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    #12/6 Irish Wrap Up Four-Game Road Swing Tuesday At DePaul

    FIGHTING IRISH Freshman guard Natalie Novosel is averaging 8.8 points per game with a .542 field goal percentage in Notre Dame's past four outings.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Freshman guard Natalie Novosel is averaging 8.8 points per game with a .542 field goal percentage in Notre Dame's past four outings.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Jan. 5, 2009

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    2008-09 ND Women's Basketball: Game 14
    #12/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-1 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (12-3 / 0-1 BIG EAST)

    DATE: January 6, 2009
    TIME: 8:00 p.m. CT
    AT: Chicago, Ill. - McGrath Arena (3,000)
    SERIES: DPU leads 18-12
    1ST MTG: DPU 82-53 (1/30/79)
    LAST MTG: ND 66-64 (2/24/08)
    TV: CBS College Sports (live) (Tom Hart, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TICKETS: (773) 325-7526

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame wraps up a four-game road swing, its longest in six years, and looks to win consecutive games at DePaul for the first time since 1986-87.
  • In the past three seasons, Notre Dame and DePaul have played seven times, with five games decided by eight points or less.
  • No. 12/6 Irish Wrap Up Four-Game Road Trip Tuesday At DePaul
    Packed up and ready to head back on the road, No. 12/6 Notre Dame reaches the midpoint of the regular season on Tuesday when it travels to DePaul for an 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) game at McGrath Arena in Chicago. The contest will be televised live to a national cable audience by CBS College Sports.

    The Irish (12-1) extended their current winning streak to five games and opened BIG EAST play on a high note with a 66-60 victory at Seton Hall last Saturday. Notre Dame led from the opening tip to the final horn, turning away several second-half rallies by the Pirates to claim the win.

    Junior guard Ashley Barlow scored a team-high 14 points, while freshman forward Erica Solomon came off the bench to chip in 13 points and senior guard Lindsay Schrader added 11 points for the Irish, who shot 54.3 percent from the field in the victory.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame was ranked 12th in last week's Associated Press poll and sixth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll (new polls to be released Monday and Tuesday).
  • DePaul was receiving votes in both major polls last week.
  • A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.

    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

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 304 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 7,268 fans for its first five home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 115 of their last 117 home games, including six Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past eight seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Allen, Megan Duffy (New York) and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) all were active in the league during the '08 season, with all three teams making the playoffs (San Antonio made the WNBA Finals, while New York was the Eastern Conference runner-up). 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 '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. Notre Dame also was one of only four teams with a perfect '07 GSR to advance to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 (joining Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate).
  • A Quick Look At DePaul
    DePaul (12-3, 0-1 BIG EAST) comes into Tuesday night's game having won seven of its last eight games and sporting a 7-0 record at home this season. The Irish will be the third ranked opponent for the Blue Demons, who are in the midst of a stretch of four consecutive games against Top 25 teams.

    DePaul had its seven-game winning streak snapped last Saturday with a 78-60 loss at No. 10/13 Louisville in the conference opener for both teams. The Blue Demons led by as many as eight points (24-16) in the first half before the host Cardinals rallied to take a one-point lead at halftime. The game remained deadlocked through the first five minutes of the second half before Louisville pulled away for the win.

    Junior guard Deirdre Naughton scored a team-high 21 points to pace three DePaul players in double figures, while adding seven rebounds and six assists. Senior forward Natasha Williams chipped in 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting, while freshman forward Keisha Hampton tallied 12 points.

    Naughton leads the Blue Demons and ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (18.3 ppg.), assists (4.9 apg.), assist/turnover ratio (1.49), free throw percentage (.833) and three-point percentage (.397). Williams is second in scoring (14.6 ppg.) and is challenging for the BIG EAST lead with team-high marks in rebounding (7.0 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.642).

    Head coach Doug Bruno is in his 23rd season at his alma mater with a 426-245 (.635) career record, which includes an 11-6 mark against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-DePaul Series
    It's a rivalry that dates back to the early days of Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Irish get set to meet DePaul for the 31st time on Tuesday night. The Blue Demons hold an 18-12 series lead on Notre Dame, including a 10-5 edge in Chicago.

    The Irish first played DePaul in the 1978-79 season, then faced off almost annually for 14 seasons (1981-82 through 1994-95), due in part to their mutual membership in the North Star Conference from 1983-88.

