Jan. 2, 2009
#12/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (11-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 3, 2009
No. 12/6 Irish Open BIG EAST Play Saturday At Seton Hall
Notre Dame (11-1) is coming off one of the more remarkable games in program history, rallying from 18 points down in the second half to post a 59-57 win at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. The Irish used a 22-0 run to take the lead and then successfully defended VU's last-second shot to earn their fourth win over a ranked opponent this season.
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Lindsay Schrader each scored a team-high 12 points, with 10 of Bruszewski's 12 markers coming in the second half. Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner added 11 points for the Irish.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Seton Hall
SHU last played on Wednesday afternoon, dominating Norfolk State, 95-43 at home. Senior forward Noteisha Womack had a season-high 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead five Pirates who scored in double figures.
Womack has eight double-doubles this season and leads the country in rebounding (13.9 rpg.), while also ranking second on the team in scoring (15.7 ppg.) and tops in field goal percentage (.535). Sophomore guard Ebonie Williams is scoring a team-best 16.5 ppg., due in part to a team-high .407 three-point mark.
Head coach Phyllis Mangina is in her 24th season at her alma mater with a 337-334 (.502) career record (4-16 against Notre Dame).
The Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series
The Last Time ND And Seton Hall Met
Notre Dame led by as many as 14 in the first half, but the Pirates closed to 36-27 at halftime when Ebonie Williams hit a 15-foot jumper with a second left. Then Nicole Emery hit a pair of 3-pointers for the Pirates to start the second half and cut the lead to 36-33.
The Irish extended the lead back to seven later when Melissa Lechlitner hit a 3, but Emery answered with another 3 to cut Notre Dame's lead to 46-42.
The Irish regained control with a 12-2 run. Lechlitner started it with a drive inside, followed by a 16-foot jumper, and capped it with a long pass to Tulyah Gaines for a fastbreak layup to give Notre Dame a 58-44 lead.
The Pirates closed to 62-54 on a three-point play by Emery and another free throw by her with 1:26 left. But the Irish went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line while Seton Hall went 1-of-4 and failed to make another basket.
Lechlitner finished with 11 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Lindsay Schrader added 10 points for the Irish.
Emery led the Pirates with a career-high 23 points, 11 more than her previous high of 12 points against Georgetown last season. Williams finished with 20 points.
Other Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series Tidbits
Blowing The Lid Off The BIG EAST
Saturday's game will mark the third consecutive time (and eighth overall) that Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST play on the road, having gone 4-3 in its previous seven outings. The Irish have won the past two times they have started the conference season on the road, also pulling out a 64-61 win at Seton Hall in 2006-07.
Calling Our Travel Agent
This year's stretch includes four consecutive road games beginning earlier this week with trips to Charlotte (W, 68-61) and No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (W, 59-57) and continuing through next Tuesday at DePaul. The last time Notre Dame played four consecutive road games in the regular season was Nov. 29-Dec. 11, 2002, when the Irish went 3-1 at USC (69-57 win), Valparaiso (74-68 win), Arizona State (81-52 win) and DePaul (75-59 loss).
Nostradamus In High Heels
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program's first national championship.
Piping Hot Turnovers
Exactly half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 133 thefts (11.1 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
Long Distance Defense
Notre Dame was ranked eighth in the country as of Dec. 22 (and is now second in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .241 percentage (40-of-166) from long range. What's more, in the first 12 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 35.7-percent efficiency posted by Charlotte (5-of-14) on Dec. 28.
Notre Dame was particularly prolific from the arc in a four-game stretch from Nov. 19-29, making 29 treys in that span (seven in wins over Evansville and Boston College, six vs. Georgia Southern and nine vs. Michigan State).
One has to go back seven years to find the last time Notre Dame made more than 29 combined three-pointers in a four-game span. From Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 2001, Notre Dame was lights-out from the arc at Colorado State (7), at Arizona (7), home vs. Army (10) and at a neutral site vs. Michigan (8).
