Jan. 8, 2010
DATE: January 9, 2010
No. 3 Irish Open BIG EAST Play Saturday Against Villanova
Notre Dame (13-0) ended its non-conference slate with hard-fought 79-75 win at in-state rival Purdue on Monday night. The Irish battled back from an early 10-point deficit with a sharp second half, coming up with timely rebounds and free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.
Senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner led four Notre Dame players in double figures with a career-high 20 points, hitting on a career-high 4-of-7 three-pointers.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Villanova
However, the Wildcats opened their BIG EAST slate on a down note, dropping a 52-38 decision at Providence on Wednesday night. Redshirt freshman forward Laura Sweeney came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting for Villanova.
Despite not starting a game all season, Sweeney leads the Wildcats in scoring (11.8 ppg.), rebounding (5.5 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.615). Senior guard Maria Getty is second in scoring (10.2 ppg.) and tops in assists (3.3 apg.) and steals (1.5 spg.).
Head coach Harry Perretta is in his 32nd season at Villanova with a 582-346 (.627) record. He is 10-15 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
The Wildcats have won the past two series games and seven of 11 against Notre Dame since the Irish fashioned a series-long six-game winning streak from 1998-2000.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Villanova Met
Villanova hit just two of its first 14 shots and trailed by four at halftime, but opened the second half with an 18-8 run.
Consecutive three-pointers from Heather Scanlon gave Villanova a 39-33 lead with 13 minutes left, and Kurz's first three put her team up 50-41 with just over three minutes left.
The Wildcats were 10 of 25 from three-point range. Notre Dame attempted just five three-pointers and made one.
The Irish jumped out to an 15-5 lead, but the Wildcats kept in close by going inside to Kurz, who had eight first-half points. Her kickout to Siobhan O'Connor for a three-pointer cut the lead to 23-21 with 16 seconds left in the first half. But Lechlitner hit an 18-foot jump shot at the halftime buzzer to give the Irish a 25-21 lead.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Villanova Met At Purcell Pavilion
Peters entered the game at 15:47 of the first half, grabbed her first steal 20 seconds later and scored her first basket 29 seconds after that.
The Irish (14-3, 2-1 BIG EAST) went ahead 43-34 when Peters caught a pass inside from Tulyah Gaines and banked it in with 15:52 left. The Wildcats (11-6, 1-3) twice cut the lead to five points and had chances both times to cut it to three, but couldn't do it.
The Irish extended the lead to 62-52 when Ashley Barlow, who led the Irish with 16 points, converted on a three-point play with 4:20 left, and went ahead 68-55 when Peters made a pair of free throws with 67 seconds left.
Laura Kurz led the Wildcats with 20 points. Stacie Witman had 14 points for Villanova, Lisa Karcic had 11 and Siobhan O'Connor added 10. The Wildcats hit five three-pointers in a row in the first half to keep the game close.
Other Notre Dame-Villanova Series Tidbits
Blowing The Lid Off The BIG EAST
Saturday's game will mark only the second time in nine seasons Notre Dame will open BIG EAST play at home, and the first since the 2004-05 campaign, when the Irish tipped off the conference docket with a 54-33 win over Seton Hall at Purcell Pavilion.
All-time, Notre Dame is 5-1 (.833) when beginning its BIG EAST season at home, with the only loss coming on Dec. 8, 1998 (106-81 to top-ranked Connecticut).
Getting The Jump
Spread The Wealth
That trend has been particularly evident in the past six games, with a different player setting the pace in scoring and assists five times. Jnior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso and UCF) is the only repeat leading scorer for the Irish, while Mallory (Charlotte and Vanderbilt) and senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Valparaiso and UCF) are the only repeat assist leaders for Notre Dame in that stretch.
Five For Fighting (Irish)
A total of 25 schools have four players averaging double digits in the scoring column, including top-ranked Connecticut, No. 2 Stanford, No. 12/13 Nebraska and No. 14/15 Oklahoma (the Sooners also would have five in double figures if not for the season-ending injury suffered by Whitney Hand, who was at 13.3 ppg.).
Stat Sheet Stuffers
Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt) has a team-high three 5-5-5 games, while freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB and Charlotte) has two 5-5-5 outings, and senior guard Ashley Barlow (Iona) and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) have one apiece.
Taking What We Can Get
In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 36 at UCF on Dec. 29).
Charlotte's 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary's (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program's second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.
The Irish have been especially hard on opponents in seven home games this season, forcing 29.1 turnovers per game (at least 29 in five of the seven Purcell Pavilion contests) while holding visitors to 52.6 points a night and a .330 field goal percentage (134-of-406).
The Five-Finger Discount
What's more, Notre Dame has been particularly aggressive in the past six games, topping the 20-steal mark three times and averaging 16.8 steals per game during that span.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Pomp And Circumstance
With Williamson collecting her diploma, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
This marks the 47th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with the No. 3 ranking not only matching a season high (Dec. 7 & 21), but also being Notre Dame's highest since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 187 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish are spending a third consecutive week at a season-high No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. It's the highest Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year, and the first time they have been in the top three in consecutive weeks since the final 14 weeks of the 2000-01 season (capped by a No. 1 ranking in the final poll after winning the national championship).