    After a nearly seven-year hiatus, the schools resumed their rivalry with a home-and-home series in 2001-02 and 2002-03 before DePaul joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06. Since then, the teams have met twice a year (as well as a first-round matchup in the 2007 BIG EAST Championship), with the Blue Demons owning a thin 4-3 advantage in that span.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And DePaul Met
    Erica Williamson tied her career high with 16 points and added eight rebounds to help No. 14 Notre Dame beat DePaul 66-64 on Feb. 24, 2008, at McGrath Arena in Chicago.

    Charel Allen had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Irish, while Lindsay Schrader scored 11 while Ashley Barlow added 10 for Notre Dame, which earned its first win on DePaul's home court since 1991.

    Allie Quigley had 21 points, six rebounds and seven turnovers for DePaul (18-8, 7-6), which shot 39.3 percent (24-of-61) after hitting a season-high 60 percent in a 81-80 win over the Irish a month earlier in South Bend.

    Felicia Chester had a career-high 14 points and seven rebounds, and Caprice Smith added 10 points, eight rebounds and four steals for the Blue Demons.

    Trailing 66-64 after Allen's free throw with 11.5 seconds left, China Threatt passed up a wide-open layup and the Blue Demons were unable to get a shot off.

    DePaul was down 64-59 with 1:21 left before Deirdre Naughton hit a three-pointer and a jumper that brought the Blue Demons to 65-64 with 12.6 remaining before Allen made one of two free throws to set up the final sequence.

    Notre Dame led 39-32 at the break, but DePaul opened the second half on a 12-2 run to take a 44-41 lead. The Irish answered with an 11-4 spurt to regain a 52-48 lead with 11:22 left.

    Other Notre Dame-DePaul Series Tidbits

  • Until last season, home court advantage played a prominent role in the series outcome (ND leads 7-6 in South Bend, while DPU is up 10-5 in Chicago and 2-0 at neutral sites. However, last year saw each team win on the other's home court, with DePaul snapping a four-game losing streak at the Joyce Center (first win since February 1992) and the Irish breaking a five-game drought in Chicago (first win since January 1991, back at old Alumni Hall).
  • In 10 of the past 11 series games, the winning team has scored at least 75 points. The only exception was last year's second matchup, a 66-64 Notre Dame win in Chicago, which also was the first time neither side topped 70 points since DePaul's 1992 win in South Bend (62-49 on Feb. 11).
  • The DePaul series is the second-longest in Notre Dame history, with Tuesday's 31st game between the clubs. Only the Marquette rivalry (33 games entering the Jan. 13 matchup in Milwaukee) is longer.
  • DePaul's 18 series wins are the third-most by one Irish opponent, exceeded only by Connecticut (21) and Tennessee (20).
  • Combining their memberships in the North Star and BIG EAST conferences, Notre Dame is 8-8 all-time against DePaul in regular-season conference games. The Blue Demons did win the only conference tournament game between the programs, shading the Irish, 76-71 in the first round of the 2007 BIG EAST Championship in Hartford, Conn.
  • Notre Dame junior guard Melissa Lechlitner was a member of the 2007 USA U19 World Championship Team, coached by DePaul's Doug Bruno and assisted by former Irish aide (and current Northern Illinois head coach) Carol Owens. That squad went a perfect 9-0 and captured the gold medal in Bratislava, Slovakia, with Lechlitner averaging 4.6 points and 1.4 assists during the '07 FIBA U19 World Championships.
  • Notre Dame has had 11 players come from the state of Illinois, including 10 from the Chicagoland area, with senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett/Bartlett HS) and sophomore forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago/Fenwick HS) the latest additions to a list that includes NCAA career three-point percentage record holder Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich/Lake Zurich HS) and 1,000-point scorer/2004 Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (Chicago/Roosevelt HS). The Irish will add another Chicago-area product to the roster next fall when guard Kaila Turner (Joliet/Marian Catholic HS) arrives in South Bend.
  • Schrader was named Illinois Miss Basketball in 2005, claiming that honor by the sixth-largest margin (374 points) since the award was created in 1986.
  • The top three vote-getters for the 2008 Michigan Miss Basketball award will be in the building on Tuesday night. Irish freshman forward Kellie Watson took home the honor, edging out her current teammate, forward Erica Solomon. Meanwhile, DePaul freshman guard Courtney Webb, a native of Benton Harbor, Mich. (40 miles north of the Notre Dame campus), was third in the balloting.
  • Both head coaches -- Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and DePaul's Doug Bruno -- have ties to the old Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL) which existed from 1978-81; McGraw was a point guard for the California Dreams in 1979 (the franchise's only year of existence), while Bruno was the head coach and director of player personnel for the Chicago Hustle throughout its incarnation from 1978-80.
  • This year's return game between Notre Dame and DePaul (scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Feb. 8 at the Joyce Center) has been designated as the Irish "Pink Zone" game, as Notre Dame participates in the national breast cancer awareness initiative created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
  • The WBCA will have several other ties to Tuesday night's game. McGraw is the Division I legislative chair on the WBCA's Board of Directors, while Bruno is the body's immediate past president. In addition, CBS College Sports television analyst Debbie Antonelli is in her second year as a co-host (with national broadcasting luminary Beth Mowins) of the WBCA's weekly women's basketball podcast called "Shootaround With Beth & Debbie." The 30-minute podcast is available for download each Wednesday during the basketball season by going to the WBCA's official web site, www.wbca.org. For more details, see the sidebar on page 10 of the PDF version of this notes package.
  • Calling Our Travel Agent
    Notre Dame is wrapping up one of its most challenging schedule stretches in recent memory, playing six out of seven games on the road from Dec. 10-Jan. 6. The last time the Irish faced such an extended regular-season road test was Nov. 17-Dec. 5, 1996, when they played seven consecutive games away from the Joyce Center (four road, three neutral), with the first three games coming in the final three rounds of the Preseason WNIT.

