top Saturday night (How could it?), but tonight is one of the best atmospheres I've seen at Purcell.

8:41 pm, Irish 64-40, 5:01 2nd half: Natalie Achonwa gets a nice rebound and put-back layup off Novosel's in-and-out three, before another Diggins layup in transition. Two more layups, one each from Achonwa and McBride and this game is all but over. An 8-0 run gives Notre Dame a 24-point lead and Purcell is on fire now. Tennessee calls a timeout. Fans are loving this second half showing from the Irish.

8:36 pm, Irish 56-37, 7:15 2nd half: Tennessee cuts the deficit to 14 with a pair of free throws from Isabelle Harrison and a put-back layup from Vicki Baugh. The Irish respond shortly later with a great steal and lead pass from McBride to Diggins for a fastbreak layup. On the next possession, the Lady Vols commit a foul and McBride heads to the line for a one-and-one, where she converts both free throws. Tennesee's Cierra Burdick hits a jumper from the corner, before Diggins hits yet another three, her fifth of the game.

We're at the under-8 media timeout, and it's starting to look like a 17th straight win and 20th of the season for Coach McGraw's team.

Following Flynt - Irish Aim for Win #20

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In 25+ seasons with Notre Dame, head coach Muffett McGraw has won more than 73% of her games. So it should not come as a surprise that there aren't too many teams who have had the Irish's number.

One of these rare exceptions comes in tonight's opponent, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Led by Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, Tennessee has won eight national titles and until last season, held a 20-0 series advantage against Notre Dame.

On Mar. 28, 2011, the Lady Vols and Fighting Irish met in the Dayton Region championship game and Coach McGraw's team finally broke through with its first win over Tennessee, 73-59. Skylar Diggins scored 24 points, Natalie Novosel added 17 and Notre Dame celebrated its first trip to the Final Four since 2001.

This season, the second-ranked Irish (19-1) have not lost since Nov. 20, when they fell 94-81 at Baylor, a team currently unbeaten and #1 in the country. During its impressive 16-game winning streak, Notre Dame has defeated five ranked opponents - Duke, Purdue, Kentucky, Connecticut and Georgetown.

In less than seven hours, Notre Dame puts that winning streak on the line and looks for its second consecutive win against Tennessee in a sold-out, nationally televised matchup at Purcell Pavilion. The game begins at 7 pm ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2. Catch the radio call on UND.com or locally on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and follow the live blog right here at Irish UNDerground. Though the calendar says Monday, tonight should be an exciting conclusion to a wild sports weekend in South Bend.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Following Flynt - Incredible.

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The magic at Purcell continues. Syracuse joins the list with North Carolina, DePaul, Marquette, San Francisco and UCLA. For the sixth consecutive time, and first in nearly 25 years, a #1 team arrives at the Purcell Pavilion and leaves with a loss.

Jumping out to an early 11-2 advantage, the Fighting Irish led from the beginning and never looked back. Tonight's win is the eighth in program history over an opponent ranked first in the Associated Press Poll.

The last win came on Feb. 1, 1987, when the top ranked North Carolina Tar Heels visited South Bend and lost to Digger Phelps Irish team, 60-58. But enough with stats and history...

As a student, I was fortunate to see several exciting games, but I've never seen anything like what we were privileged to witness tonight. From the opening tip-off, the faithful Leprechaun Legion treated every Irish basket like it was a game-winning buzzer beater. And it was Jack Cooley's two-handed slam in the second half that seemed to provide the assurance that on this evening, South Bend was destined to be Upset City.

Tonight, was a perfect example of the beauty of sports and how anything can happen on any given night. The 2011-12 Notre Dame men's basketball team proved that it can play with the best of them.

Overall, just an incredible night for the team, fans and students. I have no doubt that Jan. 21, 2012 is a night that will be talked about when the current classes of students celebrate their respective 30- or 40-year Notre Dame reunions.

We'll have plenty of coverage coming later on UND.com and I will have more thoughts later this weekend on Notre Dame's upset at Purcell (right now, I'm honestly still trying to process/soak in what happened). Keep an eye out for the latest Irish Connection, which is sure to feature some more great footage from the post-game scene on the court, but for now, I'll leave you with this video...

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. Syracuse

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Notre Dame continues BIG EAST Conference action tonight at Purcell Pavilion when it takes on #1 Syracuse at 6:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Live Blog: Irish, Wolverines Clash at Compton

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10:02 pm, 3-0 Notre Dame (Final): It's official. This one's in the books. Notre Dame bounces back after a tough weekend against Western Michigan with a nice 3-1 victory over the rival Michigan Wolverines. I will be covering the Irish men's basketball team as they seek to knock off #1 Syracuse, but it should be another exciting one at CFIA tomorrow night. Check out the video above for a look at the students' reaction to Maday's empty-netter in the closing seconds and tune in to Real Country 99.9 FM or CBS Sports Network at 7:35 pm ET tomorrow as the Irish go for the sweep.

10:00 pm: Lots of chances for Michigan down in Notre Dame's zone, but the puck gets knocked down to the other end, and Billy Maday puts in an empty-netter to seal the victory and send Compton into a frenzy!

9:55 pm: Nice save from Irish goalie Steven Summerhays to preserve the lead. 1:41 remaining in the game.

9:53 pm: Avicii's "Levels" gets the students going with 3:15 to play. Leprechaun Mike George is right in the middle of the whiteout student section, just one row in front of "Greenman."

9:50 pm: Jeff Costello with a great opportunity to make it 3-1 Irish, but Hunwick makes a nice save for Michigan with just over four minutes to play.

9:45 pm: Just 7:21 left here and Notre Dame still has a 2-1 lead. Also leading in shots on goal, 30-27. Mike Collins announces a sell-out crowd of 5,022, which ticket-wise, it may have been, but there are a few empty seats. I've got to believe the storm and the opportunity to watch the game on NBC Sports Network from the comfort of home, kept some fans from coming tonight.

9:42 pm: Nice job by the Irish to kill Michigan's power play and return to full strength. Less than 11 minutes to play...

9:34 pm: With 15:30 remaining, the Wolverines get a power play goal from Greg Pateryn, and suddenly it's a one-score game. Of course, it wouldn't be Notre Dame vs. Michigan if it didn't come down to the wire.

9:32 pm: Notre Dame with the puck in the Michigan zone, but seconds later, Mike Voran is whistled for tripping and now it's Michigan on the power play.

9:28 pm: And we're off...the final period is underway and the Irish control the puck.

9:12 pm, 2-0 Notre Dame (End 2nd): The Irish still hold a 2-0 advantage over the Wolverines, but we should probably expect nothing less than an exciting final period at Compton. Michigan has had its share of opportunities, outshooting Notre Dame 18-14 in the second. We'll see if the physicality picks back up again. After 11 penalties in the first period, there was just one in second.

9:06 pm: Finally spotted...a Notre Dame student dressed as "Greenman" from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame. I knew it was a matter of time before seeing this. Pretty sure there is at least one at every hockey game, college and professional. See if you can find him below:

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9:01 pm: Great moment at CFIA, as two military veterans, including one from World War II, are recognized by announcer Mike Collins. Crowd gives them a standing ovation, and Toby's tune, one of the most patriotic of all country songs, comes back on the Compton speakers.

