Jan. 7, 2011
#13/12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-3 / 2-0 BIG EAST) vs. #2/2 Connecticut Huskies (13-1 / 3-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 8, 2011
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: UCONN leads 25-4
1ST MTG: UCONN 87-64 (1/18/96)
LAST MTG: UCONN 59-44 (3/8/10)
TV: CBS (live) (Don Criqui, p-b-p / Rebecca Lobo, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
No. 13/12 Irish Host No. 2 Connecticut Saturday Afternoon
After tipping off the BIG EAST Conference season with a pair of road victories, No. 13/12 Notre Dame returns home to Purcell Pavilion Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against second-ranked Connecticut. The game will be televised live to a national audience on CBS as the opener in that network's annual women's college basketball doubleheader.
The Fighting Irish (13-3, 2-0 BIG EAST) stretched their current winning streak to a season-high eight games with a 73-55 victory at Marquette on Wednesday night. Notre Dame used a 16-1 run midway through the first half to take control and, with the exception of a brief hiccup near halftime, maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Connecticut
Except for a few folks living somewhere in a cave on a remote island, pretty much everyone is familiar with Connecticut's success in recent seasons, including consecutive national titles and an NCAA Division I-record 90-game winning streak that ended Dec. 30 with a 71-59 loss at (then) No. 9/8 Stanford.
The Huskies, who barely relinquished their grip on the No. 1 ranking in both polls this week, got back to winning form on Wednesday with an 81-35 home victory over Villanova. Junior guard Tiffany Hayes led an efficient Connecticut attack with 22 points, while senior forward Maya Moore piled up 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Freshman guard Bria Hartley scored 13 points and sophomore guard Kelly Faris had a career-high 12 rebounds for the Huskies, who shot 57.7 percent from the field.
Moore continues to be the talisman for Connecticut, averaging a BIG EAST-best 23.4 points per game along with team highs of 7.7 rebounds per game (eighth in the BIG EAST), 4.1 assists per game (11th in the BIG EAST), 2.7 steals per game (third in the BIG EAST) and 1.4 blocks per game (tied for 12th in the BIG EAST) on a .547 field goal percentage (ninth in the BIG EAST).
Yet, Connecticut is far from a one-woman show, with Hayes ranking eighth in the BIG EAST at 15.9 points per game and Hartley standing 16th in the loop at 14.0 ppg., fueled in part by a conference-best .449 three-point percentage.
Head coach Geno Auriemma is in his 26th season as the Huskies' boss, sporting a 748-123 (.859) record in his Hall of Fame career, including a 25-4 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Connecticut Series
Although the two sides did not meet prior to Notre Dame's arrival in the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish and Huskies have made up for lost time, playing 29 times in the past 15 seasons. Connecticut holds a 25-4 edge against Notre Dame, including an active nine-game series winning streak since the last Fighting Irish victory (65-59 on Jan. 30, 2005, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs).
Saturday's game will be the 11th in the series to be played at Purcell Pavilion, with the Huskies holding an 8-2 series lead. The last time Notre Dame defeated Connecticut in South Bend was Jan. 13, 2004, when the unranked Fighting Irish posted a 66-51 victory over the fourth-ranked Huskies.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Connecticut Met
Tina Charles, Maya Moore and the latest Connecticut Huskies' dynasty now has its own place in the record books.
Charles scored 16 points and Moore added 11 to help top-ranked Connecticut win an NCAA-record 71st straight game -- a 59-44 victory over No. 6 Notre Dame on March 8, 2010, in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship in Hartford, Conn.
Notre Dame kept it close for a half.
UConn only led 25-22 at the break -- its lowest scoring output in nearly three years. The Huskies then asserted themselves, led by Kalana Greene.
The senior hit just one of eight shots in the first 20 minutes, but scored the first four points of a decisive 13-4 run that gave UConn a 49-35 lead with 9:00 left. Moore's deep three-pointer capped the spurt. Greene finished the game with 15 points.
Notre Dame, which was led by Skylar Diggins' 10 points, was only able to close to 10.
