Jan. 1, 2008
#14/16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Richmond Spiders (7-6 / 0-0 Atlantic 10)
DATE: January 2, 2008
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Richmond, Va. - Robins Center (9,071)
SERIES: ND leads 2-0
1ST MTG: 3/25/89 (ND 51-46)
LAST MTG: 11/28/06 (ND 87-66)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM / UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (877) 774-3371
No. 14 Irish Open New Year Wednesday At Richmond
After completing a perfect month of December, No. 14 Notre Dame will look to carry over that success into the new year when it opens 2008 on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Richmond. The Irish and Spiders will be meeting for the second consecutive season, while this year's contest also will mark the first time Notre Dame has ever faced Richmond on its campus.
Notre Dame (11-1) won its ninth consecutive game last Saturday, downing Saint Francis (Pa.), 82-39 at the Joyce Center. The Irish began the game on a 17-2 run, then wrapped up the game with a massive 50-12 surge that lasted nearly a full 20 minutes between halves. Notre Dame also had a 54-10 scoring edge in the paint and scored 37 points off 24 Red Flash turnovers.
Sophomore center Erica Williamson came off the bench to turn in her best performance of the season with a career-high 16 points, eight rebounds and season-best three blocks. Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow added 12 points and freshman forward Devereaux Peters scored 10 points for the Irish.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Even after a 20-12 record and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006-07, Notre Dame still continues to fly below the national radar. Head coach Muffet McGraw wouldn't want it any other way.
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headlining a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
A Quick Look At Richmond
A year older and a year wiser, Richmond is prepared to move into the upper echelon of the Atlantic 10 Conference this season. The Spiders have eight returning letterwinners, including four starters, back from last year's 13-17 club that lost eight games by single digits (two in overtime). UR also adds four talented freshmen to the mix, all of whom are making solid contributions in their first season of college ball.
After a 1-3 start, Richmond (7-6) has bounced back well, winning six of its last nine games. However, the Spiders are coming off a 89-59 loss at fifth-ranked Maryland last Saturday in the Terrapin Classic. Freshman guard Brittani Shells scored a game-high 27 points and sophomore guard Danielle Bell came off the bench to add 10 points for UR, which fell victim to a hot-shooting Maryland squad that connected at a .540 clip from the field.
Redshirt junior Johanna McKnight leads Richmond in scoring (13.6 ppg.), field goal percentage (.467), three-point percentage (.429) and steals (2.6 spg.). Shells is second in scoring (13.5 ppg.), three-point percentage (.420) and steals (1.8 spg.) for the Spiders, who average 63.6 points per game and average close to six three-pointers per night.
Head coach Michael Shafer is in his third season at Richmond with a 33-40 (.452) record. He is 0-1 in his career against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Richmond Series
Wednesday's game will be the third in the series between Notre Dame and Richmond, with the Irish having won their first two matchups with the Spiders. The teams first met on March 25, 1989 at the National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas, with Notre Dame rallying for a 51-46 win over UR in the seventh-place game of that tournament (and wrapping up head coach Muffet McGraw's second season with the Irish).
The schools renewed acquaintances last season, opening a home-and-home series on Nov. 28, 2006, with Notre Dame claiming an 87-66 win at the Joyce Center.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Richmond Met
Mixing its aggressive defense with an efficient offensive performance, Notre Dame led virtually from the opening tip to the final horn in an 87-66 victory over Richmond on on Nov. 28, 2006 at the Joyce Center. The Irish (4-2) shot a season-high 54.4 percent from the floor (31-of-57) and had five players score in double figures, led by Charel Allen, who scored a (then) career-high 22 points and added six rebounds for good measure.
Melissa D'Amico ably complemented her classmate in the post, tallying 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Ashley Barlow chipped in 11 points, while Crystal Erwin and Melissa Lechlitner contributed 10 points apiece.
Johanna McKnight scored a team-high 14 points and Christina Campion tossed in 13 points for Richmond (2-5), which was playing the third of five consecutive road games.
The first five minutes of play saw four ties, with Richmond taking its one and only lead at 8-6 on a layup by Nikita Thomas at the 15:45 mark. D'Amico answered back 12 seconds later to knot the score and the Irish would never trail again. Yet, Notre Dame could never quite shake the Spiders during the first half, getting up by as many as eight points twice before UR scratched back to within a point. Campion's late three-pointer helped the visitors make it a one-possession game (34-31) at halftime.
It took about five minutes in the second half before Notre Dame slammed on the accelerator, using a 21-6 run to break on top by double figures and effectively quash any hopes Richmond had for a comeback. Barlow was a key figure in the run with seven points, while Erica Williamson added four markers and Lechlitner canned a trey, as the Irish scored a season-high 53 points in the second half.