8:57 pm: Heard a few words from Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue" over the Compton speakers, but it was quickly skipped for some AC/DC.

8:54 pm: Irish with a couple of great opportunities, but unable to capitalize...before Sean Lorenz connects on a rebound to give the Irish a 2-0 lead. Like Calabrese earlier in the evening, it's Lorenz's third goal of the season. Tynan picks up his second assist of the night. Calabrese also earns an assist on the play.

8:46 pm: Looked like ND snuck a goal in for a 2-0 lead, but the whistle had already blown after a save from Michigan's Shawn Hunwick.

8:44 pm: With 14:28 remaining in the second, Irish still hold a 1-0 advantage over the Wolverines. Notre Dame also leads in shots on goal, 13-10.

8:35 pm: Just about time for the second period. T.I.'s "Bring 'Em Out" welcomes the Irish back to the ice. Ah, high school.

8:26 pm: Nice use of the video board to show one of the recent "What Would You Fight For?" commercials that the university produces. This one, on concussions, is especially relevant to hockey. Check it out here.

8:20 pm, 1-0 Notre Dame (End 1st): The first period ends with three Wolverines in the penalty box. As expected, we've got a physical game here at CFIA. Don't expect that to change in the final two periods.

8:15 pm: And if that wasn't enough, here we go again... No additional penalties, but some more quarreling. It's safe to say this isn't a friendly rivalry.

8:14 pm: It's cold outside, but things are heating up in CFIA. Some extracurricular activity, and we now have three players in the penalty boxes. Two for Michigan and one for ND.

8:07 pm: After a short review, the officiating crew confirms it! Sam Calabrese gives Notre Dame a 1-0 lead with 4:21 remaining in the 1st. The assist goes to T.J. Tynan and it's Calabrese's third goal of the season.

8:02 pm: One of the big differences with hockey, as opposed to Notre Dame's other main spectator sports, basketball and football, is how close the students are to the action. Being right against the glass, it's as if they're right there with the team on the ice. Irish with a big hit into the boards down by the student section to get the crowd going.

7:56 pm: Just over nine minutes remaining in the 1st period. Still scoreless here at CFIA. This is my first game here, and only second time in the building. Though I have no basis of comparison, it truly is an incredible venue and I've got to believe it's one of, if not the best in college hockey.

7:49 pm: Five minutes in, and each team has had a power play, but neither has capitalized on the advantage. Irish lead in shots on goal, 4-2, and will have another power play coming up.

7:36 pm: Collins introduces the Irish starting lineup. Similar to basketball, our players are introduced not only with their hometowns, but also their residence halls. I've always enjoyed this because dorms are such a significant part of life at Notre Dame and a student's experience at this university can be defined by what hall he or she ends up living in.

It's pretty crazy, considering students are randomly assigned as if they're first-years at Hogwarts (Though I've got to believe more strategy goes into it, for both the Sorting Hat and our Office of Residence Life & Housing).

7:35 pm: Now playing on the videoboard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh2xzxN5MhE

7:34 pm: Mike Collins welcomes fans to CFIA. His voice will always remind me of Notre Dame Stadium... 231 days until the home opener....

7:32 pm: Dim the lights...we're almost ready to go.

7:22 pm: The Michigan-Notre Dame football series is one of the greatest in all of college sports. Though football season is 224 days away (but who's counting?), Irish fans get a double dose of the rivalry this weekend - on the ice at Compton Family Ice Arena. With several inches of snow expected over the next couple of days, it's a whiteout in South Bend. But the whiteout is also here at CFIA. With students handing out shirts at the entrance, the sold-out crowd will be also be decked out in one color. The puck is set to drop in less than 15 minutes and we should be in for a good one here.

Stay tuned to UNDerground for more throughout the game, and if you're in the warmth of your home, check out the game on NBC Sports Network (the old Versus for those of you still catching up).

Knocking Off #1

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One Great Goal, Two Memorable Calls

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On Friday and Saturday night, the Notre Dame hockey team will host Michigan for a weekend series at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Both games begin at 7:35 pm ET and can be heard on Real Country 99.9 FM. On television, Friday's game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network, while you can tune into the CBS Sports Network on Saturday.

At the 2008 Frozen Four semifinal in Denver, Notre Dame upset the top-ranked Wolverines, 5-4 in overtime on a goal by left winger Calle Ridderwall. Here are the two calls from Notre Dame's thrilling win. First, from ESPN's Gary Thorne, and below, from the late Mike Lockert, the former radio voice of the Fighting Irish hockey team. Which is your favorite?

Following Flynt - History On Their Side

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On Saturday, the Syracuse Orange will pay a visit to South Bend for a 6 p.m. nationally-televised game against the Fighting Irish men's basketball team. After playing a few home games during the semester break, the students have returned and the "Leprechaun Legion" will be back in action at the Purcell Pavilion.

Growing up near Albany, N.Y., I always rooted for two college basketball teams - the Siena Saints, a local Catholic program occasionally making headlines in March, and the Syracuse Orange, the region's true hoops powerhouse.

When it came to football, I was "gold and blue, through and through" long before I was a student here, but the Irish basketball team simply did not receive the same type of coverage on the east coast, and the Orange were the team I cheered for.

Flash forward to Jan. 2012, and my basketball year would be complete if Notre Dame can pull off an upset versus head coach Jim Boeheim's top-ranked squad on Saturday night.

At 7-0 in the BIG EAST and 20-0 overall, the Orange are off to their best start in program history and look poised to make a run deep into March (or maybe even early April for the Final Four in New Orleans).

But as several other #1 teams have learned over the past few decades, beating Notre Dame on its home court is no easy task.

Notre Dame's most notable victory over a #1 team came 38 years ago today, on Jan. 19, 1974, when the second-ranked Irish ended UCLA's historic NCAA-record 88-game winning streak. Interestingly enough, it was Notre Dame who had last defeated the Bruins, nearly three years earlier on Jan. 23, 1971.

Other top-ranked opponents to fall at the Purcell Pavilion (Joyce Center) include San Francisco (1977), Marquette (1978), DePaul (1980) and most recently, North Carolina (1987).

The Irish also defeated #1 Virginia on Feb. 22, 1981 at Rosemont Horizon in Chicago.

Notre Dame has played 30 games against opponents ranked first in the Associated Press Poll since the 1951-52 season, and the Fighting Irish have compiled a 7-23 record during that time (They are 9-23 if you count the 1954 and 1981 victories over Indiana and Kentucky, respectively, teams that were #1 in the Coaches Poll, but not the AP).

Though the .233 winning percentage is nothing to write home about, Notre Dame has fared well in the Purcell Pavilion, where it has won its last five contests against top-ranked teams. That last home loss was in 1973, when John Wooden's Bruins won in the midst of their unprecedented streak.

Since the victory over UNC on Feb. 1, 1987, the Irish have lost to five #1 teams, but all of these games were played away from the comforts of campus. Knocking off Syracuse on Saturday will be no easy task, but if the Fighting Irish are to come through with their biggest win in quite some time, they only need to look at their history of playing on the big stage in the Purcell Pavilion.

