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    Fighting Irish
    #3 Irish Step Back Into BIG EAST Play Wednesday At Seton Hall

    FIGHTING IRISH Natalie Achonwa came off the bench to score 12 points and grab a game-high six rebounds in last year's 89-38 win over Seton Hall at Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Natalie Achonwa came off the bench to score 12 points and grab a game-high six rebounds in last year's 89-38 win over Seton Hall at Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Jan. 3, 2012

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    2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 15
    #3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-1 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (7-8 / 0-1 BIG EAST)

    DATE: January 4, 2012
    TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
    AT: South Orange, N.J. - Walsh Gymnasium (2,600)
    SERIES: ND leads 19-4
    1ST MTG: SHU 62-55 (12/11/93)
    LAST MTG: ND 89-38 (2/8/11)
    WEBCAST: shupirates.com (PPV-live)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: shupirates.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is 14-2 (.875) in its first game of a new calendar year since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including wins in seven of the past eight seasons.
  • The Fighting Irish have held their opponent to 23 points or fewer in 13 of the past 17 halves of basketball, dating back to the second half against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26.
  • No. 3 Fighting Irish Step Back Into BIG EAST Play Wednesday At Seton Hall
    With a highly-successful non-conference schedule almost entirely in the rear view mirror, No. 3 Notre Dame steps back into BIG EAST play on Wednesday when it travels to South Orange, N.J., for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup with Seton Hall. The game will be webcast on a pay-per-view basis through the SHU athletics web site, shupirates.com.

    The Fighting Irish (13-1) stretched their current winning streak to 10 games with a clinical 128-42 victory at Mercer last Friday night. Playing a homecoming game for senior guard (and Atlanta native) Fraderica Miller, Notre Dame set eight school records during the win, including points in a game, margin of victory, points in a half (72 in the first half) and field goal percentage (.702, 40-of-57).

    Freshman forward Markisha Wright led a season-high seven Fighting Irish in double figures with a career-high 24 points, while junior guard Skylar Diggins added 21 points on a perfect shooting night (8-8 FG, 1-1 3FG, 4-4 FT).

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 3 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today poll this week.
  • Seton Hall is not ranked.
  • Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame is appearing in the top 20 of nine different NCAA statistical categories, as of Monday. The Fighting Irish lead the nation in both scoring offense (85.9 ppg.) and steals (16.3 spg.), while ranking second in scoring margin (+36.0 ppg.) and turnover margin (+10.71), fourth in assists (19.4 apg.), sixth in field goal percentage (.485), 10th in scoring defense (49.9 ppg.), 11th in assist/turnover ratio (1.18) and 19th in rebound margin (+9.0 rpg.).
  • Notre Dame's current 10-game winning streak is its longest since a 15-game run to open the 2009-10 season.
  • Notre Dame is off to a 13-1 start (or better) for the fifth time in school history (and the third in the past four seasons).
  • Notre Dame has three wins in four games against Top 25 opponents this season, defeating No. 7/6 Duke at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas (56-54), going on the road to win at No. 12/14 Purdue (66-38), and downing No. 8/7 Kentucky at home (92-83), while falling in a hard-fought battle at No. 1 Baylor (94-81).
  • This is the first time in school history the Fighting Irish have defeated three opponents ranked 12th or higher in the Associated Press poll before Christmas.
  • Eleven Fighting Irish wins have come by 20+ points, and seven by at least 30 points. In 12 victories this year, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 61 points or fewer, with nine when the opponent had 50 points or fewer.
  • The Fighting Irish have scored at least 90 points seven times this year (including the past four games, a new school record) and have topped the 80-point mark 10 times.
  • Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the ninth consecutive week the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls. It's also the second time in three seasons that Notre Dame has spent at least nine weeks in a row as a consensus top-five team (the Fighting Irish were in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 5 for 11 consecutive weeks from Dec. 7, 2009-Feb. 22, 2010).
  • With this week's No. 3 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 86 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with more than half that time (48 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • With 569 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third 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) and men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87).
  • McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women's sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men's/women's track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame -- Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men's swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men's tennis).
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 387 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,618 fans per home game after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 166 of their last 168 home games, logging 19 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 28 vs. Longwood).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What's more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor's degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
  • A Quick Look At Seton Hall
    After battling through some early-season adversity, including several injuries, Seton Hall (7-8, 0-1 BIG EAST) is hoping to use a blend of experienced veterans and young talent to climb the conference ladder during the next two months.

    The Pirates have lost their last three games, most recently dropping a hard-fought 82-73 decision at Memphis last Friday night. Senior guard Jasmine Crew led SHU with 33 points and six rebounds, while junior forward Terry Green came off the bench to add 14 points.