    This year's stretch includes four consecutive road games beginning Dec. 28-30 with trips to Charlotte (W, 68-61) and No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (W, 59-57), and continuing this past Saturday at Seton Hall (W, 66-60) before concluding Tuesday night 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).

    Road Warriors
    Notre Dame is 17-5 in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past four road losses for the Irish have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including a 63-59 overtime loss at Michigan on Dec. 10 (the only blemish on Notre Dame's record to date this season).

    Last year's 10-4 record in road games also marked the first time the Irish had piled up double-digit victories on the road since the 2004-05 season.

    A Start We Can Believe In
    Notre Dame's 12-1 start matches the second-best 13-game debut in school history, with the Irish also winning 12 of their first 13 games to begin the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons.

    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.

    Serving Notice
    Four of Notre Dame's wins this season have come against ranked opponents, marking 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's eight Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than one Top 25 non-conference victory this season).

    Born To Run
    Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned eight game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.

    Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That marked the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.

    New Kids On The Block
    It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame's freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.

    With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class -- forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.

    Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame's 12-1 start. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least twice (Solomon-5, Novosel-3, Watson-2), with Watson also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Dec. 1 & 8) and Novosel taking home the honor last week (Dec. 29).

    What's more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 16 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame's go-to defensive stopper, averaging one steal per game in her eight appearances this season.

    Notre Dame's knack for quick player development should come as no surprise -- the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.

    Piping Hot Turnovers
    After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again this year, causing 289 turnovers (22.2 per game) through 13 games.

    Nearly half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 139 thefts (10.7 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.

    Long Distance Defense
    One of the focal points of Notre Dame's preseason workouts was improving its three-point defense, after opponents shot .355 from beyond the arc last year. So far, it would appear that emphasis in practice has paid off.

    Notre Dame was ranked eighth in the country as of Dec. 22 (and is now third in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .249 percentage (44-of-177) from long range. What's more, in the first 13 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 36.1-percent efficiency posted by Seton Hall (4-of-11) last Saturday.

    Deep Thoughts
    Notre Dame also has found its shooting eye from the three-point line this season, connecting at a .353 clip from distance (53-of-150) to rank fifth in the BIG EAST and 11th in the country (as of Dec. 22).

    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
    Notre Dame has seen seven different players lead the team in scoring this season, with five of the Irish leading scorers registering a career-scoring high -- Becca Bruszewski at Boston College (18), Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Natalie Novosel at Eastern Michigan (18) and Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish four times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted her first team-high scoring games of the year in three of Notre Dame's last four outings, including a season-high 19 points at Charlotte on Dec. 28.

