Jan. 5, 2009
#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
No. 12/6 Irish Wrap Up Four-Game Road Trip Tuesday At DePaul
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.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At DePaul
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
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
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
Calling Our Travel Agent
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).
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
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.
Born To Run
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
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
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
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.
Notre Dame was particularly prolific from the arc in a four-game stretch from Nov. 19-29, making 29 treys in that span (seven in wins over Evansville and Boston College, six vs. Georgia Southern and nine vs. Michigan State).
One has to go back seven years to find the last time Notre Dame made more than 29 combined three-pointers in a four-game span. From Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 2001, Notre Dame was lights-out from the arc at Colorado State (7), at Arizona (7), home vs. Army (10) and at a neutral site vs. Michigan (8).
In addition, the nine three-pointers and 25 attempts against Michigan State on Nov. 29 were the most for Notre Dame in a single game since March 3, 2002, when the Irish went 10-for-26 from beyond the arc in an 84-79 loss to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
Spreading The Wealth
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club (along with walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19).
More On The Balance Beam
At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings -- junior guard Ashley Barlow stood 22nd in the nation in steals (as of Dec. 22), now with 2.55 per game.
Nostradamus In High Heels
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program's first national championship.
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
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).
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
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
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA's hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a "medical redshirt") that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team's scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
This season, Notre Dame is 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...
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in five games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 317-82 (.794) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version of this notes package.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
LeSEA now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's new women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics Web site (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 124 televised games, including 74 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark three times -- in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19) and Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: Georgetown
Georgetown (11-3, 1-0) is enjoying a week off after opening conference play last Saturday with an 80-73 victory over visiting Syracuse.