For 20 minutes it looked as if Notre Dame might have some of its traditional luck of the Irish. It was a sloppy first half as neither team could put together a sustained run. The Huskies took their biggest lead of the half on Caroline Doty's three-pointer with 8:37 left that made it 19-14. Notre Dame answered scoring six of the next eight points to close within one.
The Fighting Irish had plenty of chances to take the lead, but couldn't get over the hump.
Charles scored consecutive layups to extend the lead back to five and UConn went into the half only up three. In the first two meetings UConn led Notre Dame by 23 and 13.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Connecticut Met at Purcell Pavilion
Tina Charles had 18 points and eight rebounds to become top-ranked Connecticut's career leader in both categories in a 76-51 win over No. 6 Notre Dame on March 1, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion, leaving the Huskies one shy of tying their NCAA women's record for consecutive victories.
Charles passed Nykesha Sales (1995-98) as the school's all-time leading scorer 2,184 points and Rebecca Lobo (1992-95) as its leading rebounder with 1,272.
Maya Moore had 17 points and nine rebounds as all five Connecticut starters finished in double figures. Tiffany Hayes added 13 points, Kalana Greene 12 and Caroline Doty 11. The Huskies got just five points from their bench.
Other Notre Dame-Connecticut Series Tidbits
Eye On The Fighting Irish
Saturday's game will be televised live to a national audience on CBS, marking the fourth time in Notre Dame women's basketball history that the Fighting Irish have appeared on that network since it first began televising NCAA women's basketball games back in 1982 (including the first NCAA Women's Final Four from Norfolk, Va.).
Notre Dame is 0-3 all-time on CBS, falling at Ohio State (74-67) in 1997, then dropping home games against Purdue (71-54) in 2003 and Tennessee (87-63) in 2008. Despite the 1997 loss at OSU, All-America forward Katryna Gaither was named the CBS/Chevrolet Player of the Game after chalking up 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday's game leading the nation in steals with 15.7 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 13 of 16 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 24 steals at Valparaiso (Dec. 2) and 23 steals against IUPUI (Nov. 26).
Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years 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).
Individually, Notre Dame has 10 different players with double-digit steals this season (and another with eight), led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.5 steals per game (sixth in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame also enters the week as the nation's leader in assists (now 19.9 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 10 games this season.
Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 61.9 percent of its baskets this season, with 318 assists on 514 field goals.
At the head of the Fighting Irish assist company is sophomore Skylar Diggins, who has adapted well to her role as Notre Dame's primary point guard, tying for seventh in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.5 assists per game (while flirting with the top 15 in the league with a 1.36 assist/turnover ratio). She also has handed out at least five assists in nine games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.
They say good things happen in threes, and Notre Dame also leads the nation with a .504 field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 11 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 14 outings.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly efficient during their current eight-game winning streak, posting a .535 field goal percentage (263-of-492), including a season-high .633 mark against Creighton on Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has seen a recent rise in its three-point shooting numbers. During the past seven games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 42.4 percent clip (28-of-66) from beyond the arc. Compare that with the first nine contests of the season, when Notre Dame had a .269 (29-of-108) three-point percentage.
Notre Dame is the only Division I school that currently leads the nation in three statistical categories (steals, assists and field goal percentage), according to Monday's latest NCAA statistics report -- see previous three notes for details on those specific areas.
The Fighting Irish also rank among the top 10 in the nation in eight categories -- third in three-point defense (now .226), fourth in scoring margin (+31.7 ppg.), seventh in scoring offense (84.6 ppg.) and rebound margin (+10.7 rpg.) and ninth in turnover margin (+8.1).
In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 20 in the NCAA in 11 of a possible 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in assist/turnover ratio (12th, 1.14), field goal percentage defense (15th, .338) and scoring defense (18th, 52.9 ppg.).
Yet for all of these high statistical marks, only one Fighting Irish player ranks higher than No. 100 in any single category -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is 75th in the nation in assists (4.5 apg.).
High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses (84.6 ppg., seventh as of Monday), Notre Dame is moving into uncharted territory in the school's record books.