    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
    Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in 13 of a possible 18 NCAA team statistical categories (as of Dec. 22). Included in that count are eight top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 8 rank in field goal percentage (currently .467) and three-point percentage defense (.249), and No. 10 in scoring offense (74.8 ppg.).

    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 2.55 per game.

    Nostradamus In High Heels
    With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.

    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.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame was ranked 12th in last week's Associated Press poll, holding steady from the previous week's ranking. It was the 28th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.

    Notre Dame 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 last week'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
    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 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 in PDF version of these notes).

    Thirty Deeds
    Last year, the Irish tied a school record with 10 wins by 30-or-more points. It would seem Notre Dame is intent on challenging that mark this season, having won four games this season by at least 35 points -- a first in school history.

    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.

    Game #13 Recap: Seton Hall
    Junior guard Ashley Barlow scored 14 points, including a clutch jumper with 90 seconds left, leading No. 12/6 Notre Dame to a 66-60 victory over Seton Hall in the BIG EAST opener for both schools Saturday in South Orange, N.J.

    The win was the fifth in a row for the Irish (12-1) and the third straight on the road. Seton Hall, off to its best start since the 1994-95 season, dropped to 11-2 overall.

    Notre Dame scored the first two points of the game and never trailed, surviving a few late scares to come away with the victory.

    After trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, the Pirates managed to cut the lead to 56-55 with 2:28 left on a three-point play from Ebonie Williams, who led all scorers with 18 points. However, Seton Hall never got any closer.

    With Notre Dame holding a 58-56 lead and the shot clock winding down, Barlow connected on a jumper that pushed the lead to 60-56 with 1:36 remaining. Williams nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 60-59 with 1:01 left, but junior guard Melissa Lechlitner made a fall-away jumper from beyond the free throw line that gave Notre Dame a 62-59 lead with 46.2 seconds left.

    Barlow then added two free throws with 22.5 seconds left, before Lechlitner and senior guard Lindsay Schrader each sank a foul shot in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory. Schrader added 11 points and came up with a rebound (one of her team-high six caroms) and steal in the closing minutes.

    Besides Barlow and Schrader, Notre Dame got 13 points off the bench from freshman forward Erica Solomon.

    Nicole Emery had 15 points for Seton Hall and Noteisha Womack, the nation's leading rebounder at 13.9 per contest, had 11 points and 13 boards for the Pirates, who fell to 8-105 overall against schools ranked in the Top 25.

    Noting The Seton Hall Game

  • Notre Dame earns the 650th victory in the 32-year history of Irish women's basketball. Notre Dame now is 650-288 (.693) since the program attained varsity status in 1977-78.
  • The Irish now have won 10 of their 14 BIG EAST Conference openers since joining the conference in 1995-96.
  • Notre Dame also have won its last three BIG EAST lidlifters, all on the road, including two at Seton Hall (64-61 in 2007 and 66-60 in 2009).
  • The Irish improve to 17-4 all-time against Seton Hall and have won five of their last six games against the Pirates.
  • The close outcome should come as no surprise -- six of the past nine series games between Notre Dame and SHU have been decided by six points or fewer; in addition, the past five meetings at Walsh Gymnasium also have had margins of six points or fewer.
  • The Irish had three double-figure scorers for the 12th time this season (12-0 record).
  • Notre Dame led at halftime for the 11th time this season (10-1 record).
  • The Irish shot better than 50 percent from the floor for the third time this season and first since Nov. 25 vs. Georgia Southern (.561).
  • Solomon scored in double figures for the fifth time this season and first since Dec. 2 at Eastern Michigan (12 points).
  • Barlow returned to double figures for the eighth time this season, but the first since Dec. 13 at Valparaiso.
  • Peters, Mallory Out For Season
    Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters' injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame's win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Both players are expected to undergo corrective surgery in the coming weeks before beginning their respective rehabilitation programs.

    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
    With the injuries to Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame added junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen to its roster on Dec. 19. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native made her collegiate debut the following afternoon against Loyola-Chicago, logging one point, one rebound and one steal in five minutes.

    A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.

    Half And Half
    During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 156-15 (.912) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 84 of their last 93 such contests.

    This season, Notre Dame is 10-1 when it is ahead at the break, only losing in OT at Michigan on Dec. 10 after holding a narrow one-point lead.

