Jan. 3, 2010
#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (7-6 / 2-1 Big Ten)
DATE: January 4, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: West Lafayette, Ind. - Mackey Arena (14,123)
SERIES: PUR leads 14-8
1ST MTG: PUR 62-59 (11/26/84)
LAST MTG: ND 62-51 (12/7/08)
TV: ESPN2 (live) (Bob Wischusen, p-b-p / Kara Lawson, color / Rebecca Lobo, sideline)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
#3 Irish Head To Purdue For Monday Night Matchup On ESPN2
Forget the records and rankings, as one of the nation's premier non-conference women's basketball rivalries gets fired up once again on Monday when No. 3 Notre Dame travels to West Lafayette for its annual matchup with Purdue. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. (ET) from Mackey Arena, with ESPN2 televising the game live to a national cable audience.
Notre Dame (12-0) comes into Monday night's contest on the heels of its fourth win over a ranked opponent this season, defeating No. 18/16 Vanderbilt on Thursday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish fashioned a 15-2 run that bridged halftime to take the lead for good, holding the Commodores at arm's length down the stretch for the victory.
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader registered her second double-double of the season (and 13th of her career, setting a school record for guards) with game highs of 18 points and 14 rebounds to pace Notre Dame.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Purdue
Purdue has eight letterwinners and two starters back from last year's 25-11 club that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. However, the Boilermakers have had to deal with a myriad of injuries early on this season, including a season-ending Achilles' injury to emerging sophomore guard Chantel Poston and a lingering stress fracture setback to sophomore forward Alex Guyton (who returned to action just before Christmas).
Nevertheless, Purdue (7-6, 2-1 Big Ten) looks to have found its rhythm of late, winning four of its last five games, including a 76-66 victory over in-state (and conference) rival Indiana on Thursday afternoon at Mackey Arena. Sophomore sharpshooting guard Brittany Rayburn scored a game-high 22 points (including her team's first 11 markers) and sophomore center Chelsea Jones notched a double-double (14 points, game-high 11 rebounds) to pace the Boilermakers, who erased a three-point halftime deficit with a strong second-half effort.
Rayburn leads Purdue in scoring (16.2 ppg.) and is second in assists (2.5 apg.) and steals (1.5 spg.) with a .338 three-point percentage, while senior guard Jodi Howell is second in scoring (9.0 ppg.) and tops in three-point percentage (.424).
Head coach Sharon Versyp is in her fourth season at her alma mater with an 82-38 (683) record. Including her prior stops at Maine and Indiana, Versyp has a 10-year career coaching record of 199-103 (.659), with an 0-4 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Purdue Series
Monday night marks the 23rd meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue, with the Boilermakers owning a 14-8 lead in the series with the Irish. Purdue also maintains a sizeable edge over Notre Dame at Mackey Arena, winning eight of nine matchups, although the Irish won the last time the teams met in West Lafayette two years ago.
The recent series history also has tipped in Notre Dame's favor, with the Irish having won three in a row (their longest series winning streak) and four of the past five encounters. Stepping further back, the teams are 8-8 in the series since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.
Watson cut No. 17/20 Purdue's lead to two points by making two three-pointers after the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish went seven minutes in the first half without a basket, starting the game by making just 3 of 22 shots. Lechlitner then scored 13 of her career-high 19 points in the second half to lead Notre Dame to the 62-51 victory on Dec. 7, 2008, at the Joyce Center.
The Irish (7-0) needed Lechlitner to play well with leading scorer Ashley Barlow missing her second straight game with a concussion. Lechlitner was 2-of-3 from three-point range, hit several more jumpers from outside and scored inside as well, driving to the basket when the Boilermakers (5-3) focused more on Notre Dame's perimeter game.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton led the Boilermakers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but the Irish outrebounded Purdue 47-35, repeatedly holding them to one shot. The Irish also outscored the Boilermakers 22-18 in the paint to overcome Notre Dame's 34.4-percent shooting.
Watson finished with 13 points and Lindsay Schrader added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish. Lakisha Freeman had 12 points for the Boilermakers.
Notre Dame, which hadn't trailed by more than three points all season, fell behind 18-9 when FahKara Malone made a pair of free throws with 7:04 left in the first half. That's when Watson made her three-pointers, then Schrader tied the score on a 15-foot jumper with 3 minutes left. The Irish led 23-22 at halftime on Watson's third three-pointer.
Lechlitner scored seven points during a decisive 14-4 run in the second half, giving the Irish a 41-29 lead on an inside basket with 8:48 left. The Irish extended the lead to 45-32 when Schrader scored on a driving layup.
Purdue used a 6-0 run to close to 45-38 on a jumper by Freeman, but couldn't get any closer.
