Jan. 1, 2014
2013-14 ND Women's Basketball: Game 12
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-6 / 0-0 Summit League)
DATE: Jan. 2, 2014
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: First meeting
TV: WatchND (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/buytickets
StorylinesNotre Dame has won 17 of its last 19 games to begin a new calendar year, but opens the month of January at home for just the second time in the past nine seasons.
SDSU is the second of three consecutive first-time opponents for Notre Dame. Since 2000-01, the Fighting Irish are 38-3 (.927) against new opponents, including an active 14-game winning streak.
No. 2 Fighting Irish Ring In New Year Against South Dakota State
Now that the confetti has fallen and the ball in Times Square has dropped, No. 2 Notre Dame returns to the hardwood for the first time in 2014, tipping off a three-game homestand at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday against South Dakota State at Purcell Pavilion. The contest (the first-ever between the Fighting Irish and Jackrabbits) will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
The Fighting Irish (11-0) are back home following a hard-fought 70-58 win at Oregon State on Sunday afternoon. Facing a hostile crowd and an inspired Beavers squad, Notre Dame erased a seven-point first-half deficit with an 11-0 run spanning halftime, then doused OSU's comeback hopes with a game-ending 12-2 run.
Senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride led all scorers with 20 points, while senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa flirted with yet another double-double (16 points, nine rebounds).
RankingsNotre Dame is No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll and is No. 2 in the latest WBCA/USA Today poll.
South Dakota State is not ranked.
Quick HittersAt 11-0, the Fighting Irish are off to the third-best start to a season in program history, as well as the program's best start since 2009-10, when they started 15-0.
Notre Dame currently stands at No. 2 in the AP and WBCA/USA Today polls, the third consecutive season that the Fighting Irish have earned the second position in both surveys.
Notre Dame currently leads the nation in field goal percentage (.512) and assists (23.1 apg.), part of seven NCAA statistical categories that the Fighting Irish rank among the top 10 (not including won-loss percentage, for which they are one of seven remaining teams in the nation without a loss).
Notre Dame has won 34 consecutive regular season games and 17 consecutive home games, both dating back to Dec. 5, 2012 (a 73-61 loss to No. 3 Baylor).
The Fighting Irish have won a school-record 26 consecutive regular season road games (and 33 of their last 38 overall) since a 94-81 loss at top-ranked Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Notre Dame is 30-5 (.857) against ranked opponents, including a 10-1 record at home.
With a 106-72 victory over Central Michigan on Dec. 22, the Fighting Irish became the 27th NCAA Division I women's basketball program to record 800 all-time wins.
Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 125 consecutive weeks (including the past 55 weeks in the AP Top 10), extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What's more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad during her career, with the vast majority of that time (75 of 86 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
Senior forwards Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker, and senior guard Kayla McBride have helped Notre Dame to a 112-14 (.889) record in their careers, putting them on pace to challenge last year's senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who helped Notre Dame to 130 wins in their careers.
Of the 14 losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, eight were decided by single digits (and three others by 10-13 points).
Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 390-90 (.813) all-time record in 37 seasons at the facility, including a 67-5 (.931) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
Notre Dame ranks third in this week's NCAA attendance rankings (8,533 fans per game), and is one of just three schools (along with Kentucky and DePaul) in the country to fill its arena to better than 90 percent capacity, something the Fighting Irish have done each season since 2009-10.
With 637 victories in her 27 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
With 725 career wins, McGraw needs 14 victories to move into the top 10 on the NCAA Division I career list. She currently stands 12th behind two former ACC coaches -- Virginia's Debbie Ryan (739) and the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow (737).
The Notre Dame-South Dakota State Series
Thursday will mark the first time Notre Dame and South Dakota State have met in women's basketball.
Other Notre Dame-South Dakota State Series TidbitsSouth Dakota State will be the 200th different opponent in the 37-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball.
Notre Dame has faced only one South Dakota school before, playing the state's flagship school in a home-and-home series over three decades ago (USD won both games, 76-61 on Jan. 14, 1980, in Vermillion, S.D., 67-60, on Nov. 22, 1980, at Purcell Pavilion).
South Dakota State is the third of five new opponents on this year's Notre Dame schedule, with Thursday's game representing the midpoint in a stretch of three consecutive contests against first-time opponents for the Fighting Irish (Notre Dame visited Oregon State on Dec. 29, with an inaugural series matchup to follow on Sunday against ACC foe Clemson). Notre Dame will close out its run of new opponents on Feb. 6 when it visits ACC member Florida State).