The Fighting Irish have scored 90 points in a game in half (8) of their 16 contests this season, setting a new school record for 90-point games in a season (the previous mark was seven, set on three occasions - 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
Notre Dame also has set a new school record with eight wins by at least 35 points, doubling the previous program standard of four 35-point victories set in 2008-09.
What's more, the Fighting Irish have won nine games by at least 30 points, just one shy of the school record of 10 30-point victories, which was set during the program's 2000-01 national championship season.
Last year, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in school history, and best since the Fighting Irish logged a school-record 81.0 ppg. mark in 1998-99.
Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Fighting Irish have spread the wealth so far this season, with five different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game thus far, with four different 20-point scorers along the way. That includes freshman guard Kayla McBride, who came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points in the Dec. 30 win over Loyola Marymount, the highest point total by a Fighting Irish reserve since Dec. 12, 2009, when current senior guard/co-captain Brittany Mallory dropped in a career-high 22 points in a win over Valparaiso at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has seen no fewer than seven different players claim team-high rebounding and assist honors this season.
Peters Named To BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll
For the third time this season, a Notre Dame women's basketball player has earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Honor Roll, as senior forward Devereaux Peters was tapped for this week's squad, the league office announced Monday. Peters was one of five players chosen for this week's honor (the first of her career), which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.
In three games last week, Peters averaged 12.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game with a .581 field goal percentage (18-of-31) and two double-doubles in just 54 total minutes of action (18.0 per game) as Notre Dame recorded victories over Gonzaga (70-61) and Loyola Marymount (91-47) at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle, Wash., before returning home to defeat Southeast Missouri State (97-21) on Sunday.
Peters also was named the Most Valuable Player of the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic, the first MVP selection of her career and her second all-tournament team honor of the season, after she was recognized for her efforts at the WBCA Classic back in November.
Against Gonzaga, Peters posted her first double-double of the season (second of her career) with 10 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action. She then chalked up 16 points (on 8-of-9 shooting), a game-high six rebounds and a game-best five steals (also a season high) in only 18 minutes against Loyola Marymount. She capped the week with her second double-double in three games (third of her career), ringing up 11 points and a season-high (and game-best) 13 rebounds in just 14 minutes against Southeast Missouri State.
A member of the 2008 BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, Peters currently ranks third on the team in scoring at 9.8 points per game, while leading the squad in rebounding (6.1 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.4 bpg.), and placing second in field goal percentage (.548), free throw percentage (.840) and steals (tied-2.1 spg.). She also ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in field goal percentage (seventh), blocked shots (11th) and steals (15th).
Peters is the latest Notre Dame award recipinent in a group that now features at least one BIG EAST weekly honoree this season from each class. Junior guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins also have been selected for the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll this season -- Novosel was chosen on Nov. 29 and Diggins was cited a week later on Dec. 6. In addition, freshman forward Natalie Achonwa was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Dec. 13.
Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Nicknamed "Nasty" for her playmaking abilities, junior guard Natalie Novosel is rapidly making a strong case as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference, if not the entire country.
The Lexington, Ky., native currently leads the Fighting Irish (and ranks 12th in the league) in scoring at 15.1 points per game, more than tripling her offensive output from a season ago. She also has scored at least 20 points in a game four times this year (after coming into the campaign with a career single-game high of 19 points) and has scored in double figures 13 times after doing so a combined total of 14 times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.
In addition, Novosel is 13th in the BIG EAST in field goal percentage (.524) and ranks second on the team with a .333 three-point percentage. She has added some hardware to her personal trophy case as well, taking home Most Valuable Player honors at the WBCA Classic, and earning a spot on the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team.
Thus, it's no surprise that ESPN.com's Graham Hays tweeted the following comment after Novosel's career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) vs. Gonzaga in a 70-61 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 29 in Seattle:
"Is Natalie Novosel the most improved player in the nation? Gotta be on the short list."
Peters Showing Her Own Dev-elopment
If Novosel is among the nation's most improved players, senior forward Devereaux Peters can't be far behind. The veteran frontliner is playing some of the best basketball of her career this season, putting a pair of knee injuries and three surgeries well in the rearview mirror.