Other statistics about Notre Dame vs. #1 AP teams:
10: Number of games against UCLA
6: Number of games against Kentucky
4: Number of games each against Indiana & Duke
5-8: Ranked record
2-15: Unranked record
0-10: Away record
6-3: Home record
1-10: Neutral site record
2-5: January record

- Josh Flynt ('11)

The New Lou (Part II)

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6_160670.jpg ND.edu - (Editor's note) When the Brian Kelly era began two years ago, it got Ted Mandell ('86), Notre Dame professor of Film, Television and Theatre, thinking. The more he thought about Notre Dame's 29th head football coach, the more he thought he saw the second coming of Lou Holtz. Now, last week's announcement that Kelly had been offered and had accepted a two-year extension of his contract through the 2016 season has triggered another Mandell epiphany.

I saw that BK got a two year extension, and I thought, Hmmm, after two seasons is he still the New Lou?

Well, let's see ... Brian Kelly has the exact same record after 26 games as Lou Holtz (16-10).

At the conclusion of Holtz's second season (1987), the greatest receiver in ND history (Tim Brown) finished his ND career on the sideline during the fourth quarter of a bowl game loss against a top defensive foe.

At the conclusion of Kelly's second season (2011), the greatest receiver in ND history (Michael Floyd) finished his ND career on the sideline during the fourth quarter of a bowl game loss against a top defensive foe.

Timothy Brown and Michael Floyd both have exactly 12 letters in their names.

Louis Holtz and Brian Kelly both have exactly 10 letters in their names.

After two years, Holtz replaced his defensive coordinator with a position coach on staff and hired a new offensive line coach.

After two years, Kelly replaced his offensive coordinator with a position coach on staff and hired a new offensive line coach.

Notre Dame finished the 1987 season 8-4.

Notre Dame finished the 2011 regular season 8-4.

In 1987, Notre Dame beat #17 Michigan State 31-8, highlighted by two kick returns for touchdowns by Tim Brown, future Oakland Raider.

In 2011, Notre Dame beat #15 Michigan State 31-13, highlighted by a kick return for a touchdown by George Atkinson III, son of a former Oakland Raider.

In 1987, Notre Dame beat Navy 56-13.

In 2011, Notre Dame beat Navy 56-14.

In 1986 and 1987, Notre Dame had 10 losses by a total of 90 points.

In 2010 and 2011, Notre Dame had 10 losses by a total of 88 points.

In 1987, Bon Jovi's "Livin on a Prayer" spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Charts.

In 2011, Jon Bon Jovi spent two minutes on the field at Notre Dame Stadium as the ND Band played "Livin on a Prayer."

The live recording of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" was first released in 1987.

The studio recording of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" was first played live inside Notre Dame Stadium in 2011.

And just in case you're wondering for season three ...

In 1988, Notre Dame defeated four teams ranked in the Coaches' Poll Top 10.

In 2012, Notre Dame plays four teams ranked in ESPN.com's preseason Top 11.

Meet the New Lou ... same as the Old Lou.

Irish Connection - Episode 33

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A crutch, a Skip, a bus and a pond.

Q&A With Tim Brown

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NCAA.com - Tim Brown, the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, set two single-game, nine single-season and eight career records during his time at Notre Dame and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection was drafted sixth overall in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles (Oakland) Raiders. Brown serves as the national chairman and spokesperson for Athletes and Entertainers for Kids and 9-1-1 For Kids. Each year, Brown hosts the Tim Brown Charity Golf Classic to benefit 9-1-1 For Kids, and the Mentor Mini Camp at the Raiders' headquarters for fatherless boys.

The Silver Anniversary Award honors former student-athletes and distinguished individuals are recognized on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletics careers. Brown and fellow recipients Doris Burke, Kevin Johnson, Sean Payton, Amy Perko and David Robinson were honored Jan. 13, 2012, during the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.

Q: What would you say was your top academic achievement at Notre Dame?

Brown: ...The one thing I love about Notre Dame is the fact that we didn't stay in the athletic dorms, we lived with the other students. I have to tell you I learned more from the students there.

One of my best friends ended up being a kid from China, Tony Lee. We are still best of friends today. I don't think I would have gotten that anywhere else...There was only one other athlete in the whole dorm that I was living in so I think from that standpoint, yes, we talk about the education and what a great academic school, but for me what I took away from it was all the different relationships from people all over the world literally. I'm just so thankful that I had that experience.

Q: What was life like on campus for you as a student-athlete?

Brown: ...We were literally student-athletes there. We were required to sit in the front rows of classes. There was never a situation where it was okay for us not to go to class or it was okay if we did [bad] on tests or anything of that nature. Your freshman year you were required to get tutoring; after that it's if you need it. After my freshman year I didn't need any more tutoring by the time we finished practicing.

We had no special anything there besides a training table and they had to feed us, right? Everyone was already done with dinner by the time we finished practicing. Besides that we really had nothing on campus that set us aside and the great thing about that is you don't walk out of there thinking somebody owes you something, or looking for somebody to give you something. Everything that you earn in life, you are going to earn in life. That's what they teach you there. When something goes wrong, you can't go pointing fingers at other people. It's all about you.

Q: While you were at Notre Dame how you did find a balance between sports, your studies and community involvement?

Brown: It's just a part of the atmosphere; it's how it is...When I won the Heisman I can remember Jim Nantz interviewing me and he asked some questions. He said, "A lot of people think that because you went to the University of Notre Dame, it helped you get to this position of possibly winning the Heisman Trophy." [They were interviewing the candidates before.] I said to him, "Jim, I didn't go to the University of Notre Dame to win the Heisman Trophy. I went there to get a great education; if it helps me win the Heisman Trophy than that is just icing on top of the cake for me."

Q: What expectations does Notre Dame hold for student-athletes?

Brown: If you are student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame, you are expected to do great things. Not good things, you are expected to do great things. You go to that university because you have all these contacts and all these things that are accessible to you and it's up to you to utilize them in the proper way. The great thing about what the university does, it doesn't put you in a position where you are going to walk away from that place used to people handing you stuff...

Q: Why is giving back important to you?

Brown: You're in a position for a reason...God put you in a position for a reason and you have to give back. I was on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1996 for athletes and celebrities who had given back. Not for how many touchdowns I've caught, not for the Heisman Trophy, but for celebrities who are doing philanthropic work. I told her, and it's what I say all the time, "At the end of the day I sleep a lot better at night because I know I tried to change somebody's life in a very positive way."

Q: How did you get involved with Athletes and Entertainers for Kids?

Brown: ...I went to a miniature golf tournament for at-risk kids in Southern California and that was it. That was 1992. I took over the next year in '93. We did a couple of miniature golf tournaments and then for the last 18 years we've done [we still count the miniature golf tournaments], but we've done a full golf tournament for 18 years. We expanded from that to 9-1-1 Kids, teaching kids proper use of 911. Then we expanded from that to the Tim Brown Mentor Mini Camp and that's really my baby. The Mentor Mini Camp. That's the one event that I have opportunity to [I have 150 to 175 fatherless boys out there] and I get a chance to really put my hands on them, rub 'em on the head, shoot 'em a couple of elbows and let them know somebody cares for them. It's only one day. I understand that, but we try and hook them up with mentor dads in hopes that those mentor dads will keep in touch with these kids. That's a program that I can't wait for every year because that's the one that, like I said, I really, really feel good about.


Wild Weekend

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For those who will be around Notre Dame this weekend, prepare for the craziness that's about to hit campus. Over a 48-hour period from Friday through Sunday evening, there are eleven varsity athletic events scheduled at the university.