    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...
    During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 191-12 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    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
    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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 119-4 (.967) 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 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
    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 167 of their last 188 games (.888) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 93-15 (.861) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the 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 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.

    Crowded House
    The Dec. 7 home game against No. 17/20 Purdue was officially sold out, representing the sixth women's basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game has sold out.

    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
    On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 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
    Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including five games on the ESPN family of networks and three others on CBS College Sports (beginning with Tuesday night's game at DePaul).

    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
    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

    Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
    Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.

    Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:

  • Open Practice/Tip-Off Luncheon - On Oct. 19, the Irish open the doors to one of their preseason practice sessions and allowed approximately 600 season ticket holders to watch the team prepare for the upcoming season. A luncheon with the team followed and a total of $3,311 was raised.
  • Three-Point Pledge - Fans can pledge an amount to donate for every three-pointer the Irish make this season. Pledge cards are available at the Joyce Center Gate 10 marketing table prior to each home game.
  • Beanie Bears/Calendars - The Irish are collecting a $5 donation for every special-edition Notre Dame women's basketball beanie bear and team calendar sold during the season.
  • T-Shirt Sales - Specially-commissioned "Irish Believe" pink t-shirts are on sale in the Hammes Bookstore and Varsity Shop on the Notre Dame campus. Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt will go to breast cancer awareness and research.
  • Brittany and Becca's Class - Sophomores Brittany Mallory and Becca Bruszewski currently are taking a management class in Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business under the guidance of Chuck Lennon, an Irish women's basketball season ticket holder, as well as Associate Vice President for University Relations and Executive Director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. This class has been focusing on ways to help promote and enhance the Pink Zone initiative on the Notre Dame campus and rolled out their ideas at the Dec. 7 Purdue game.
  • Pink Zone Challenge - The Irish women's basketball program has challenged some of the other top-drawing teams in the country to a friendly fund-raising competition to see which school can raise the most money for breast cancer awareness and research during the WBCA's designated Pink Zone games (Feb. 13-22, 2009). A total of 15 schools from among the top 20 in last year's final NCAA attendance rankings have committed for this inaugural challenge -- Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. The school raising the most money during their specific Pink Zone game will earn the first-ever Pink Zone Challenge Trophy, to be commissioned by Notre Dame and awarded during the WBCA National Convention, to be held April 3-7, 2009, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis.
  • Game Day (Feb. 8 vs. DePaul) - The Irish have selected their Feb. 8 home game against DePaul as Notre Dame's Pink Zone game, presented by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The Irish will take the court in white, pink and navy uniforms, specially-designed by the school's official athletics apparel provider, adidas. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a free pink Irish t-shirt, compliments of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and pink pom-poms, balloons and posters will fill the crowd. In addition, breast cancer survivors will be recognized on the court during a special halftime ceremony. What's more, should Notre Dame sell out this game, the Irish will donate an additional $10,000 to the Pink Zone initiative.
  • 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
    Notre Dame's Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year's NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.

    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
    After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its "Big Mac" promotion for 2008-09, 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.

    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
    On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.

    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:

  • New, blue chair-back seating from top to bottom of the arena, including all-new upper-arena sections. All seating will be replaced in the lower bowl (including platform seats), and the wooden bleachers in the upper bowl will be removed and replaced with treads and risers and permanent arena seats. The exchange of the bleacher sections for chair back seats will change the capacity from the current 11,418 to approximately 9,800.
  • A stadium club/hospitality area (approximately 16,500 square feet) in the south end of the arena, with a separate, private entry and with premium club seating for nearly 800 fans (that figure is part of the projected 9,800 capacity). Included in this area will be food service and restroom facilities.
  • New fixed concession areas, increased numbers of women's restrooms and increased handicapped seating options.
  • The interior seating changes provide an opportunity to consider new options for student seating. Students currently sit in both lower- and upper-arena sections behind the basket on the east end of the arena.
  • Next Game: Georgetown
    The Irish finally will return to the friendly confines of the Joyce Center on Saturday as they tip off the home portion of their BIG EAST schedule with a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup against Georgetown. The game will be the nightcap in a full day of hoops action in South Bend, with the nationally-ranked Notre Dame men's basketball team slated to welcome Seton Hall to the Joyce Center at 2 p.m.

    Georgetown (11-3, 1-0) is enjoying a week off after opening conference play last Saturday with an 80-73 victory over visiting Syracuse.

    -- ND --
     

     

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