The Last Time ND and Purdue Met In West Lafayette
Ashley Barlow scored 19 of her career-high 22 points in the second half and No. 16 Notre Dame rallied to beat Purdue 61-48 on Dec. 8, 2007, at Mackey Arena.
Danielle Campbell had 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocks for Purdue (3-5), but she was 5- for-13 from the field. Kalika France scored 11 points and Lakisha Freeman had five points and 11 rebounds.
Notre Dame won its sixth straight and claimed its first win over the Boilermakers in nine tries at Mackey Arena. The Irish shot 52 percent from the field in the second half, while the Boilermakers shot just 26 percent.
Purdue led 36-32 early in the second half before Barlow made back-to-back three-pointers to give the Irish a 38-36 edge with 12:07 left.
Barlow made another three-pointer, then Devereaux Peters scored on a putback to make it 49-41 with 5:46 to play. The Irish led by at least six points the rest of the way.
Notre Dame led 15-14 before Purdue went on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a three-pointer from France, to take a 21-15 lead with 4:48 left in the first half. The Boilermakers led 25-20 at halftime, despite shooting 36 percent from the field. Purdue held Notre Dame to 35 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Other Notre Dame-Purdue Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
Notre Dame is 39-48 (.448) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, with a 14-26 (.350) record away from Purcell Pavilion. The Irish also are 32-34 (.485) against the Big Ten in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with a 12-17 (.414) road slate.
What's more, Notre Dame has won 12 of its last 18 games vs. Big Ten schools, following a 68-67 win at No. 21 Michigan State on Nov. 19.
Purdue is the last of three in-state opponents on Notre Dame's schedule this season, following wins at home over IPFW (96-60 on Dec. 8) and Valparaiso (88-47 on Dec. 12)
The Irish are 116-32 (.784) all-time against other Indiana schools, with a 59-21 (.734) record outside of Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has won 11 consecutive games against in-state opponents (four in a row on the road) since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006, at the Joyce Center.
Getting The Jump
At 12-0, Notre Dame is off to the second-best start in the program's 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was 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.
Notre Dame's current 12-game winning streak ties for the fourth-longest run in program history (also in 1989-90), and it's the longest since the school-record 23-game string to begin the 2000-01 season.
At 12-0, Notre Dame is one of only five Division I schools that are undefeated through Jan. 2. The others in this exclusive club are: No. 1 Connecticut (12-0), No. 9/8 Georgia (13-0), No. 13/14 Nebraska (12-0) and No. 22/20 Wisconsin-Green Bay (12-0).
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen six different players led the team in scoring this season, while five Irish players have each taken the lead in rebounding and assists at some point this year.
That trend has been particularly evident in Notre Dame's last eight games, with a different player setting the pace in scoring six times, with junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso and UCF) and fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Eastern Michigan and Vanderbilt) the only repeat leading scorers for the Irish.
Stat Sheet Stuffers
Another sign of Notre Dame's versatility is seen in the number of "5-5-5" games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year.
Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt) has a team-high three 5-5-5 games, while freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB and Charlotte) has two 5-5-5 outings, and senior guard Ashley Barlow (Iona) and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) have one apiece.
Taking What We Can Get
Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 11 of 12 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 27.1 giveaways per game.
In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 26 at UCF on Dec. 29).
Charlotte's 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary's (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program's second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.
The Irish have been particularly hard on opponents in seven home games this season, forcing 29.1 turnovers per game (at least 29 in five of the seven Purcell Pavilion contests) while holding visitors to 52.6 points a night and a .330 field goal percentage (134-of-406).
The Five-Finger Discount
According to the Dec. 21 NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame leads the nation in steals (currently at 15.3 thefts per game). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in eight of their 12 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.
What's more, Notre Dame has been particularly aggressive in the past five games, topping the 20-steal mark three times and averaging 18.2 steals per game during that span.
Notre Dame is 22-9 (.710) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including wins at No. 21 Michigan State (68-67) and UCF (85-52) this year.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Pomp And Circumstance
On Sunday, senior center Erica Williamson will receive her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and will begin graduate studies in the spring.
With Williamson collecting her diploma next week, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
For the second week in a row, Notre Dame was ranked third in the Associated Press poll (Dec. 28), appearing in the top five for the eighth consecutive week -- it's the longest run in the AP Top 5 for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
This marks the 46th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with the No. 3 ranking not only matching a season high (Dec. 7 & 21), but also being Notre Dame's highest since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 186 weeks during the program's 33-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 is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish spent a second consecutive week at a season-high No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (Dec. 29). It's the highest Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year.
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 3 ranking, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 178 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 186 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, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #12 Recap: Vanderbilt
Third-ranked Notre Dame got the two things Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw was looking for most against No. 18 Vanderbilt: a challenge and a victory.