The Fighting Irish have won their last 14 games against first-time opponents, most recently earning a 70-58 victory at Oregon State on Dec. 29.
During their current 14-game winning streak against new opposition, the Fighting Irish have won by an average score of 94-48.
Notre Dame is 58-7 (.892) against first-time opponents since 1995-96 (when it joined the BIG EAST Conference), including a 38-3 (.927) mark vs. new teams this century (since the start of the 2000-01 season).
The Fighting Irish have won 29 consecutive home games against first-time opponents, dating back to Jan. 18, 1996, when Connecticut posted an 87-64 win at Purcell Pavilion. The last new opponent to visit South Bend was UNC Wilmington, which Notre Dame defeated 99-50 in this year's season opener.
Notre Dame has never had a South Dakota native on its roster, one of only 13 states in the Union that have yet to produce a Fighting Irish women's basketball player since the program achieved varsity status in 1977-78. The others on this short list are: Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Vermont.
Notre Dame has played South Dakota State just once before in any sport (baseball). On March 19, 2005, the Jackrabbits defeated the Fighting Irish, 13-7 in a neutral-site game at Braun Field in Evansville, Ind. (Notre Dame's starting pitcher that day was current Chicago Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija).
South Dakota State baseball coach Dave Schrage spent four seasons (2007-10) at the helm at Notre Dame, compiling a 119-104-1 record with the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame vs. The Summit League
Notre Dame is 7-2 (.778) all-time against the Summit League's current membership, including a 5-1 (.833) record at home. All but two of those games have come against that conference's Indiana members (IPFW and IUPUI), with the Fighting Irish a combined 7-0 against those squads (the two losses both came at the hands of South Dakota in 1980, well before the Coyotes joined the Summit League).
Notre Dame last played a current Summit League team on Nov. 26, 2010, defeating IUPUI, 95-29 on the first day of the WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion. As freshmen that afternoon, the current Fighting Irish senior class of forwards Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker, and guard Kayla McBride, accounted for 27 points in that victory, led by Braker's 10 points (and six rebounds).
Ringing In The New Year
Notre Dame is 28-8 (.778) all-time in in its first game of a new calendar year, including an 8-2 (.800) record at home and a 20-6 (.769) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
The Fighting Irish also have won eight of their last nine (and 17 of their last 19) games to begin the month of January, including last year's 73-72 victory at top-ranked Connecticut that tipped off a perfect 16-0 record in BIG EAST Conference play and the program's second consecutive outright BIG EAST regular-season title.
Notre Dame is opening the new year at home for the first time since Jan. 2, 2011, when the Fighting Irish defeated Southeast Missouri State, 97-21 at Purcell Pavilion. Current Notre Dame senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride came off the bench to score 17 points that afternoon, as the Fighting Irish set school records for fewest points allowed in a half (6 in the first half) and a game, and lowest opponent field goal percentage (.125).
Getting The Jump
At 11-0, Notre Dame is off to the third-best start in the program's 37-year history. The only times the Fighting Irish opened with a better record than this season were in 2000-01 (when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship) and 2009-10 (when they started 15-0 on the way to a 29-6 record and spot in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen).
Notre Dame has won a school-record 26 consecutive regular season road games and 33 of its last 38 overall, including the Dec. 29 victory at Oregon State. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
Prior to the past two-plus years, the school record for consecutive regular season road wins was held by Notre Dame's 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 16 consecutive conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The previous school record for consecutive regular season conference road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.
The previous Notre Dame record for consecutive regular season road victories in any conference was 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League).
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish entered the week leading the nation in assists at 23.1 per game. Notre Dame has dished out at least 21 helpers in nine games thus far (including a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 66.5 percent of their made field goals this year (254 of 382).
Notre Dame also ranks fourth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.51).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .512 field goal percentage, thanks in part to a recent surge that has seen Notre Dame shoot better than 55 percent from the field in three of its last four games (.563 vs. UCLA, .586 at Michigan, .618 vs. Central Michigan).
It was the first time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 55-percent outings since Nov. 20-29, 1997, when they did so in victories over North Carolina State (.565), Bowling Green (.558) and Ohio University (.567).
For the season, Notre Dame has shot better than 50 percent in six games, including three contests where it topped 60 percent from the field.
The Fighting Irish sharpshooting brigade has been led by freshman guard Lindsay Allen, who ranks fourth in the ACC with a .607 field goal percentage. Both freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.778) and junior guard Madison Cable (.610) actually have a higher field goal percentage than Allen, but neither player has made the minimum number of shots (three per game) to qualify for ACC ranking.