In addition, the nine three-pointers and 25 attempts against Michigan State on Nov. 29 were the most for Notre Dame in a single game since March 3, 2002, when the Irish went 10-for-26 from beyond the arc in an 84-79 loss to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
Spreading The Wealth
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club (along with walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19).
More On The Balance Beam
At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings -- junior guard Ashley Barlow stood 22nd in the nation in steals (as of Dec. 22), now with 2.7 per game.
Just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Irish posted two of the larger winning margins in the program's record books, rolling to a 48-point victory at Boston College (102-54), followed by a 49-point win at home over Georgia Southern (85-36).
In fact, the only time Notre Dame logged a larger combined margin of victory in consecutive games than its Thanksgiving Eve 97-point spread was Nov. 24-25, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla., when the Irish downed Liberty (113-35) and host Central Florida (81-61) by a combined 98 points.
A Start We Can Believe In
The only time a Notre Dame squad started better than this year's club was 2000-01, when the Irish opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program's first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.
Four of Notre Dame's wins this season have come against ranked opponents, marking just the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent half of the BIG EAST Conference's eight Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule.
Notre Dame also now has been ranked in the AP poll for 167 weeks during the program's 32-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 28th consecutive ranking in Tuesday's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, remaing at a season-high sixth for the second consecutive week. It's the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 12, 2005, when the Irish also checked in at No. 6. The Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 159 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 167 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Novosel Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
This also marks the first time since 2001-02 that Notre Dame has had multiple players receive the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award -- that season, Jacqueline Batteast claimed the honor a school-record-tying six times, while Katy Flecky garnered it twice.
Novosel played a pivotal role in Sunday's 68-61 win at Charlotte, coming off the bench to score 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, while adding five rebounds (four offensive) and a season-high four steals in 30 minutes. She also came up with four points and a crucial defensive rebound in the final 30 seconds to help thwart a late 49er rally and secure the victory.
Game #12 Recap: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt (11-3) had a chance to tie, but Jessica Mooney's driving layup bounced off the rim as time expired.
The Fighting Irish trailed by 18 (46-28) with 15:56 to play but outscored the Commodores 22-0 over the next 8:40.
Bruszewski's layup with 8:36 left put Notre Dame (11-1) in front for the first time since it led 4-2 in the opening minutes.
The Irish led by as many as four five times in the closing minutes, but a turnover with four seconds left led to Mooney's last-second shot.
Notre Dame had a 27-13 rebounding advantage (10-5 at the offensive end) in the second half and 45-34 overall. Barlow led the team with a season-high nine, senior guard Lindsay Schrader had eight and Bruszewski and freshman forward Erica Solomon each had seven.
The Irish went 4-for-7 from 3-point range over the final 15:44 after missing their first eight from beyond the arc. Freshman forward Kellie Watson made two, and junior guard Melissa Lechlitner made one during the 22-0 run. Bruszewski made the last with 3:29 remaining after Vanderbilt pulled to 52-51.
Notre Dame pressured Vanderbilt into 10-of-29 shooting (34.5 percent) in the second half, and Christina Wirth, who made four three-pointers in the opening half, was held scoreless for the final 20 minutes.
Bruszewski and Schrader led Notre Dame with 12 points each and Lechlitner added 11.
Vanderbilt's Hannah Tuomi led all scorers with 20 points.
Noting The Vanderbilt Game
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA's hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a "medical redshirt") that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team's scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
This season, Notre Dame is 9-1 when up at the break, losing only in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10.
Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in five games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 317-82 (.794) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version of this notes package.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
LeSEA now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's new women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics Web site (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 124 televised games, including 74 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark three times -- in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19) and Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: DePaul
DePaul (12-2) is receiving votes in both major polls this week and is riding a seven-game winning streak as it heads to No. 10/13 Louisville for its BIG EAST opener Saturday afternoon.