"It was good for us to get that test and that challenge," she said. "I thought we responded well."
The Fighting Irish, who hadn't trailed by more than five points all season, trailed by eight in the first half before pulling out the 74-69 victory on Thursday before a crowd of 9,149, the seventh sellout in the team's history.
It was the closest game for the Irish (12-0) since a 68-67 win at Michigan State on Nov. 19. It looked for a while as though the Irish would beat the Commodores (11-2) pulling away, with the Irish opening a 70-56 lead when Skylar Diggins made a pair of free throws with 3:43 left.
A 13-2 run by Vanderbilt cut the lead to 72-69 when Jessica Mooney hit a jumper in the paint with 7 seconds left, but Lindsay Schrader was fouled on the inbounds pass and made a pair of free throws to put the game away as the Irish moved to 4-0 vs. ranked opponents this year.
Schrader finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds for her 13th career double-double, a school record for a guard at Notre Dame, although the 6-foot senior plays much more like a post player most games.
"She's amazing," McGraw said. "She's just a workhorse. She's just going to work and be physical and she's just a nightmare to guard."
The Irish outscored Vanderbilt 22-10 on second-chance points, outrebounding the Commodores 56-41. Many of Notre Dame's rebounds came with Tiffany Clarke sitting on the bench with foul trouble, as she played just 24 minutes, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds.
"Once she came out of the game I knew they were going to attack the basket and get second and third shots," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "Maybe a couple of those rebounds she would have gotten."
Balcomb said the other thing that hurt the Commodores was Notre Dame's 9-0 run to end the first half, giving the Irish a 40-34 lead at intermission.
"I thought these teams were very evenly matched and that one spurt where they shot 5 for 8 and got any offensive rebound they wanted in those four minutes was really important," she said.
Diggins added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Irish and Melissa Lechlitner added 14 points. Jence Rhoads led Vanderbilt with 18 points, Merideth Marsh added 11 and Jessica Mooney had 10.
Noting The Vanderbilt Game
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Keeping It Close To Home
Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 14 players on this year's Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while six others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).
What's more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana -- senior guards Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis) and Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend) -- while the fifth (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.
As if that weren't enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 265 career starts between them.
For the first time in Notre Dame women's basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
Schrader reached another endurance milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now stands ninth in school history with 103 career starts, including a current streak of 61 in a row.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 508-197 (.721) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 596-238 (.715) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.
Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.
Barlow currently ranks 15th in school history with 1,251 career points, while Schrader is 20th with 1,192 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 785 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 175-17 (.911) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 103 of their last 114 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in all 12 games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame's first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 202-14 (.935) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Charlotte and UCF.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 131-4 (.970) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame already has added eight more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, No. 23/24 San Diego State, No. 20/17 Oklahoma, IPFW, Valparaiso and Charlotte.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 180 of their last 204 games (.882) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 99-17 (.853) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 330-85 (.795) 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.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through seven home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,527 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 700 fans above their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted seven sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Thursday afternoon, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their win over No. 18/16 Vanderbilt. It was the first sellout for Notre Dame since the renovated arena opened this fall.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center made its regular season women's basketball debut on Nov. 15 when Notre Dame defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57.
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) 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, which will house 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 arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall).
One of the other unique features of this renovation stage was an intensive theming initiative on the upper concourse inside the arena walls, featuring many of the historic moments and visitors to the arena during its four-decade history. In addition, the facility signage took on a Celtic script, while the evolution of the distinctive Notre Dame monogram logo is prominently displayed on the concourse.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation 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.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Both of those areas, along with the three-story Rosenthal Atrium (named for former Notre Dame director of athletics Dick Rosenthal) will open to the public on Jan. 9, when the Irish basketball teams play host to a BIG EAST doubleheader (women vs. Villanova at 2 p.m., men vs. West Virginia at 8 p.m.).
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women's basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. 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 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 (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
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 for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
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 149 televised games, including 96 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year three of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, 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 home game.
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 17 times, including wins this season over Indianapolis (exhibition), Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso and Charlotte.
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 -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has way too much time on his hands"), 10 different players have converted the "burger ball", including nine current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 17 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and three on three-pointers (including the past two home games).
Next Game: Villanova
The Irish will tip off the always-rugged 16-game BIG EAST Conference schedule on Saturday with a 2 p.m. (ET) matchup against Villanova at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be broadcast to a regional television audience on the BIG EAST Network -- fans are asked to check their local listings for exact broadcast times and availability (live coverage includes Comcast SportsNet Chicago, SportsNet New York and ESPN Full Court).
Villanova (10-2) has won six consecutive games as it prepares for its BIG EAST opener on Wednesday at Providence.