Dec. 2, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick had a reason to celebrate with a coach.
Swarbrick presented women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw a basketball and a bouquet after the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish beat Eastern Michigan 69-59 Wednesday night in her first home game since getting her 500th win at Notre Dame during the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
"Five-hundred career wins here, you ever think about coaching football," joked Swarbrick, who is in the midst of trying to find a new football coach. "I'm quite certain you could coach anything you put your mind to."
McGraw laughed afterward when asked whether she was considering the football job.
"It hasn't been offered," she said.
The victory Wednesday night gave McGraw 503 wins in 23 seasons at Notre Dame and 591 wins overall in 28 seasons as a head coach. The win against Eastern will not go down as one of her more memorable victories as the Irish were sloppy with the ball and had defensive lapses.
McGraw said her team appeared to be tired from its trip to the Virgin Islands.
"We just weren't there mentally," she said. "We were lucky to win the game."
Lindsey Schrader and Skylar Diggins scored 15 points each for the Irish (7-0), who used runs of 11-0 and 8-0 in the second half to put away the Eagles.
Eastern Michigan (5-2) opened the second half with an 11-1 run, taking a 38-36 lead when Lindsey Mahone drove inside for a jumper. The Irish trailed 42-40 when Natalie Novosel scored inside to spark an 11-0 run highlighted by a three-point play by Diggins.
The Eagles closed to 53-49 when Kristin Thomas scored on a layup with 3:53 left. But the 8-0 run by the Irish put the game out of reach.
Tavelyn James led Eastern with 21 points and Mahone and Sydney Huntley-Rogers added 10 points each. Eastern Michigan fell to 0-10 all-time against ranked opponents.
Eastern coach AnnMarie Gilbert was pleased with the way the Eagles started the second half.
"I thought we put them on their heels for a change. I don't think they expected that," she said. "But a good team always finds a way."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 7-0 start for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in the program's 33-year history, all in this decade (2000-01, 2004-05, 2008-09, 2009-10) ... the Fighting Irish improve to 4-0 all-time against Eastern Michigan (2-0 at home, where the teams were meeting for the first time since Dec. 15, 1982) ... Notre Dame is 35-14 (.714) all-time against the current Mid-American Conference alignment, with a 21-4 (.820) record at home; the Fighting Irish also rise to 20-5 (.800) against the MAC in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) and 12-1 (.923) at home ... Notre Dame now has won 18 consecutive games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss to Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995, in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) Tournament, when both ND and NIU were members of that conference ... the Fighting Irish have won 11 of their last 12 games against Michigan schools and are 54-20 (.730) all-time against the Great Lakes State, with a 34-8 (.810) record in the McGraw era ... the Fighting Irish have forced at least 20 turnovers in all seven games this season (21 tonight by EMU) ... Notre Dame has led at halftime in all seven games this year (170-17, .909, in such games since the 2000-01 season) ... the Fighting Irish have held four opponents to fewer than 60 points in a game this season, rising to 199-14 (.934) in such games since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96 ... on the night she was honored in a post-game ceremony for logging her 500th win at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw coached both her 700th career game at the University (now 503-197, .719) and her 300th contest at Purcell Pavilion (now 249-51, .830) ... Notre Dame has not trailed by more than five points at any time in its first seven games this season (56-51, 10:16 of 2nd half at #21 Michigan State on Nov. 19); since that MSU game, the largest Fighting Irish deficit has been one possession (three points) ... sophomore guard Natalie Novosel tied her career high with eight rebounds, matching the mark she set exactly one year ago in last year's 83-63 win at Eastern Michigan ... Novosel's five assists also were one off her career high, set on Nov. 15 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion, and her 32 minutes played were one shy of the personal-best total she had in last season's win at EMU ... Eastern Michigan came into Wednesday's game shooting .394 from the three-point line (43-of-109) before the Notre Dame defense held the Eagles to a .133 three-point percentage (2-of-15) ... during the past six seasons (2004-09), Paradise Jam champions have traditionally suffered from a case of "island hangover", with three of 11 recent tournament winners losing in their next game after returning from the Virgin Islands (2004 - Rutgers lost at Old Dominion, 69-61; 2005 - Minnesota lost at New Mexico, 62-44; 2009 - Rutgers lost at home to Temple, 62-51), while four others won by 15 points or fewer (2006 - Marquette won at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 74-63; 2007 - Wake Forest won at Northwestern, 60-45; 2008 - Wisconsin won at home vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 71-69 in double overtime; 2009 - Notre Dame won at home vs. Eastern Michigan, 69-59).