It's Big Monday on the ESPN family of networks, but it might be an even bigger evening for Notre Dame basketball. The fun starts at 7 pm ET on ESPN when the #20/#19 men's team takes on #11/#12 Georgetown at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Despite a loss to St. John's on Saturday, head coach Mike Brey's squad is still in contention for one of the two remaining double-byes (Syracuse and Marquette have already clinched) for next week's BIG EAST tournament. At 12-4 in the conference, Notre Dame is in third place and currently leads Georgetown and South Florida by one game. A win tonight, and the Irish would not kick off their quest for a conference title until next Thursday's quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. If Notre Dame drops its second straight game, it risks losing that spot and having to play its first game on Wednesday, Mar. 7. Still, the Irish control their own destiny and could rebound this Friday at home against Providence. A win against the Friars, and Notre Dame would be, at worst, in a three-way tie for fourth place with Georgetown and South Florida. Both the Hoyas and the Irish defeated the Bulls, so the tiebreaker would go in favor of Georgetown and Notre Dame for the third and fourth seeds. Beyond conference seeding, a road victory over a ranked opponent would bolster Notre Dame's already impressive NCAA tournament resume, while also taking some pressure off of Friday's Senior Night game. On the women's side the #3 Fighting Irish travel to Hartford for a game against #4 Connecticut at 9 pm ET on ESPN2. The Huskies have dominated the series, 28-6, but Notre Dame has taken the past two matchups - last March in the Final Four and earlier this season at the Purcell Pavilion. The Irish have already clinched a share of the BIG EAST regular season championship, as well as the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament, but they can earn their first outright title - something they have not accomplished in 17 years - with a win tonight. Notre Dame shared the conference honor in 2000-01, when it split the title with UConn. That season, head coach Muffet McGraw also led the program to its first and only national championship, a feat the team has its sights set on again this year. The Irish are 9-1 this season against ranked opponents, and have tallied four wins against top 10 teams. They will be back at the XL Center on Saturday, Mar. 4 at 2 pm ET on ESPNU in the BIG EAST quarterfinals against a to-be-determined opponent. Clear your schedule, grab your remote and get your popcorn ready for what should be an exciting night of Notre Dame basketball. - Josh Flynt ('11)
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After squandering a 12-point first half lead, and even falling behind for a bit in the second half, Notre Dame took control down the stretch, on the way to a 80-68 victory over South Florida on Senior Day at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish will visit Connecticut on Monday night at 9 pm ET on ESPN2, but today's win clinches at least a share of the regular season BIG EAST title. Committing 22 turnovers, Notre Dame did not play its best game, but the Irish hit 26-for-30 (86.7%) from the line and made several important free throws down the stretch to put the Bulls' upset hopes to rest. Fittingly, it was senior guard Natalie Novosel who led third-ranked Notre Dame with a career-high 32 points in her final regular season home game. Fifth-year forward Devereaux Peters added 17, and had a career afternoon on the glass, pulling down 18 rebounds in the victory. Though she has one more season left in an Irish uniform, junior guard Skylar Diggins also played as if it was her last collegiate home game. The South Bend native scored 18 points and dished out nine assists, coming back from a minor leg injury late in the second half to help lead Notre Dame to its 27th win of the season. Notre Dame now improves to 27-2 overall and 14-1 in the conference, with one regular season game remaining. After the game, the Class of 2012, including Novosel, Peters, Brittany Mallory and Fraderica Miller, as well as student managers Lucy Eckard and Nick Sigmund, was honored on the court. During the past four seasons, this group has compiled an impressive 109-24 record, but they hope to add another nine or ten victories to that resume before it's all said and done. Monday will be an important night for both Irish basketball teams - the men play at 7 pm ET on ESPN at Georgetown, while the women tip off at 9 pm ET on ESPN2 against the UConn Huskies. Both teams are looking to vie for positioning in the upcoming BIG EAST tournaments, on their way to March Madness. Stay tuned to UND.com for post-game coverage and highlights from today's game. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Notre Dame continues BIG EAST Conference action this afternoon at Purcell Pavilion when it takes on South Florida at 2:00 p.m. (ET). The game will be broadcast on UND.com, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game too. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation, as the Fighting Irish go for a win on Senior Day. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Nate and Natalie Novosel weren't separated at birth, but they were born two minutes apart. And boy, are they alike. Nate is the second-leading basketball scorer at a prestigious university. His team hopes to play in the NCAA Tournament next month. Natalie is the second-leading scorer at a prestigious university. Her team is definitely headed to NCAAs. Nate is at the University of Rochester, while Natalie attends Notre Dame, 513 miles away in South Bend, Ind. They were born in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 22, 1989. "I'm older, and I hold that over her," Nate says with a laugh. They are close in age, and closer in spirit. "We moved crosstown (in Lexington, Ky.) when the kids were small, and thought they'd finally have a chance to have their own rooms," says their mom, Jaine (it's pronounced Janey). "One day when they were about 4, I was downstairs and didn't hear any noise. So I went up to check. The first thing I saw was Natalie's mattress sticking upright out of Nate's door. They had moved all of her furniture into his room." They're no longer roommates, but they do share a bond so deep that they don't need modern technology to prove it. "We don't text or email every day, because we're so busy," Nate says. "But when we do, it's so natural, and we can talk for hours." Nate is a 6-foot-5 senior forward for UR (15-7, including 11-0 at home). He averages 12 points and 4.3 rebounds and recently was named to the Capital One Academic All-District team. He carries a 3.75 grade-point average with a double major of economics and political science, and is a teaching assistant in both areas of study. He spent last summer as an intern for Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) on Capitol Hill. He's also 14th in career scoring at UR with 1,149 points. Natalie is a 5-foot-11 senior guard for Notre Dame, ranked No. 4 nationally at 25-2. She averages 14.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. Last year, the anthropology major led the Fighting Irish in scoring (15.1 ppg) after averaging just 5 points as a sophomore. She scored in double figures 33 times and hit a scorching 41.3 percent from 3-point range for a Notre Dame team that lost to Texas A&M in the national championship game. She is one of the elite women's players in the game, and should be one of the top picks in the WNBA draft this April. The twins are most alike by how driven they are. Nobody outworks Nate or Natalie. "Our parents (Nick and Jaine) never said, 'You have to do this, this and this,' " Nate says. "But they always made sure we were doing something. To have a goal in mind." They are most different in temperament. "Natalie is very carefree, and that's a great attribute for her," Nate says. "I tend to be too serious sometimes. She's a good complement to my seriousness." Natalie says Nate is simply "a great guy." "He is the most loyal person you'll ever meet," she says. "He's so trustworthy. You can tell him anything, and he'll always have something to say to help you out." Their mom agrees with those scouting reports. "Natalie is a clown in familiar situations, but she has to warm up to things," Jaine says. "Nate considers things more carefully. I'd like to see him laugh more and let his emotions go more easily." She couldn't be prouder of her twins. "They have an amazing relationship,'' she says. "They don't need a lot of contact. But they're always there for each other, with a text or phone call." And their competitive fires still burn, hundreds of miles apart. The other night, Natalie texted Nate after a game. "I just got 21," she wrote. "What did you get?" Nate wrote back: "21." It's hard to believe now, but Natalie was the outsider in this basketball family growing up. Nate and older sister Shannon, a former 6-foot-1 center for Division I Evansville, towered over Natalie and always beat her on a 400 square-foot concrete slab in the backyard. "I'd lose every game and get so mad," Natalie says. Nate laughs at the memories. "We had some great backyard brawls," says Nate, a standout swimmer for eight years before focusing on basketball in high school. "We went to town, just the three of us." She threw more tantrums than free throws, but in the end, her siblings turned Natalie into a competitive force. And by the time she was a senior at Lexington Catholic, teammates had nicknamed her "Nasty" for her fierce determination. Their dad played basketball at Kent State, and his three children all inherited the hoops gene, each surpassing 1,000 points in stellar high school careers. Natalie was recruited by numerous Division I schools and took Nate on her recruiting trip to South Bend. He urged Natalie to sign, telling her, "You can be a star here." She wasn't, at first, but last season was a breakout year for Natalie and she's only improved this season. Their dad is an account manager for a small electronics company. Their mom was an architect who became a