    Crew ranks second in the BIG EAST in scoring at 19.2 points per game, while junior guard Brittany Morris chips in 11.6 points a night. Senior center Tajay Ashmeade is tied for sixth in the conference in rebounding (8.3 rpg.) while shooting a team-high .481 from the floor.

    Head coach Anne Donovan is in her second season at Seton Hall with a 15-30 (.333) record. Adding in her three years at East Carolina (1995-97), Donovan has a career college coaching mark of 48-81 (.372), including an 0-1 record against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series
    Notre Dame holds a 19-4 edge in the all-time series with Seton Hall, including a 19-2 record since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, and an active five-game series winning streak. The Fighting Irish also are 9-2 all-time against the Pirates at Walsh Gymnasium, winning on their last three visits to South Orange, N.J.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Seton Hall Met
    Skylar Diggins had 14 points, six assists, seven rebounds, and five steals to help No. 8 Notre Dame beat Seton Hall 89-38 on Feb. 8, 2011, at Purcell Pavilion.

    Notre Dame's defense suffocated Seton Hall all night, limiting the Pirates to 24.6 percent shooting from the floor and forcing 24 turnovers.

    Jasmine Crew led the Pirates with 10 points despite fouling out with 10:18 left in the game.

    Notre Dame made its first nine field goal attempts in the first half, and its first five shots in the second half.

    Natalie Novosel scored 16 points and Brittany Mallory had 13 points and five steals for Notre Dame, which got out to an early 19-4 lead.

    Seton Hall's Brittany Morris stole the ball from Natalie Achonwa and Kaila Turner on consecutive possessions to cut the score to 26-13 with 9:55 to go.

    The Fighting Irish stretched the lead back to 44-23 at halftime, and went on another run in the second half, leading 63-25 with 13:06 to play.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Seton Hall Met In South Orange
    Lindsay Schrader scored 12 points and No. 7 Notre Dame dominated in the paint in a 72-47 victory at Seton Hall on Feb. 27, 2010, at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J.

    Melissa Lechlitner added 10 points and the Fighting Irish closed both halves with big runs in sending the Pirates to their sixth consecutive loss and 15th in 16 games.

    Kandice Green had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Pirates. Ebonie Williams had 13 points and Terry Green added 11.

    The Fighting Irish had a 12-point run to end the first half and build a 12-point lead and they scored 13 in a row late to blow open the game.

    Most of the points in both runs came in the paint, where the Fighting Irish piled up 50 points and finished the game with 56-percent shooting from the field.

    Schrader was the catalyst in the first run with six points. Becca Bruszewski had six of her eight in the late run.

    Ten of the 11 players who got on the court for Notre Dame scored, with Skylar Diggins and Ashley Barlow (eight rebounds) adding nine points apiece and Devereaux Peters adding eight points and eight rebounds.

    Other Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series Tidbits

  • Six of the past 11 series matchups have been decided by six points or fewer, including two of the past five matchups, both in South Orange (a 64-61 victory on Jan. 2, 2007, and a 66-60 win on Jan. 3, 2009).
  • Five of the past six series games in South Orange have been decided by six points or less, with Notre Dame winning four of those five close games.
  • The Fighting Irish have limited the Pirates to 61 points or fewer in 19 of the past 20 series games, the lone exception being SHU's 74-61 win on Jan. 7, 2006, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The coaching matchup between Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and Seton Hall's Anne Donovan features two Women's Basketball Hall of Famers, with McGraw having been inducted in the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Hall last June.
  • The Fighting Irish will add a New Jersey native to their roster next season when Belmar resident and Manasquan High School guard Michaela Mabrey joins the program. More information on Mabrey can be found in the sidebar on page 10 of the PDF version of this notes package.
  • Wright Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
    For the first time in her career, forward Markisha Wright has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday by the conference office.

    This marks the 72nd time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (41 Players of the Week, 31 Freshmen of the Week), the second-most selections in conference history despite the fact Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, a full 14 seasons after the league began sponsoring women's basketball (1982-83).

    Wright is the first Fighting Irish rookie to cop the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award since current sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa was selected for the honor on Dec. 13, 2010. This is the fourth consecutive season that a Notre Dame player has earned the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week designation.

    Wright came off the bench to play a pivotal role in both Fighting Irish wins last week, averaging 16.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with a .542 field goal percentage (13-of-24), all in just 17.0 minutes per game, as Notre Dame defeated Longwood (92-26) and Mercer (128-42).