Here's a quick look at the schedule:

Friday:
Men's Tennis vs. William & Mary at 6 p.m.
Hockey vs. #15 Michigan at 7:35 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Saturday:
Indoor Track Notre Dame Invitational at 10 a.m.
Women's Basketball vs. Villanova at 1 p.m. (UND.com)
Women's Tennis vs. Cincinnati at 1 p.m.
Women's Swimming vs. Michigan State at 2 p.m.
Men's Swimming vs. Michigan State at 2 p.m.
Men's Basketball vs. #1 Syracuse at 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Hockey vs. #15 Michigan at 7:35 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Sunday:
Women's Tennis vs. Missouri at 11 a.m.
Women's Tennis vs. IPFW at 5 p.m.

There won't be any tailgating, Knights of Columbus steak sandwiches or team walk to the stadium, but the amount of traffic on campus might make it feel more like a football Saturday than a mid-winter weekend.

Tumultuous Journey Leads Coach to Notre Dame

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It should also be noted that Janusz Bednarski is a great interview. He also has one of the most jaw-dropping offices in the Joyce Center. Hardware for days. - @NDsidJorge


The Observer - During the late seventies Irish coach Janusz Bednarski was an economics professor at the SGPiS Business College in Warsaw in his home country of Poland, a state at that time controlled by the Soviet Union. Frustrated by the economic environment of Poland, Bednarski decided to switch teaching to physical education and coaching.

"At that time there was no market for me to continue my work," Bednarski said. "So I switched."

The decision has worked out well for Bedarski and has brought him across the globe to teach his craft. Over forty years later, Bednarski is 4,000 miles from his home and the coach of the defending national champion Irish, as well as the 2010-2011 NCAA coach of the year. The United States Fencing Coaches Association honored Bednarski with their highest award Monday.

Bednarski first came to the United States after leading Poland's national team for ten years until 1988, when he left to take a post at a private fencing club near Colorado Springs. Bednarski worked with many of the top American Olympic fencers, eventually ascending to head coach of the American Olympic team in 1993. Just two years later, he would find himself in South Bend.

"It was almost kind of an accident that I ended up at Notre Dame," Bednarski said. "I was running Poland's national team, which was one of the tops in the world at the time. Then I came to the United States, but I was looking for a chance to work at a university. I sort of fell into this job. I was attracted to the athletic tradition, academic standards and the Catholic tradition of this place."

Since his arrival, Bednarksi has guided the Irish fencing program to three national championships in 2003, 2005 and 2011 and has overseen Notre Dame fencers who have gone on to thrive in international competition.

To junior James Kaull, Bednarski's success stems from his precision and organization.

"He's a fantastic organizer," Kaull said. "We're always where we're supposed to be all the time. There's never any confusion."

The ability to run a program that includes over 50 athletes is a strongpoint of Bednarski's that compliments his technical knowledge and expertise.

"He's great with our individual lessons and techniques," Kaull said. "He just really likes teaching the sport and helping people."

The recognition from the USFCA is the first of Bednarski's career, although he did garner the association's Midwest Coach of the Year award in 1997 and 1998.

"The honor is as much mine as it is all those who worked with this program and me," Bednarski said.

In that vein, in just a week a new member of the Irish coaching staff will be introduced. Cedric Loiseau will become the new epeƩ coach, a position that has been vacant for most of the year and has been held in part by Kaull.

"Loiseau came and led a practice over break," Kaull said. "We're really excited to have him here. He really knows what he's doing."

Bednarski believes Loiseau's addition to his staff will allow the Irish to flourish for years to come.

One Special Relationship

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One of the most overdue features in all of women's college basketball? Al Lesar takes a look into the rabid Notre Dame hoops fanbase. Lime green t-shirts available at the door.

Hat tip to the fans who braved the (almost) apocalyptic snow storm of January 2011 to watch Notre Dame face Connecticut. Big nod to those who show up two hours before each home game to secure a good parking spot in the Joyce Center lot.


South Bend Tribune - Who are these people? Most have already lived a long life. They appreciate hard work.

Character's important; old-fashioned values.

And their basketball? They like it hard-nosed and fundamentally sound.

Notre Dame women's basketball fans are a unique bunch.

They're grandparents who have adopted 12 young 'uns. They're young kids who look forward to watching a dozen "big sisters" work their magic.

Student support is minimal. The band is nice.

This team, though, belongs to the Michiana community -- 7,500 season-ticket holders strong in an arena that seats 9,149.

Affordable tickets (17 home games for $70), a great product (the second-ranked Irish are 18-1) and some very likeable players make for plenty of reasons to follow the Irish.

They wear their (coach Muffet) "McGraw (lime) green" shirts and swear their girls can do no wrong.

"The UConn game (a couple weeks ago) was great," said Rachael Lynn of Granger. "When Notre Dame was behind, (her 6-year-old son) Aiden said, 'We're losing. We never lose.'"

Such is the mentality of the typical card-carrying, T-shirt wearing Notre Dame women's basketball fan.

Blame Stephanie Menio for the phenomenon. She can get over 8,500 people into Purcell Pavilion on a snowy night in January to watch a 76-point blowout.

Now, that takes some work.

The 29-year-old Menio, in her seventh year of drumming up business for Irish women's basketball, has the process down to a science. No checklist. No scribbled notes. She has a legion of volunteers, mostly those keeping busy in their retirement years, who do the legwork and help things run smoothly.

Entertain the crowd. Give back to the community. Enhance the players' experience.

"The fans know (sophomore) Kayla McBride is a great player," Menio said, giving an example of her mission. "What we want them to know is that she's a great person."

Autograph sessions after every game. Personal appearances in the community. An impromptu surprise team drop-in to a bowling league in which several longtime fans are involved. Anything to show there are some really special young women on the roster.

"We love 'em all," said Betty Bennett of Lakeville.

Her button, with a photo of Devereaux Peters and Whitney Holloway, gives away her allegiance. She sits in the "Dev & Whit" section of the arena, behind the west basket. Those folks are loyal to their ladies, you know.

"I've followed 'Sky' for the last seven years," Donna McCullough of South Bend said of Irish All-American Skylar Diggins. "I came here a Skylar fan, now I'm a Notre Dame fan. I'll be back even after Skylar's done."

"Skylar opened a lot of doors on the West Side of South Bend," Menio said of the Washington High grad. "Those same people have come around and adopted the whole team."

Everybody has their reason for being part of the fun game-day atmosphere. Abby Lynn, 9, of Granger, figures out ways to get on the JumboTron by busting a new move during the "dance cam" segment. Her dad, Hugh, likes the Irish style of play.

"I like to see what kind of abuse Brittany (Mallory) is going to dish out," Hugh said of Notre Dame's rough-and-tumble fifth-year senior.

Frank Smith of South Bend enjoys the purity of the women's game.

"I love the way they play. I'm a big fan," Smith said. "It takes me back to a time in basketball when everybody wasn't 8-feet tall."

McGraw's got a handle on the basketball side of the operation. The win over UConn will go a long way toward a No. 1 seed come tournament time.

Every home game is proof that, given the right set of circumstances and the proper chemistry, the community can come together for a common cause. It's an electric atmosphere. A strange melting pot of personalities and backgrounds - age 70 or 7 - takes ownership in a collection of a dozen quality young women.