stay-at-home mom after the twins arrived. Nick and Jaine try to make as many games in Rochester and South Bend as possible, often combining trips. Two weeks ago, they drove up to Rochester for a UR game, motored on to Youngstown, Ohio, to spend the night with relatives, then drove to South Bend to see a Notre Dame game the next day. "I think we've had one open weekend since January," Jaine says. "It's nuts. But we love it, and we know it's ending soon." The devoted parents won't be able to witness each child's final home game. "Senior Day" at UR is Saturday, Feb. 25, when the Yellowjackets host Emory. And "Senior Day" at Notre Dame is also Feb. 25, when the Irish host South Florida. "It's sad," Jaine says. "Nick is going to fly up to see Nathan's last home game, and I'm going to drive to South Bend." Nate's basketball career is quickly drawing to a close. UR probably has to win its final three games just to have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Either way, he's done after this year. "It's been great, but it's time to think about my career,'' says Nate, who would like to run for public office some day. He has accepted Teach for America's offer to teach elementary school in Washington, D.C., a two-year commitment that begins this summer. "I think it makes a lot of sense for me with my interests in public service and politics," he says. He may not be alone in the nation's capital. Natalie has been projected to be the eighth pick in the WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics. "I would love to play there and be with Nathan again," she says. This time, she promises not to move all of her furniture into his room. - Jim Mandelaro
It wasn't always pretty, but the #4 Notre Dame women's basketball team played well enough to secure its 25th win of the season - a 66-47 victory over the Providence Friars on Tuesday evening at the Purcell Pavilion. Providence scored 14 points in the first 6:04 of tonight's game, but the Irish held the Friars to just 33 points over the final 33:56. Despite piling up 20 turnovers and shooting just 65% from the free throw line, Notre Dame pulled away in the second half, leading by as much as 22 points with under three minutes to play. Skylar Diggins scored 19 points and dished out seven assists, while Devereaux Peters also chipped in 19 and pulled down 11 rebounds. It's the 21st double-digit win of the season for head coach Muffet McGraw's team, which improved to 12-1 in the BIG EAST Conference and 25-2 overall. After a quiet weekend, the Irish will travel to Louisville on Monday, Feb. 20, before returning home against South Florida on Sat, Feb. 25 for the final home game of the season. They'll close out the regular season on Mon, Feb. 27 in Hartford against the second-ranked Connecticut Huskies in a nationally televised contest on ESPN2. Stay tuned to UND.com for highlights and video from tonight's post-game press conference. We'll be back tomorrow night at 7 pm ET when the men's basketball team looks to avenge its most recent loss - a 65-58 defeat at the hands of Rutgers on Jan. 16. That game will be televised on ESPNU, but we'll have complete live blog coverage right here on Irish UNDerground too. - Josh Flynt ('11)
8:47 pm, Irish 66-47, Final: Whitney Holloway hits her first of two free throws in the closing minutes, Providence gets a couple of late baskets and the Irish walk away with a 19-point victory. Stay tuned to UND.com and Irish UNDerground for post-game coverage. 8:41 pm, Irish 65-43, 2:41 2nd half: Mallory finds a cutting Diggins...She's fouled and makes the first of two shots. Providence responds with a layup from Teya Wright, before Diggins makes an excellent pass to Miller for a layup as the shot clock winds down. Miller makes one of two free throws to give the Irish a 20-point lead...McBride scores a layup and the Irish call a 30-second timeout. This one is all but over. 8:32 pm, Irish 59-41, 7:13 2nd half: After the under-8 media timeout, Peters hits one of two free throws. Providence gets called for a shot clock violation on the following possession. Fraderica Miller goes down hard for the Irish. She got blindsided and might've been poked in the eye. Slow to get up, but she walks off on her own. A flagrant gets called on Providence, and Novosel goes to shoot the free throws, where she hits the second of two shots. 8:21 pm, Irish 55-38, 10:53 2nd half: Diggins hits Notre Dame's first three-pointer of the game and it's a 17-point Irish lead. Sky and Dev lead the team with 18 points each.
Notre Dame women's basketball junior point guard Skylar Diggins was recently featured in The New York Times. Here's a look at her interview with Andrew Goldman. As a high-school basketball player in South Bend, Ind., you were considered a phenom in the vein of LeBron James. But LeBron made $4 million in his first season in the N.B.A. The top W.N.B.A. salary is about $105,000. Does this depress you?
If it's about money, you shouldn't play. But men's college basketball stars can envision making a fortune afterward. Your dream path isn't as clear.