Peters currently is averaging career highs of 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, along with a .567 field goal percentage (seventh in the BIG EAST), 1.4 blocks per game (11th in the BIG EAST) and a career-high .840 field goal percentage.
Like Novosel, Peters regularly has been pulling in accolades this season, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team, and most recently garnering MVP honors at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. During the Dec. 29-30 tournament, she averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game with a .684 field goal percentage (13-of-19) in wins over Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.
That tournament effort has been the cornerstone of Peters' recent post-Christmas surge. In the past four games, the Chicago native is averaging 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game with a .628 field goal percentage (27-of-43).
Peters scored 18 points to lead No. 13/12 Notre Dame to a 73-55 victory over Marquette on Wednesday night at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.
"Devereaux was just outstanding," McGraw said. "She was a human highlight film, I thought, on offense. She did just a fantastic job. She was always in the right spot and took advantage of the mismatch that she had."
The 6-2 senior forward came in averaging 9.8 points, but had 12 in the first half for Notre Dame (13-3, 2-0 BIG EAST). She made 9 of 12 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, made four steals and blocked two shots as the Fighting Irish won their season-high eighth straight game.
Peters made four layups and a tip-in in the first half as Notre Dame scored 24 points in the paint to Marquette's eight.
Junior guard Natalie Novosel added 14 points, including 10 during a decisive second half run for Notre Dame.
Tatiyiana McMorris scored 15 points to lead Marquette (12-3, 0-2) which shot 33.9 percent and had 24 turnovers.
Angel Robinson scored 14 points and her jumper to open the second half pulled Marquette to 40-33, but then Notre Dame's defense took over. After Robinson's shot, the Golden Eagles went 1 for 15 with seven turnovers and let the game slip away.
Novosel's 10 points sparked a 19-3 run capped by sophomore guard Skylar Diggins' two free throws that pushed the lead to 59-36 with 10:44 left to play.
Noting The Marquette Game
A Defensive Effort Like No Other
Defense has been a major focal point for Notre Dame this season, but in their 97-21 win over Southeast Missouri State on Jan. 2 at Purcell Pavilion, the Fighting Irish took that emphasis to record-setting levels:
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 15 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 26 of their last 29 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three-game runs to the title at last year's Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this year's WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion, as well as a two-game sweep at this past week's State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle (which did not officially crown a champion because of its pre-determined matchups).
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
Notre Dame played two regular-season tournaments this year, the first time the Fighting Irish have competed in multiple tourneys in the same season since 1996-97 (third place at Preseason WNIT; champion of Georgia Tech Comfort Inn Downtown Classic).
Only twice in school history has Notre Dame won two regular-season tournament titles in the same year, and both occurred during the program's Division III era. In 1978-79, the Fighting Irish won the Huntington (Ind.) University Tournament and the Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational. The following season, Notre Dame claimed top honors at the Taylor (Ind.) University Invitational and repeated as the champion of the Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational.
Notre Dame is ranked 13th in the Jan. 3 Associated Press poll. That marked the 67th 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).
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking (currently a season high) also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 206 weeks during the program's 34-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish rose to No. 12 in the Jan. 4 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, matching their season-high ranking in that survey (achieved during the first two weeks of the season). Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 67 of the past 68 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 198 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 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 206 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 30 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll at No. 23 on Jan. 25, 2010.
Six of the 16 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and also coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
The 700 Club
With a 91-47 win over Loyola Marymount on Dec. 30 at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle, Notre Dame became the 32nd NCAA Division I program to record 700 victories -- the Fighting Irish now own an all-time record of 702-305 (.697).
Notre Dame is one of six Division I programs to reach the 700-win milestone this season, joining Duke, Kansas, Missouri State, Saint Joseph's (Pa.) and Middle Tennessee in that club (MT became the 33rd school on that list on Jan. 2).
Ironically, SJU (the alma mater of Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw) earned its 700th win one day before Notre Dame, edging out the Fighting Irish as the first Catholic Division I program to hit the mark.