That's who those people are.

They all have a stake in the Irish

Live Blog - Irish Return Home Against Pitt

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8:37 pm, Irish 120-44, Final: An absolutely dominant game for the Irish and a 76-point victory tonight at the Purcell Pavilion. The 120-point night was the second highest scoring performance of the season for Notre Dame, topped only by the 128-point day at Mercer. A great night for the fans who exited the arena to the sounds of "The Blood of Cu Chulainn," better know as the awesome and ubiquitous-on-the-Notre-Dame-campus theme song from Boondock Saints.

The Irish ladies will have a few days to practice and get back into the swing of the academic semester before taking on Villanova on Saturday at home. The game begins at 1 pm ET and you can catch it live on UND.com. With hockey, men's basketball, track & field, men's and women's swimming and women's tennis all at home, it will be a very busy weekend on campus.

8:29 pm, Irish 107-41, 3:53 2nd half: At the final media timeout, the Irish are up by 66 points. A few impressive stats for Notre Dame: 29 assists, 39 points off turnovers, 22 second chance points, 41 bench points, 62 points in the paint and 7 players in double-figures. An all-around dominant performance tonight at the Purcell Pavilion.

8:24 pm, Irish 100-37, 7:22 2nd half: 100! A midrange jumper from Kaila Turner gives the Irish 100 points for the second time this season.

8:22 pm, Irish 98-37, 7:49 2nd half: At this point, it's only a question of "by how much." Notre Dame is cruising to its 18th win over the season and a 6-0 start to the BIG EAST schedule. Six players have scored in double-figures.

8:15 pm, Irish 88-34, 10:39 2nd half: The BIG MAC basket! Thanks to Fraderica Miller's layup, everyone in attendance gets a Big Mac. With more than 10 minutes to play, it looks like the Irish will have no problem eclipsing the 100-point mark this evening.

8:13 pm, Irish 83-34, 11:33 2nd half: Freshman Markisha Wright makes a couple of nice moves down low on back-to-back possessions for Notre Dame. The Panthers are finding the basket more frequently than they did during the first half, but they've still been unable to shut down the Irish offense, and find themselves down by 49 points with 11:33 to play.

8:04 pm, Irish 70-26, 15:34 2nd half: At the first media timeout of the second half, the Irish already have 70 points, thanks to their continued hot streak from the field (62%). Peters leads with 20 points, while Novosel has 13 and Mallory and McBride have 11 apiece.

Folllowing Flynt - It's Official

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In the crazy world of college football recruiting, it's impossible to trust what you hear, read or see, until the first Wednesday in February.

Only then, do "verbal commitments" actually carry any weight, as players sign their name on the dotted line and letters start pouring into the football office.

Such is the case for most recruits, except the small percentage who decide to enroll early.

As was announced earlier today, Notre Dame has added four players to its roster for the spring semester. For those that follow recruiting, the arrival of two of these student-athletes on campus might come as little surprise. Defensive lineman Sheldon Day and defensive back Tee Shepard expressed their plans to come to Notre Dame several months ago (click their names for their YouTube high school highlight videos).

Day, who is from Indianapolis, was a second-team selection on the SI.com High School All-America team and runner-up for 2011 Indiana Mr. Football award (more on that award later).

Shepard, a Fresno, Calif. native, had to sit out his senior season after transferring high schools, but finished with 10 interceptions in his career and was rated third-best cornerback in his class by Scout.com, as well as the number-36 player nationally by MaxPreps and Tom Lemming.

On Jan. 7, the eventful day in which the Notre Dame men's and women's basketball teams, as well as the hockey team, knocked off top-10 opponents, Irish football fans also learned some big news. Running back Amir Carlisle, a freshman at USC, announced he would be trading Los Angeles for South Bend, enrolling for the spring semester along with Shepard and Day.

But the final addition to Notre Dame's roster is where the story truly gets interesting. Quarterback Gunner Kiel, a Columbus, Ind. native, had twice previously announced his college decision. First, last summer that he would join the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, and more recently, that he would be heading south for Baton Rouge, La. and the LSU Tigers.

Over the past couple of days, rumors began swirling that Kiel was not on LSU's campus when the rest of Coach Les Miles' early enrollees arrived. In 2012's ever-changing landscape of news and journalism, it was on Twitter (obviously) where the story really took off, with several recruiting sites and college football message boards tweeting that Kiel was in fact having second thoughts about his decision to join the Tigers.

When I woke up today, I saw a report from The Observer, confirming that Kiel would be enrolling at Notre Dame this week. Not to second-guess the credibility of our student newspaper, but I was skeptical of the news. My doubt had nothing to do with the fact that I'm a former Scholastic guy (Notre Dame's student magazine), but rather the reality that the only thing more unpredictable than college football recruiting is Brett Favre's retirement status.

However, upon my arrival at work this morning, it was not long before I saw the Kiel family walking around the halls of the Gug and talking to members of the football staff. Shortly later, director of football media relations Brian Hardin issued a press release on UND.com, and the news was official. It was then that Twitter really started to take off, and only then when I could share the news with the friends and family who have been just as curious as I have over the past 36 hours.

Kiel, one of the nation's top-ranked quarterback recruits, beat out his future teammate (Day) for the 2011 Indiana Mr. Football award chosen by the Indiana Football Coaches Association. He was also named the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year and he passed for 7,175 yards in his high school career.

Each of these four players brings a different skill set and unique character to the Fighting Irish and only time will tell how Shepard, Day, Carlisle and Kiel will fare during their time at Notre Dame. For better or worse, the pure craziness of Kiel's commitment to Notre Dame will make the 6-foot-4 quarterback an instant celebrity on campus, and more importantly, it adds competition to what should already be a heated quarterback race during spring practice and training camp.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Life After Hoops

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Fighting Irish Xtra

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The Counsell Rests

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counsell.jpgAP - Milwaukee Brewers infielder and former Notre Dame baseball player Craig Counsell has decided to retire and join the club's front office.

The Brewers said Tuesday that Counsell will become special assistant to General Manager Doug Melvin. Counsell is a Milwaukee native and follows his father into the Brewers' front office. John Counsell worked there from 1979-1987.

The 41-year-old Counsell completed his 15th major league season last year. His last five seasons have been spent in Milwaukee. Playing second base, shortstop and third base, Counsell compiled a .255 batting average with 218 doubles, 40 triples, 42 home runs, 647 runs and 390 RBI.

During his baseball career, Counsell played for the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Brewers.

Counsell says he's looking forward to beginning a new challenge in baseball.

30 Under 30

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weiss.jpgFormer Irish baseball player Brent Weiss ('05) recently was named to Forbes Magazine's "30 Under 30" list for field of finance. Said the magazine of the 29-year old employed at Brotman Financial: "Started off pushing paper for the $90mm firm. He passed the CFP exam in seven months and became the firm's second partner in 2011.

Weiss joined Brotman Financial Group in 2005 as an associate. Last January, Weiss became a principal of the firm. His primary role is delivering financial planning and wealth management for the firm's clients.

Weiss graduated with cum laude honors from Notre Dame in 2005 with a degree in finance and was part of the Irish squad that advanced to the NCAA Men's College World Series in 2002. Weiss started his second term as a board member of the Notre Dame Club of Maryland in June of 2010. He is the acting Monogram Club Coordinator for the Maryland Club and Region 12 of the Alumni Association, serving as a liaison between the local chapter and the University's national network of athletes.