Do you think we don't know that we don't make a lot in the league? We can't sit on the edge of the bench waving a towel and get paid $400,000, so we have to make sure we come up with a strong Plan B. Right now I'm in business-management entrepreneurship in one of the country's top undergrad business programs. This summer, if everything goes right, I'll be interning with espnW. Eventually maybe I'll get into sports commentating. The N.C.A.A. makes a fortune. It also requires athletes to sign away their likenesses in perpetuity without pay. Does this bother you?
When I see these people walking around with my jersey on, I'm like, Where does that money go? But I'm living the life. As high as the tuition is, I probably wouldn't be able to go here as a regular student. So anything that's good for Notre Dame is good for me and our program. You frequently change your hairstyle at halftime, depending on the kind of game you're having. What's that about?
If I had a bad first half, I'll come back after halftime, and you'll see a bun or a fan ponytail. When my hair goes up, that means it's time to get down and dirty -- I must have been messing around in the first half, and I'm just a wild child now. I never saw the bun as a predatory hairstyle.
Maybe not to you. Maybe not to anybody else. But I know what it means. People generalize that women are the more empathetic sex. Ever felt bad after stealing the ball?
Never. I'm not very good with mercy. You took Notre Dame's loss to Texas A&M in last year's national championship game particularly hard. What do you think about when you replay that game in your head?
I think of 15:52. That's how much time was on the clock when we were up by 7 and they made their comeback. I should have had better game management. I'm the point guard, that's my job. It could be 100 factors, but to this day, I won't let anybody else tell me that. I know. Because I was out there playing. You were criticized in the press for leaving the court before the traditional postgame handshake.
I don't regret that. I have relationships with those A&M girls, I told them congratulations. I just didn't stay after for the confetti dropping and them diving on each other. Do you know what it's like to lose a national championship game? I certainly do not. When people see a young talent like yours, they envision an overbearing stage parent. How much were you pushed by your stepfather, who coached you in different capacities through high school?
It was kind of the other way around. I knew he had the keys to the gym, and I would drag him out of bed early, I mean early, and I would be at the gym for six hours every day. He once asked me: "Are you sure this is what you want to do? Are you willing to put the work in?" I said, "Yes." And from then on we have had a very, very close bond. Your mother ran an incredibly strict house.
My mom, she doesn't play. I heard there was a permanent ban on the word "can't." And that she'd insist on getting the license plates and cellphone numbers of any suitors. She also demanded you sign a contract prohibiting anyone else from driving your car.
I signed it when I was a sophomore. It was typed. No joke, it might still be in my glove compartment. And if my mom doesn't like a guy, he's not going to make it very far. Considering Notre Dame is in your hometown, I'm surprised you didn't decide to take off to Stanford.
If I went to Stanford, I promise you, my mom would have moved there. INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED. - Andrew Goldman
It started as a great afternoon. A celebration of cancer survivors, and those fighting the illness. Over $204,000 were raised for breast cancer research. Cathy Richardson in the house to sing "Here Come The Irish." The sellout crowd was electric. But at the end of the day, the Irish were stunned, falling to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 65-63 on their home floor. It's the first loss for Notre Dame since Nov. 20, and it snaps the 20-game home winning streak for Coach Muffet McGraw's team. Skylar Diggins led the way with 32 points and Natalie Novosel contributed 16, but Notre Dame got little from anyone else offensively. The Irish shot just 64% from the line, and several missed free throws down the stretch cost them an opportunity to put the Mountaineers away. After forwards Natalie Achonwa and Devereaux Peters fouled out, Notre Dame had a difficult time containing West Virginia center Asya Bussie, who made three key baskets in the closing minutes. The junior finished with 22 points to lead the Mountaineers to the upset road victory. Combining for 45 personal fouls and 38 turnovers, neither team played particularly well. Notre Dame shot 40.7% from the field, slightly higher than West Virginia's 38.5%. It was a sloppy game from both teams, but in the end, West Virginia stepped up when it mattered most, closing the game on a 8-1 run and making key shots both from the field and at the free throw line. Notre Dame (24-2, 11-1 BIG EAST) will look to bounce back on Tuesday night at 7:00 pm ET vs. Providence at the Purcell Pavilion. Follow the action right here on UNDerground, as the Irish gear up for the home stretch of the regular season and seek to start a new home winning streak. - Josh Flynt ('11)
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