    The highlight of Wright's week came last Friday at Mercer, when she scored a career-high (and game-best) 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting and collected four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Wright, who became the fourth different Fighting Irish player to score 20 points in a game this season (and second to do so in a reserve role), had eight points and four rebounds (all offensive) earlier in the week against Longwood.

    Start Me Up
    For the third time in four years, and the fifth time in school history (all in the past 12 seasons), Notre Dame has opened with a 13-1 record or better.

    Twice in their history, the Fighting Irish opened with at least 14 consecutive wins, doing so in their 2000-01 national championship season (school-record 23-game winning streak) and again in 2009-10 (15-0).

    Fighting Irish Scoring Early TKOs
    Part of Notre Dame's success this season can be traced to its penchant for jumping out to huge early leads and then keep its foot on the gas the rest of the way.

    Nine times this year, the Fighting Irish have charged to a 20-point lead inside the opening 12:13 of the game, going on to win all nine of those contests by an average of 51.6 points per game.

    'Tis The Season For Taking
    Fueled by its aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 11 games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 27.1 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +10.71 turnover margin that is second-best in the nation (as of Monday).

    The Fighting Irish wasted little time in setting the tone for their opponents this season, forcing a combined 112 turnovers in their first three games, an average of 37.3 per night, and converting those into 142 points (47.3 ppg.). That run was highlighted by an opponent season-high 46 turnovers against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, the third-most takeaways in school history, and second-most in the program's Division I era (49 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).

    Notre Dame has had a similar takeaway surge in its last three games, forcing 86 turnovers and parlaying those takeaways into 138 points (46.0 ppg.).

    The Fighting Irish have been especially hard on opponents in their eight home games this season, forcing 31.1 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.

    The Five-Finger Discount
    Notre Dame comes into Wednesday's game leading the nation (as of Monday) in steals with 16.3 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 11 games this season, including three contests with 20-plus steals.

    Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a season-high 29-steal performance in the opening night victory against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up two days later with 25 thefts in a win over Indiana State, and nabbed 26 steals in a Dec. 28 win over Longwood.

    Prior to last season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years (and 991 games) of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program, and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991. What's more, Notre Dame had not earned a conference steals title since 1989-90, when it led the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) with 10.9 spg.

    Yet, in the past two years (53 games), the Fighting Irish have had eight 23-steal games, with five outings of at least 25 thefts, and they claimed last year's BIG EAST steals crown with 11.8 steals per game during regular-season league play.

    Individually, Notre Dame has eight different players with double-digit steals this season (including three with at least 30 thefts, and a fourth with 29), led by fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is second in the conference at 2.9 steals per game, and junior guard Skylar Diggins who is tied for fourth in the BIG EAST at 2.7 spg.

    Helping Hands
    Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first 14 games of the year.

    The Fighting Irish are second in the BIG EAST (and fourth in the nation as of Monday) at 19.4 assists per game, including a season-high 29 assists against Marquette on Dec. 7 (one of nine 20-assist contests this year).

    What's more, Notre Dame has assisted on 62.4 percent of its field goals this season (271 of 434), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.

    Spread The Wealth
    Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least three players scoring in double figures in 12 games, and at least four double-digit scorers in eight games.

    During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 42-4 (.913) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 - 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 - 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 - 70-69 at DePaul).

    The Fighting Irish also have had six different players lead them in scoring through the first 14 games (including six different top scorers in the past eight games). Four of the six leading scorers this season also have registered at least one 20-point game to date, while nine different Notre Dame players have scored in double figures at least once this year.

    A Rally To Remember
    Notre Dame tied a school record by digging out of an 18-point second-half hole to defeat No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

    Nearly three years earlier on Dec. 30, 2008, the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt with 15:56 remaining and came back to win, 59-57 at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.

    This year's comeback victory over Duke marked the fourth time in program history Notre Dame has ralled from a deficit of 15 points or more to post a victory, with all four of these comebacks occurring in the past 11 seasons.

    Beat The Clock
    Senior guard Natalie Novosel hit a running bank shot at the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

    Novosel's buzzer-beater was the first winning shot at the horn by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy scored the last of her career-high 32 points with an off-handed layup at the overtime siren to earn a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.

    Notre Dame also has had several players nail winning shots in the final minute of games during recent seasons. Prior to Novosel, Ashley Barlow was the last Fighting Irish player to pull off such late-game heroics, canning a three-pointer with 34.2 seconds remaining to help Notre Dame take a 74-73 win at Syracuse on Jan. 30, 2010.

    Another notable recent "beat-the-clock" moment for Notre Dame occurred on Dec. 5, 2007, when Charel Allen sank a foul-line jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Fighting Irish to an 86-84 win at Bowling Green.