Swimming and Blogging - Irish In Hawaii

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The women's swimming and diving team spent its early January winter training trip in Honolulu, Hawaii. The team was able to escape the cold confines of the contiguous United States and bond as a squad as it prepared for the second half of the 2011-12 season.

Tuesday, Jan. 4 - Nick Schappler ('12) - Senior Manager

After several days of intensive training, the women began their morning with an hour of yoga on Waikiki Beach. They arrived just in time to watch the sun rise over the ocean horizon. Led by team yoga instructor Steve 'Krojo' Kroniewski the team transitioned between a handful of poses including child's pose. After completing the session, the women enjoyed a team breakfast and a well-deserved afternoon away from the pool. Many team members opted for an hour of paddle boarding on Waikiki Beach. Training resumed that evening at 6:00 p.m. as the team continued to prepare for the upcoming championship season.

--

Thursday, Jan. 6 - Emma Reaney ('15) and Lauren Stauder ('14)

A group of us decided to conquer Diamondhead mountain/crater on our morning off from swimming. After yoga and breakfast, we met in the lobby of the hotel where the two of us found out that great minds really do think alike as we were both wearing the same shirt, jean shorts and blue sunglasses.

After recovering from the shock of our coincidental matching, we all caught a bus to the state park and started hiking our way up. We were entertained along the journey by Melissa Scott's hilarious stories and impeccable singing voice as well as the fabulous views from the side of the mountain.

Once we had trudged up several sets of very steep stairs and braved our way through some claustrophobia-evoking tunnels, we finally reached the summit and realized it was worth the work. The 360-degree view of the island was breathtaking and as always, there are copious amounts of posed group pictures to prove it.

After our adventure we continued our day enjoying the beach before our afternoon workout. Topping off the day, the team took a trip to Yogurtland where we stuffed our faces with delectable fro-yo.

--

The Notre Dame women's swimming and diving team returned to South Bend from Honolulu on Jan. 12 and promptly left the next day for a double-dual meet in Ann Arbor, Mich. Despite being exhausted from a busy and fulfilling two weeks, the Irish performed admirably, winning five events and earning 12 top-three finishes. Emma Reaney won three individual events and teamed for a relay victory in earning her record-setting third BIG EAST Swimmer of the Week honor.

Live Blog - Defending Champs Visit Purcell

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12:46 p.m., Huskies 67-53, Final - Tri-captain Scott Martin came up with eight points in the final two minutes for Notre Dame, but it was not nearly enough to erase the deficit for the Irish. The Huskies cruised down the second half stretch, winning 67-53 and ending Notre Dame's 29-game home winning streak.

It almost seemed like there was a lid on the hoop today. Notre Dame got plenty of good looks, but shot after shot seemed to bounce out. Some might wonder if the early tipoff got the best of Notre Dame, but Coach Brey explained after Tuesday's game that with no classes, they would practice early all week and regardless, Saturday practices are usually held in the mid-morning.

It's a rare occasion when fans leave the Purcell in disappointment. Truthfully, there is nothing particularly intimidating about the arena, at least when compared to many other environments among college basketball's elite teams. Still, the Irish tend to play very well in the comfort of their own home and losses here are few and far between.

Coach Brey's team will travel to New Jersey for a matchup with Rutgers on Monday night, before the chance to start a new home winning streak next Saturday. It should be an incredible atmosphere as currently undefeated and top-ranked Syracuse visits for a 6 p.m. tipoff. If you can't make it to the game, catch it live on ESPN or follow the action right here on Irish UNDerground.

12:37 p.m., Huskies 58-43, 2:07 second half - Coach Brey probably wishes he had five Eric Atkins for today's game. The sophomore's three-pointer gives him 20 points for the game, nearly half of Notre Dame's scoring.

12:33 p.m., Huskies 54-40, 3:16 second half - It began as a promising morning behind the arc, but the Irish, now 5-for-18 from deep, have not hit a three since midway through the first half. Tom Knight tips in a miss from Atkins, but the Huskies' respond with a three from Giffey.

Nearly three years ago, the Irish had won 45 in a row when ESPN's College GameDay visited campus. The Huskies won that game and barring some late game magic, it looks like they may break another impressive Notre Dame home winning streak here today.

12:28 p.m., Huskies 50-38, 6:15 second half - After a pair of free throws from Napier and a jumper by Niels Giffey, UConn's lead climbs to 12 and Coach Brey calls a timeout. With the way Notre Dame is shooting today, it's going to be a long road back from this deficit.

12:24 p.m., Huskies 46-38, 7:07 second half - They're letting them play this afternoon. With just over seven minutes to play, each team has only three fouls in the half. Andre Drummond responds to Notre Dame's 5-0 run with a pair of baskets to push UConn's lead back to eight. Notre Dame's band breaks into A-ha's "Take on Me" during the media timeout.

12:20 p.m., Huskies 42-38, 9:20 second half - Connaughton makes a nice move to the hope, but can't finish. Cooley comes down with the board, puts it back and draws the foul. The and-1 brings the crowd to its feet. The Irish force a turnover and a fast break layup from Atkins brings Notre Dame to within four points. UConn coach Jim Calhoun calls a timeout. Purcell is rocking now.

Timmy!

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Former Notre Dame football player and 2012 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award Honoree Tim Brown shares how his experience as a student-athlete helped developed his passion for serving others.

The Silver Anniversary Awards recognize distinguished former student-athletes on the 25th anniversary of the end of their intercollegiate athletics eligibility.

Our Trainer Has a Second Name, It's M-E-Y-E-R

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394277.jpeg On Saturday morning, the Notre Dame men's basketball team will play its 18th game of the season, fifth of the BIG EAST schedule, and fourth contest of the young year. For athletic trainer William "Skip" Meyer, this weekend's matchup with Connecticut will be a much more significant milestone - his 1,000th game with the Fighting Irish.

Meyer joined the Irish in 1979, a year when gas was 80 cents per gallon, the Pittsburgh Pirates were World Series champions and The Sugarhill Gang broke through with "Rapper's Delight," the first popular hip-hop song in the United States.

Since coming to Notre Dame, Meyer has worked with four head coaches, including Digger Phelps, John MacLeod, Matt Doherty, and current Irish head coach Mike Brey. The Fighting Irish have compiled a 609-390 record during Meyer's time as a trainer.