A Grand Occasion
The Dec. 5 game against Purdue marked a significant milestone in Notre Dame women's basketball history, as the Fighting Irish played their 1,000th all-time game, defeating the Boilermakers, 72-51. Notre Dame has an all-time record of 702-305 (.697) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 347-87 (.800) record at Purcell Pavilion.
The Fighting Irish played their first game on Dec. 3, 1977, defeating Valparaiso, 48-41 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame would play its first three seasons as a Division III program in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before moving up to the Division I level in 1980-81. The following season, the Fighting Irish would begin competing under the NCAA banner.
Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.
At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner's shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes left.
It's believed to be the first time in Griner's two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters' block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball YouTube channel (search for "notredameirishhoops" or click the link through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at www.UND.com).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 200-17 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 128 of their last 139 such contests, and 37 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).
The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in 12 games this year, including their Jan. 5 win at Marquette when they led 40-31 through the first 20 minutes.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 16 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 219-15 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 11 contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, SE Missouri State, Marquette).
...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 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 149-5 (.968) 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, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in 10 games this year (9-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points.
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 197 of their last 223 games (.883) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-18 (.855) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 93 of their last 101 non-BIG EAST contests (.921) 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 347-87 (.800) 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 last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw 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), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.
Notre Dame has wasted little time in getting started with that challenge, averaging 8,475 fans for its nine home games this season, including a sellout crowd of 9,149 for the Dec. 5 win over in-state rival Purdue and an expected sellout for Saturday's game against Connecticut.
Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.
Notre Dame Picked Fourth In 2010-11 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
Notre Dame was selected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference in 2010-11, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches released on Oct. 21 during the annual BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.
The Fighting Irish picked up 177 points in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only two-time defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points, West Virginia (207 points, one first-place vote) and Georgetown (186 points) -- St. John's rounded out the top five with 173 points.
McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.
McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.
The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game. The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this notable list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).
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 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his third season in 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 26 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 Jan. 2 Southeast Missouri State contest (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 180 televised games, including 126 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Pink Zone Efforts Underway
Following last year's wildly-successful fundraising efforts for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone breast cancer initiative, Notre Dame is aiming even higher this season, as it draws closer to the Feb. 12 Pink Zone game vs. Rutgers. For that game, the Fighting Irish will wear unique white and pink uniforms, with Notre Dame also holding special events during the game in honor and memory of those touched by breast cancer.
In 2009-10, the Fighting Irish collected more than $103,000 for the global unified effort by the WBCA's membership to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
Notre Dame's local Pink Zone drive is led by primary sponsor Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, with donations raised from the Pink Zone being divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Women's Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund (named in honor of the legendary late North Carolina State head coach).
This year, Notre Dame is bringing back some of its more popular fundraising activities, including the Fighting Irish Three-Point Pledge (fans donate a certain amount for every three-pointer made by Notre Dame this season) and the Notre Dame Pink Zone Store (sales of various Pink Zone items, including t-shirts, buttons, tote bags, etc., in the Joyce Center's Heritage Hall at all Fighting Irish home games). The Notre Dame Gameday Silent Auction also returns in 2010-11, with bids being taken in the Monogram Room at the Joyce Center on Feb. 12 from 12:30 p.m. (ET) to 30 minutes following the Pink Zone game against Rutgers.
Some new events added for this year include the Pink Zone Treadmill Campaign (walk on a treadmill during the Jan. 23, Feb. 1, 8 and 12 games) and the Notre Dame Women's Basketball SPIN-A-THON (a 24-hour event to ride stationary bikes at South Bend's Knollwood Country Club).
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Notre Dame Pink Zone web page at www.UND.com/pinkzone.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year four 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 four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 25 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State.
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 -- senior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 15 different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 25 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, eight on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
Next Game: Louisville
Notre Dame will be back on the Purcell Pavilion hardwood Wednesday when it plays host to Louisville in a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST Conference matchup.
The Cardinals (11-5, 2-0) already have three wins over ranked opponents under their belts this season, including an 84-73 conquest of No. 18 St. John's on Tuesday night in Louisville. The Cardinals will play host to Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon (noon ET, ESPNU) before heading north to face the Fighting Irish next week.