Other Notre Dame-Richmond Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Atlantic 10 Conference
Notre Dame is 63-18 (.778) all-time against the current members of the Atlantic 10 Conference, including an active 10-game winning streak against that league's present alignment.
The last time the Irish lost to a current A-10 school was on Feb. 18, 1995, when La Salle defeated Notre Dame, 84-68 in Philadelphia, when both schools were then part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).
The Irish also are 34-10 (.773) against the A-10 away from the Joyce Center, with Wednesday's visit to Richmond marking the first road game at an A-10 school for Notre Dame since Dec. 9, 2004, when the Irish posted a 65-39 win at Dayton.
Start Me Up
For only the third time in its 31-year history, Notre Dame has gotten off to an 11-1 start or better. In 2000-01, the Irish opened with 23 consecutive victories, en route to their first-ever No. 1 ranking and eventually, the program's first national championship.
More recently, Notre Dame began the 2004-05 season with a 13-1 record, winning its first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. The Irish then reeled off six more wins and finished the year with a 27-6 record.
We're Going Streaking!
Notre Dame's current nine-game win streak is its longest since a 10-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 2005. The Irish have amassed nine double-digit win streaks in program history (seven in the Muffet McGraw era), led by the school-record 23-game success string to open the 2000-01 national championship season.
Perhaps hidden within the current win streak is the fact that Notre Dame has won four consecutive road games. That's the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since they won five in a row on the road from Jan. 19-Feb. 15, 2005 (ironically part of the program's most recent 10-game winning streak).
With its 67-44 victory at IUPUI on Dec. 21, Notre Dame picked up its 10th win of the season, matching the second-quickest run to double-digit wins in program history (2000-01 -- 75-56 at Marquette). The 2004-05 club, bolstered by a four-game run to the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) title, earned its 10th win of the season on Dec. 19, 2004, with a 50-47 victory at Marquette.
Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of Dec. 17). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in seven categories, led by No. 2 rankings for assist/turnover ratio (currently 1.43) and fewest turnovers per game (12.92). Notre Dame also is fourth in scoring offense (81.4), sixth in both scoring margin (+27.5) and field goal percentage (.479), 12th in assists (18.42) and 16th in steals (12.5).
A full recap of Notre Dame's positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 10 of this notes package. The new NCAA statistics report will be released Friday.
Seven of Notre Dame's 11 wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish held a 32-point lead midway through the second half vs. Western Kentucky (Nov. 13) and a 28-point edge down the stretch at IUPUI (Dec. 21). This marks the first time in school history that Notre Dame has fashioned seven 30-point wins in its first 12 games.
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least seven 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only five of those came in the first 12 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Less than two seasons after posting the program's lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.
The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and fourth in the country as of Dec. 17) at 81.4 points per game, having tallied at least 77 points in nine of their 11 wins. What's more, Notre Dame also has the second-highest scoring average after 12 games in program history, topped only by the 1995-96 squad (81.7 ppg.) and ahead of the 1998-99 team (80.9 ppg.) that went on to post a single-season school record with an 81.0-ppg. scoring average.
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points four times this season. That's the most 90-point games for the Irish in one year since 2000-01, when they also had four such outings. In fact, during the six seasons between then and now (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference (and sixth in the nation) in scoring margin, outpointing its opposition by 27.5 points per night.
Irish Debut Dish For The Holidays Food Drive
The Notre Dame women's basketball team took time to give back to the northern Indiana community with its first-ever "Dish For The Holidays" food drive on Dec. 20. All of the Irish players and coaches manned various entrances to the Notre Dame campus that morning, collecting non-perishable food items and monetary donations that were presented to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana later in the day. In addition to eight full cartons of food (close to 4,000 pounds), the Irish also collected $646 to help others in need around Michiana during the holidays.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Notre Dame has introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game. The coupons are issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans leave the arena following the game.
This season's burger watch already is at six, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in exhibition wins over Southern Indiana and Hillsdale, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius and Valparaiso.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times, including each of the past three games that the Irish have scored 88 points at home.
Here's a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women's basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet at Notre Dame's official athletics web site (UND.com). Please note -- additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information:
Next Game: Tennessee
Notre Dame closes out its non-conference schedule Saturday at 2 p.m. (ET) against defending national champion (and third-ranked) Tennessee at the Joyce Center. A limited number of tickets remain for the contest, which will be seen live by a national television audience on CBS.
Tennessee is 10-1 this season following a 73-69 overtime loss at then-No. 5/4 Stanford on Dec. 22. The Lady Vols will return from their Christmas break Wednesday night when they pay a visit to another BIG EAST Conference school, DePaul, before continuing on to South Bend for Saturday's matinee.