Here are a few more by-the-numbers statistics from Meyer's time with the Irish:

45 Consecutive Home Wins ... in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center beginning with a win over DePaul on Mar. 4, 2006 and ending with a loss to UConn on Jan. 24, 2009

29 Current Home Winning Streak ... which began with a victory over Pittsburgh on Feb. 24, 2010

21 Players who have entered the NBA ... Matt Carroll, LaPhonso Ellis, Pat Garrity, Luke Harangody, Ryan Humphrey, Tracy Jackson, Tim Kempton, Joe Kleine, Rob Kurz, Bill Laimbeer, Troy Murphy, John Paxson, Chris Quinn, David Rivers, Donald Royal, Tom Sluby, Keith Tower, Kelly Tripucka, Gary Voce, Monty Williams, Orlando Woolridge

15 NCAA Tournament Appearances

14 BIG EAST First Team All-Conference Selections ... Garrity (2x), Murphy (2x), Humphrey, Carroll, Quinn, Colin Falls, Russell Carter, Kyle McAlarney, Harangody (3x), Hansbrough

9 Consensus All-Americans ... 1st team: Murphy (2x), 2nd team: Tripucka, Paxson (2x), Garrity, Harangody (2x), Hansbrough

6 U.S. Presidents ... Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama

5 BIG EAST Conference Players of the Year ... Garrity, Murphy (2x), Harangody, Hansbrough

3 University Presidents ... Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C, Rev. Edward A. "Monk" Malloy, C.S.C., Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

3 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships ... Paxson, Garrity, Tim Andree

2 BIG EAST Conference Rookies of the Year ... Murphy, Chris Thomas

As if game No. 1000 weren't already exciting enough for Meyer, the 33-year Notre Dame veteran is a native of Torrington, Conn., located only about 60 miles from the UConn campus in Storrs.

Just one more reason an Irish victory over the Huskies would be a perfect start to what looks to be a snowy Saturday in South Bend.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Recognize Anyone?

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The accolades continue to roll in for Notre Dame freshman women's swimmer Emma Reaney, as Sports Illustrated has included her in the Jan. 16 edition of Faces In The Crowd. The weekly feature has been a part of Sports Illustrated magazine since 1956 and highlights amateur athletes around the country for their athletic feats.

Through the first three months of her rookie campaign, the Lawrence, Kan., product has won 13 races either individually or as part of a relay team. In addition to the school record in the 200 IM, Reaney is only 0.17 seconds away from the school mark in the 400 IM.

She has earned two BIG EAST Women's Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Week awards, becoming only the third swimmer since the award was created for the 2008-09 season to earn the accolade twice in one year.

A standout in the classroom as well, Reaney turned in a 3.563 grade-point average in her first semester under the Golden Dome.

Throw It Down, Big Fella!

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Jack Cooley did his best to exorcise the demons of Kyle Kuric's dunk over Scott Martin in 2011. Big slam, same goal, similar ensuing technical foul. You're free now, Scott. You're free.

Following Flynt - 29 Straight at Purcell

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With football season wrapped up, Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) will be providing some insights on Notre Dame's winter sports, beginning with tonight's men's basketball game. Here's more on the action at Purcell Pavilion and Notre Dame's victory over South Florida.

The Irish men's basketball team took on the South Florida Bulls tonight in their first game of the new year back at the Purcell Pavilion. For Notre Dame football fans, a game against USF may evoke unpleasant memories of the 2011 football season opener and the nasty thunderstorm that led to two weather delays. And for some, a win on the hardwood might not cure the disappointment of a gridiron defeat, but a 29th consecutive home victory and a 3-1 start to the BIG EAST schedule certainly has to leave Irish basketball fans feeling good about Coach Brey's team.

Even after four years as a student and five months as an intern, I have to admit I am still unfamiliar with South Bend's high schools. I know the names of the schools, but that's about extent of my local school knowledge. On first glance, the black and gold uniforms made it look like the Purdue Boilermakers cheerleaders had taken over for the Irish, but it was in fact the squad from Penn High School in Mishawaka.

Musically, Clay High School's pep band took over for the Notre Dame band. Students will begin returning to campus this weekend, and hopefully some will fill Purcell for Saturday's showdown with the defending champion Connecticut Huskies.

Though much smaller than our band, the students from South Bend's Clay filled in nicely, even breaking into a rendition of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," a well-known favorite among the ND student body.

Both squads jumped out to a slow start offensively, but as is often the case when the Irish play at home, the treys started falling. Scott Martin knocked down a jumper, before Jerian Grant hit a pair, and Alex Dragicevich and Pat Connaughton followed with threes of their own, to give the Irish an eight-point lead.

Connaughton also hit a tough floater from the lane at the buzzer to close out the first half and give the Irish a 30-24 lead.

The Bulls pulled to within two with just over 12 minutes to play, but that was as close as they would get in the second half. The Irish proceeded to go on a 14-0 run, capped by a monster dunk from Jack Cooley. After an emphatic scream, the junior forward was whistled for a technical foul, but the dunk brought the fans to their feet and all but ended the game. The lead reached 17 points with 4:10 to play and Notre Dame held on for a 60-49 victory.

Following Saturday's thrilling 2OT victory in Louisville, the Irish did what they needed to do tonight - they maintained momentum before heading into the heart of the BIG EAST schedule. With UConn on Saturday, a trip to Rutgers on Monday, and a visit from the currently undefeated Syracuse Orange next weekend, it does not get any easier for this tough  young Irish team.

From the box score... With 15 points and 13 rebounds, Martin posted his second consecutive double-double. Grant finished with 14 points, and Cooley led all scorers with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

Basketball has always been one of my favorite sports and I look forward to covering the Irish hoop teams this winter. I'll have more coming on Irish UNDerground throughout the season, beginning on Saturday morning at 11 am ET.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. USF

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Notre Dame continues BIG EAST Conference action tonight at Purcell Pavilion when it faces USF at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

It Was a Good Day

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Jerome Bettis Stars in New EPA Ad

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If you checked out Irish UNDerground last month, you may have read about Jerome Bettis and his efforts on Capitol Hill. The Bus also recently teamed up with the EPA to talk about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will help limit pollution from power plants. Here's more on the former Irish running back's recent work.

Fuel Fix - The Bus is on the EPA bandwagon.

Jerome Bettis, the iconic Pittsburgh Steelers running back affectionately known as "The Bus," is starring in a new Environmental Protection Agency ad touting the need for new regulations to limit pollution from power plants, POLITICO reported.

Bettis, who suffers from asthma, has campaign for two new regulations - the MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution - that aim at cutting air pollution produced from power plants and ease health issues associated with the smog.

The EPA released its first-ever standards for mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants, capping a long debate with Republicans and utility companies over the new regulations.

The agency is still working with business, states and Republicans over regulations that would regulate cross-state air pollution. Texas and Gov. Rick Perry have vocally opposed both measures.

Bettis, who meet with EPA Chief Lisa Jackson last month, said the regulations are important to reduce air pollution and ease health concerns, including asthma, associated with the pollution.

- Dan X. McGraw

Live Chat - Women's Basketball vs. Connecticut

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No. 3 Notre Dame welcomes No. 2 Connecticut to Purcell Pavilion today for a battle between two of college basketball's top programs.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Reaney Stellar for Notre Dame

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LJWorld.com - Emma Reaney's freshman year at the University of Notre Dame has been an ongoing series of surprises.

It wasn't moving away from home, the course load or college life in general that caught the Lawrence High graduate off guard, though. Instead, she has been kind of shocked about her prosperity in the pool.

A freshman for Notre Dame's swimming and diving team, Reaney has become an instant success in South Bend, Ind. The Fighting Irish freshman already has an 8-0 record in individual-medley events (200 and 400 meters), and on Dec. 2 in Columbus, Ohio, she set a school record in the 200 IM - twice. After breaking the old mark in prelims at the Ohio State Invitational with a time of 1:58.47, Reaney bettered it in the final, finishing in 1:57.67.

When she broke the old record of 2:00.09 in the prelim, Reaney wasn't aware of it.

"I was just shocked. I had no idea," she said.