Dialing Long Distance
Although not usually a primary part of the Notre Dame arsenal, the Fighting Irish have found the three-point shot much to their liking this season. Notre Dame currently ranks fourth in the nation and leads the ACC with a .437 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at better than 40 percent from beyond the arc (two at 50 percent or better).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey has connected on a team-high 21 three-pointers this season, including a career-high four treys against Michigan (Dec. 14) and Central Michigan (Dec. 22), and she has made at least two triples in seven of her last eight outings. She ranks eighth in the ACC with a .429 three-point percentage, as well as 11th with 1.9 three-pointers made per game.
The other three Fighting Irish players hitting over 40 percent from distance -- junior guard Madison Cable (.556), freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.500) and senior guard Kayla McBride (.450) -- haven't made the minimum 1.0 3FG/game to qualify for ACC ranking (although all three are within 1-3 three-pointers of meeting the standard).
The Fighting Irish connected on 10-of-17 three-pointers in their Dec. 7 victory over UCLA, their highest production from the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in eight games this year, going 8-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 83-5 (.943) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 53 of their last 54 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
Irish Join The 800-Win Club
Notre Dame's 106-72 victory over Central Michigan on Dec. 22 at Purcell Pavilion was a milestone for the Fighting Irish, who became the 27th program in NCAA Division I women's basketball history (and fourth Atlantic Coast Conference school) to record 800 victories. The Fighting Irish have posted a 801-316 (.717) record in their 37 seasons of varsity competition, dating back to the 1977-78 campaign.
Prior to Notre Dame reaching the milestone, the last school to reach the 800-win mark was LSU (which did so on Nov. 25, 2012, at Florida International). Along with the Fighting Irish, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are the other three ACC members in the 800-victory club (with Duke and North Carolina State expected to follow later this year).
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has continued her development as one of the top young talents in the country this season, building on last year's selection as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year.
The Lincolnwood, Ill., product currently ranks sixth in the ACC in scoring (17.7 ppg.) and 16th in rebounding (6.9 rpg.), sporting career-high marks in both areas. She also has four 20-point games thus far (including a career-high 30 points against Central Michigan on Dec. 22) after scoring 20 points twice during her rookie campaign.
Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame's first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).
Loyd's point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the opening three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program's all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.
McBride currently ranks 17th in program history with 1,371 career points, two points shy of catching Shari Matvey for the next spot on the list (Matvey scored 1,373 points from 1979-83).
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 25th in Notre Dame history with 1,158 points, rising two places on the chart in her team's last outing with 16 points in a Dec. 29 win at Oregon State.
Coming Up Aces
Senior forward/tri-captains Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed "Ace") also is making her way up Notre Dame's career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She currently ranks ninth on the rebounding list (776) and 10th on the double-doubles chart (22), moving up one spot on the rebounding rundown with her nine boards at Oregon State on Dec. 29.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .543 career field goal percentage, presently ranking ninth in program annals.
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame's season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team's first five points of the season.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 assists per game (the latter ranking 13th in the ACC). She also is fourth in the ACC with a .607 field goal percentage and fifth with a 2.26 assist/turnover ratio, and is just outside the top 15 in the conference with a team-high 1.8 steals per game.
The Second Platoon
Another reason for Notre Dame's success this season has been the performance of its reserves, who are averaging better than 30 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by better than a 2-to-1 margin (30.7 ppg. to 14.7 ppg.).
In fact, only two Fighting Irish opponents to date has finished with a bench scoring advantage against Notre Dame -- No. 19/18 Michigan State held an 18-11 edge on Nov. 11, while No. 25 DePaul wound up with a slim 33-32 advantage on Nov. 26 (both Fighting Irish home wins).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (10.5 ppg.) and freshman forward Taya Reimer (9.7 ppg.) head up the strong Notre Dame bench contingent, which has seen players score in double figures 10 different times, including six by Mabrey.
Call Her Mabrey
While the season is only one-third over, certainly an early favorite as the nation's most improved player would have to be Notre Dame sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 10.5 points and 3.6 assists per game, while ranking second in the ACC with a 2.67 assist/turnover ratio, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures six times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
Next Game: Clemson
Notre Dame begins a new era in program history at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday when it plays host to Clemson in its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) game. The contest, which also will be the first-ever meeting between the Fighting Irish and Tigers, is set to be streamed live and free of charge from Purcell Pavilion on the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director