    Captain Clutch
    The game-winning basket by senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 was the fourth time in the past two seasons the Lexington, Ky., native had a hand in a go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime. What makes this run by Novosel even more remarkable is the fact that all four of her late-game performances came against top-15 opponents, with the past two coming away from home.

    A Grand Trio
    Notre Dame has had two players score their 1,000th career point this season -- senior guard Natalie Novosel hit the milestone on a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, while fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters reached the landmark on a layup 16:52 left on Dec. 28 vs. Longwood.

    Novosel currently ranks 21st in school history with 1,199 points, while Peters became the 30th member of the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club and presently stands 28th with 1,009 points.

    Together with junior guard Skylar Diggins (16th with 1,298 points), Notre Dame has three active players in that elite Fighting Irish club for the third time in school history. In both 2000-01 and 2009-10, Notre Dame also had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).

    The Fighting Irish could have a fourth player reach the scoring millennium later this season -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory has 837 career points. Should Mallory hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time.

    What's more, Peters became the seventh player from Notre Dame's 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Novosel, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (24th at 1,148) -- and that doesn't even include Mallory, who also was part of that season's 13-player roster.

    Game #14 Recap: Mercer
    After watching Notre Dame set a school record with 72 points in the first half, coach Muffet McGraw had a simple message for her players:

    "Let's keep doing it."

    The No. 3 Fighting Irish kept piling up the points -- and the school records, including for most points in a game -- and overwhelmed Mercer 128-42 on Dec. 30 in Macon, Ga.

    Markisha Wright had 24 points and Skylar Diggins had 21 as Notre Dame stretched its winning streak to 10 games.

    "I thought we executed really well," McGraw said.

    The rout was painful, said Mercer's Ry'van Buchanan.

    "We've got to go get some ice, put it on our behinds and just keep learning," Buchanan said.

    Mercer coach Susie Gardner, who played on two Final Four teams at Georgia, called Notre Dame "just a great team."

    "They're not huge, they're not overly `wow' athletic, but they play so hard," Gardner said. "They just know the game. They're just basketball players."

    The Fighting Irish needed only the first 10 minutes of the second half to reach 100 points for the first time this season.

    Mercer (3-10) couldn't run its offense effectively against the pressure of Notre Dame's man-to-man defense. The Bears had 28 turnovers, leading to 55 points for the Fighting Irish.

    Wright and Diggins led seven Notre Dame scorers in double figures. Kaila Turner had a career-high 17 points, while Natalie Achonwa and Natalie Novosel each had 13 for the Fighting Irish.

    Briana Williams led Mercer with 10 points but made only 2 of 12 shots from the field.

    Notre Dame led 72-30 at halftime to easily set a team record for the most points in a half, topping the 62 points it scored in the second half against West Virginia on Jan. 9, 1997.

    The Fighting Irish made 24 of 30 shots (80 percent) from the field in the dominant half.

    Notre Dame came within one point of matching the team record for the biggest halftime lead -- 43 points at 58-15 against Indiana State on Nov. 13.

    Buchanan opened the game with a basket for Mercer. Notre Dame scored the next 17 points, as its defense caused an immediate rash of turnovers for the Bears.

    Mercer managed to attempt only two shots from the field before Sharmesia Smith scored with 15:13 remaining in the half to end Notre Dame's 17-0 run.

    McGraw said she scheduled the game to give Atlanta native Fraderica Miller a chance to play in her home state. Miller, a senior guard, made her first career start and had eight points, 11 rebounds and three steals.