The Notre Dame record board at the team's practice facility, she explained, is kind of small and on the other side of the pool from where the team swims. Reaney had never bothered to check out the times for her events, but her teammates and coaches quickly broke the news to her.

That surprise came a couple of weeks after another one, when Reaney was named Big East Women's Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Week in mid-November. The recognition wowed the Lawrence native.

"I didn't even know that the Big East had an honor or award like that before I got here," she said. "I was kind of shocked that they were even paying attention to me as a freshman."

Her record-breaking day at Ohio State earned Reaney more accolades. She received her second Big East award the following week.

Reaney said she figured one couldn't win the award twice in the same season.

Few have. Since the conference started handing out the honor in 2008, only two other swimmers - Notre Dame's Samantha Maxwell and Louisville's Therese Bergstrom - have pulled off the feat.

"I really didn't expect to have this kind of success as a freshman," Reaney said.

Taking on a weight-lifting regimen for the first time in her life, she said, helped her become stronger and cut seconds off her times.

Fighting Irish head coach Brian Barnes, who has known Reaney since she was a child on the Lawrence Aquahawks club team, which he coached from 1998 to 2002, said, "You never know what to expect with freshmen," but he said he could tell Reaney was on the brink of something special because of her attitude and dedication to improving.

"I can't really pin-point a bad performance, bad practice or anything like that," he said.

Reaney's string of success has put her in position possibly to compete at the NCAA Championships in March, in Auburn, Ala. She swims in not only the IM but also the breaststroke, and at the Ohio State Invitational she finished in the top four in seven events and put together seven NCAA B-cut times. An A-cut automatically qualifies a swimmer for the championships in that event, but if the A spots don't fill up, the best B-cut times qualify.

Reaney has a few months to post an A-cut time, and she thinks her best bets are in the 200 IM and 100 breast. Those aren't specific goals, however, because Reaney said she never really set any of those.

That falls in line, she added, with Barnes' instruction to ND swimmers following their accomplishments. Reaney said the coach's message goes like this: "We're not gonna celebrate it, because that's not the limit. You never know what your limit is."

"Sometimes the best thing you can do is just work our tails off and leave the gates wide open and see what happens," Barnes said.

With Reaney's talent and ambitious approach, not even Barnes knows how she'll surprise herself next.

"She's got seven more semesters at Notre Dame, right?" he said. "I mean, what else are you going to do?"

Lucia Has Fond Memories of Lefty Smith

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donlucia.jpg Star Tribune - Gophers coach Don Lucia played for Lefty Smith when Lucia was a defenseman at Notre Dame from 1977-81.

So Lucia was among the many saddened to hear that Smith died on Tuesday night of natural causes at his home in South Bend, Ind. "Everybody that knows Lefty loved him," Lucia said.

Smith coached the Irish for 19 years from 1968 to 1987 and, until retiring last month, was the facility manager of the school's Loftus Sports Center.

"Lefty was not only the hockey coach but he spent more time there not coaching than coaching," Lucia said. "In many ways he was almost an ambassador at Notre Dame.

"When you went in his office, as he managed the football center, you couldn't see the walls. All you saw were pictures of former players and families. That is just the kind of person he was."

Smith, who would have turned 82 on Thursday, had a 307-320-30 record at Notre Dame. His teams were WCHA runners-up in 1973 and '77. He was the WCHA coach of the year in 1973.

Smith's hockey roots were in Minnesota. He graduated from the College at St. Thomas in 1951 and from 1953 to '68 was an assistant and then a head coach at South St. Paul High School.

"He is one of those throwback guys," Lucia said, "and obviously, he is very well connected to our state with his South St. Paul roots and coaching Doug Woog" in high school.

Woog was the Gophers coach that Lucia succeeded in 1999-2000.

Smith knew both Herb Brooks and John Mariucci well, Lucia said, adding; "He's told some good stories playing with John Mariucci [for] the old Millers back in the day."

The Minneapolis Millers were a semi-pro hockey team.

"It is amazing the names and the people that he [knew]," Lucia said.

The rink at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena is named in honor of Smith.

The Notre Dame Club of Minnesota had planned to hold a dinner at the University Hotel Minneapolis on Friday to honor Lefty Smith. It undoubtedly will still be held, but will be a more emotional event. Lucia and Irish coach Jeff Jackson are among the scheduled speakers. Tuesday was the deadline for buying tickets.

A Model That Works

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The Responsibility Project


The Responsibility Project by Liberty Mutual recently featured a roundtable on the state of college sports and includes Troy Vincent, who says around the 4:10 mark, "Notre Dame has a model that works for student-athletes."

Vincent played college football at Wisconsin and is currently the vice president of the NFL Player Engagement Organization.

Rudolph Named To NFP All-Rookie Team

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rudolphrookie.jpgProps to former Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph on being named to the 2011 NFP All-Rookie offensive team. Here's an excerpt from NFP's site on Rudolph, who scored his third professional touchdown on - appropriately - Christmas Eve while guiding Minnesota to a 33-26 win over Washington.

NationalFootballPost.com - 2010 had one of the best tight end classes ever. This year wasn't quite as good. Two stood out from an average class and they were Rudolph and Lance Kendricks with St. Louis. Kendricks is more of a move tight end while Rudolph has the bulk, size and power to play as an inline tight end and the speed and finesse to be a move type. He put up good numbers with 39 catches and 3 touchdowns.

A Man Of DistinXion

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zellerproject.jpgTo become a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame, individuals have to embrace the fact that they are not only preparing for success during the four years spent in South Bend, but also for life beyond collegiate athletics as well.

The time spent at Our Lady's University is not a stopping point, but rather a spring board for what is to come in the future.

From the moment that Luke Zeller stepped on to campus, it was apparent that a leader was joining the Fighting Irish family. Throughout his career at Notre Dame, Zeller made a notable impact on those around him, both on and off the court. Whether it was volunteer work within the community or serving as a captain during his senior season in 2008-09, Zeller's ability to lead defined his career as a Notre Dame student-athlete.

His successes did not start in South Bend, however.

When Zeller committed to Notre Dame, head coach Mike Brey knew he was getting a very motivated and skilled basketball player. Zeller was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball as a senior in 2005 and participated in the prestigious McDonald's All-American game. In addition to his athletic achievements, Zeller excelled academically and was named co-valedictorian of his senior class at Washington High School in Daviess County, Ind.

Once he arrived in South Bend, Zeller made the most of his time at Notre Dame, and always instilled positive impressions on those around him.

"Luke is really special," Brey said. "He's one of my all-time favorites because of the young man that he is. He always saw the big picture. While he was playing basketball here, he was always planning for his future and thinking ahead. He's truly a class act."

The future for a collegiate student-athlete is a difficult thing to predict. In addition to potential job opportunities and professional aspirations, individuals need to focus on balancing their academic calendars with their athletic schedules.

For Zeller, he knew the future was going to involve two things that he is extremely passionate about: basketball, and assisting others.

As planned, Zeller has been able to incorporate both of these aspects into his everyday life.

The Notre Dame Experience

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Other than Gerry Byrne pulling out his best Chuck Lennon impression ("Raise the roof!") at the 2:30 mark, a pretty solid video by Norbert Bielan.

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made Of

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Charles "Lefty" Smith

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January 5, 1930 - January 3, 2012

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