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 3 ranking, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 179 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 187 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #13 Recap: Purdue
One year after setting a career scoring high in a victory over the Boilermakers, she did it again. She scored a career-best 20 points, and No. 3 Notre Dame held off Purdue 79-75 on Monday night at Mackey to remain unbeaten.
Lechlitner, who was averaging 6.2 points per game, made 7 of 15 shots, including four three-pointers.
"I thought she really had a great game," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "She carried us through the first half, and then kept it going in the second."
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp knew Lechlitner was capable. The senior guard scored 19 points in a 62-51 win last season in South Bend.
"She always plays well against us," Versyp said. "It's her fourth year, and she still played well against us. She took some good shots."
Skylar Diggins and Lindsay Schrader each scored 15 points, and Ashley Barlow added 13 points and eight rebounds for Notre Dame (13-0), which is off to its best start since winning its first 23 games in 2000-2001. It was the final test for the Fighting Irish before BIG EAST play.
"We're excited to be undefeated in the non-conference portion of our season," McGraw said. "That was one of our goals, and we're fortunate."
Jodi Howell scored 18 points and Chelsea Jones added a career-high 16 for Purdue.
Versyp is breaking in young players after reaching the NCAA Elite Eight last season, but close wasn't good enough for her.
"It was a great basketball game between two good programs," Versyp said. "This isn't a moral victory whatsoever. We tasted it, we just didn't get it."
Purdue could have tied the game in the closing seconds, but Devereaux Peters blocked Samantha Woods' 3-pointer from the right corner, and Notre Dame rebounded.
Notre Dame recovered from a rough first half to shoot 48 percent after the break.
The Irish had the ball with a 76-73 lead in the final minute. Diggins missed in close as the shot clock wound down, and Purdue gained possession.
Howell made a layup with 12.1 seconds left to make it a one-point game.
The Boilermakers fouled Diggins with 11.8 seconds to play. She made the first free throw and missed the second, but Schrader got the rebound. Schrader made the first free throw, but missed the second to give the Boilermakers a chance.
Notre Dame had an uphill climb just to position itself to win. The Boilermakers led 37-28 late in the first half before Notre Dame went on a 8-0 run that included two baskets by Diggins to help trim Purdue's lead to three points at halftime.
"I was a little disappointed with our defense in the first half, and our offense," McGraw said. "We were more ourselves the second half."
Notre Dame took a 49-48 advantage on a 3-pointer by Lechlitner, but Purdue's Sam Ostarello came back with the first three-pointer of her college career to put the Boilermakers back in front.
Brittany Mallory made a three-pointer for Notre Dame to give her team a 58-54 lead, and Purdue point guard FahKara Malone left the game with an ankle injury on the play.
Malone returned as Howell tied the game at 62 on a pair of free throws, but Lechlitner and Diggins made back-to-back three-pointers to give Notre Dame a 68-62 lead, its largest of the game, with 5:41 to play.
Purdue responded quickly. Howell was fouled on a three-pointer and made all three free throws, then Malone got a steal and layup to make it 68-67.
A three-pointer by Barlow with 2:38 to play made it 72-67, but Purdue rallied again to set up the frantic final minute.
The game provided just the test McGraw felt her team needed.
"We're trying to get ready for the BIG EAST, and we got what we wanted out of this game," she said.
Noting The Purdue Game
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Keeping It Close To Home
What's more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana -- senior guards Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis) and Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend) -- while the fifth (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.
As if that weren't enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 268 career starts between them.
Schrader reached a personal milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now stands ninth in school history with 104 career starts, including a current streak of 62 in a row.
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.
Barlow currently ranks 15th in school history with 1,264 career points, while Schrader is 18th with 1,207 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 805 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Half And Half
Notre Dame has led at the break in 12 of its 13 games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Charlotte and UCF.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame already has added eight more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, No. 23/24 San Diego State, No. 20/17 Oklahoma, IPFW, Valparaiso and Charlotte.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 330-85 (.795) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through seven home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,527 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 700 fans above their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted seven sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 31, 2009, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their win over No. 18/16 Vanderbilt. It was the first sellout for Notre Dame since the renovated arena opened this fall.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall).
One of the other unique features of this renovation stage was an intensive theming initiative on the upper concourse inside the arena walls, featuring many of the historic moments and visitors to the arena during its four-decade history. In addition, the facility signage took on a Celtic script, while the evolution of the distinctive Notre Dame monogram logo is prominently displayed on the concourse.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Both of those areas, along with the three-story Rosenthal Atrium (named for former Notre Dame director of athletics Dick Rosenthal) will open to the public on Saturday, when the Irish basketball teams play host to a BIG EAST doubleheader (women vs. Villanova at 2 p.m., men vs. West Virginia at 8 p.m.).
Irish On Your Radio Dial
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 150 televised games, including 97 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 17 times, including wins this season over Indianapolis (exhibition), Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso and Charlotte.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has too much time on his hands"), 10 different players have converted the "burger ball", including nine current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 17 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and three on three-pointers (including the past two home games).
Next Game: South Florida
USF (9-5, 0-1) opened conference play this past Monday with an 84-42 loss at top-ranked Connecticut. The Bulls tip off the home portion of their BIG EAST slate Saturday night against No. rv/25 Georgetown before heading north to face the Irish on Tuesday.