    Beyond The Box Score -- Mercer

  • Notre Dame set or tied eight school records -- points in a game, points in a road game, margin of victory, points in a single half, points in the first half, field goal percentage, free throws made and free throws attempted.
  • Notre Dame's 128 points also tied for 17th-most in a single game in NCAA Division I history, and most since Nov. 29, 2002 (Tennessee scored 136 points against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez).
  • The 72 points in the first half tied for eighth-most in a single half in NCAA Division I history and most since Nov. 30, 1996 (Richmond scored 73 in a half against Delaware State).
  • The Fighting Irish shot 80 percent (24-of-30) from the floor in the first half, the fourth-highest single-half field goal percentage in school history and best since Jan. 25, 1990 (second-best in a first half behind record .824 on Dec. 4, 1987, at Wisconsin-Green Bay).
  • Notre Dame set a school record with its fourth consecutive 90-point game, topping the old mark of three in a row set from Jan. 23-30, 1999.
  • Diggins' 8-for-8 shooting night was the best by a Fighting Irish player (minimum seven attempts) since Dec. 11, 2004, when Crystal Erwin made all nine of her shots in a win over Washington at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Mercer set a Notre Dame opponent record with 37 fouls, topping the old mark of 35 fouls set by Xavier on Feb. 8, 1986, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Novosel extended her streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures to 21 in a row, tying Karen Robinson (Dec. 29, 1990-March 9, 1991) for the fifth-longest run in school history.
  • The Fighting Irish finished a perfect 8-0 in the month of December, the seventh unblemished December in school history and fourth in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era.
  • The Fighting Irish are 21-14 (.600) in their final game of the calendar year, including an 18-7 (.720) record in the McGraw era and an active five-game winning streak when closing out the month of December.
  • Notre Dame had a season-high seven players score in double figures, one shy of the school record set on Nov. 15, 2009, in a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion (the last time the Fighting Irish topped 100 points in a game prior to last Friday night).
  • Miller earned her first career start and finished with a career-high 11 rebounds.
  • Wright scored a career-high 24 points, becoming the fourth different Fighting Irish player to tally 20 points in a game this season.
  • For the second time in three games, Turner posted a career-high point total (she had 13 points vs. UCF on Dec. 20) while also tying her career best with three three-pointers.
  • Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, its ninth consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.

    Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four the following week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.

    This week's No. 3 ranking marks the 86th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (48) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.

    This year's No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 225 weeks during the program's 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is tied for 21st all-time in that category (pulling even with her former coach at Saint Joseph's-Pa. from 1974-76, Theresa Grentz, with this week's poll position).

    In addition, for the sixth consecutive week, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 in last week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (one spot below their season-high No. 2 ranking the first two weeks of the year), and like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year's preseason coaches' survey (and two a week later), their first nods for the top spot since the final '00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 86 of the past 87 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 218 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 225 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 to No. 3 in the nation.

    Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).

    Half And Half
    During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 228-18 (.927) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 156 of their last 168 such contests.

    What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 65-1 (.985) when leading at the half, with the only loss coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70).

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 17 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 Fighting Irish have an amazing 242-15 (.942) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including 11 contests this year.

    ...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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 162-6 (.964) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.

    In the past three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 39-2 (.951) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in 10 games this season and winning nine times.

    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 Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 212 of their last 239 games (.887) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span (and an active run of 15 in a row). Notre Dame also has a 114-19 (.857) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.

    The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 100 of their last 108 non-BIG EAST contests (.926) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight 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 defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). 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 362-88 (.804) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The past two seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program's season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out four games (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 28 vs. Longwood, Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put several others (Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

    What's more, through its first eight home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,618 fans per game, including sellouts (9,149) vs. Kentucky on Dec. 18 and Longwood on Dec. 28. The Fighting Irish now have posted 13 sellouts in the past three seasons and 19 in program history.

    While some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2011-12 regular season.

    Fighting 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. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 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 Fighting 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 Digital Media 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), is now in the fourth season of his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.

    Notre Dame On The Small Screen
    Notre Dame will have at least 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast.

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free Fighting Irish Video Channel.

    This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Dec. 28 game against Longwood (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 211 televised games, including 156 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

    Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With "Heart of the Irish" Service Initiative
    For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women's basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed "Heart of the Irish"), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year's "Heart of the Irish" program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.

    The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" drive took place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame played host to Penn at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish held their seventh annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children's Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event came at halftime, when fans were invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they were then collected by volunteers, including member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

    Notre Dame's second outreach event, called Food For Friends, was held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans were invited to bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that were collected and subsequently delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph County chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

    Notre Dame's third special "Heart of the Irish" event is entitled Reading One on One and it's scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. That evening, the team will collect children's books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.

    The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.

    The last event in the "Heart of the Irish" series comes on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.

    Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.

    In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women's basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University's Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.

    Originally called the "Spirit of Giving" program, Notre Dame's community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.

    The Notre Dame women's basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    It's year five 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 Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

    In the five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 32 times, most recently in the Dec. 28 win over Longwood.

    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 -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.

    And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "the media relations director has way too much time on his hands"), 18 different players have converted the "burger ball", including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 32 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.

    Next Game: Connecticut
    After capturing the nation's imagination with a stirring four-game series last season, Notre Dame and Connecticut will square off in the first of two regular-season meeting this year at 4 p.m. (ET) Saturday inside a sold-out Purcell Pavilion (the game will be televised live to a national audience on CBS).

    Like the Fighting Irish, the second-ranked Huskies (11-1, 1-0) have just a road loss at No. 1 Baylor (66-61 on Dec. 18) separating them from a perfect record to date. Connecticut plays host to West Virginia Wednesday night before making the trip to South Bend this weekend.

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