Jan. 11, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-0 / 2-0 ACC) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (8-7 / 1-1 ACC)
DATE: Jan. 12, 2014
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Charlottesville, Va. - John Paul Jones Arena (14,593)
SERIES: UVA leads 2-0
1ST MTG: UVA 68-40 (2/22/81)
LAST MTG: UVA 79-59 (1/4/88)
TV: virginiasports.com ($) (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (800) 542-8821
No. 2 Fighting Irish Visit Virginia Sunday In Inaugural ACC Road Game
After coming away with victories in its first two ACC games, both at home, No. 2 Notre Dame heads out on the road for first time as a member of its new conference, traveling to Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena. The game will be streamed on a subscription basis through the Virginia web site (virginiasports.com), while the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast can be heard free via the WatchND platform.
The Fighting Irish (14-0, 2-0) are one of the nation's four remaining unbeaten squads following a wire-to-wire 95-53 victory over Boston College on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame shot a blistering .617 in the win, including a season-high .667 from three-point range.
Senior guard Kayla McBride turned in game highs of 20 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (18 points) and freshman forward Taya Reimer (15 points) led a Fighting Irish reserve unit that contributed a season-best 55 points.
The Notre Dame-Virginia Series
Sunday's matinee will be just the third meeting in the series between Notre Dame and Virginia, and the first in more than 26 years. The Cavaliers won both prior matchups in the series, earning a 68-40 victory in 1981 at the Rosemont Horizon (now known as Allstate Arena) in suburban Chicago, as well as a 79-59 decision on Jan. 4, 1988, in Charlottesville, Va.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Virginia Met
Facing the first ranked opponent of head coach Muffet McGraw's tenure, Notre Dame actually outshot No. 7 Virginia from both the field and the foul line, but the Fighting Irish were their own worst enemy with 30 turnovers (20 on Cavalier steals) and allowed UVa to grab 23 offensive rebounds as Virginia recorded a 79-59 victory over Notre Dame on Jan. 4, 1988, at University Hall in Charlottesville, Va.
The Fighting Irish post tandem of Sandy Botham and Heidi Bunek was effective, as both narrowly missed double-doubles, Botham finishing with team highs of 16 points and nine rebounds and Bunek adding 14 points and eight rebounds. Lisa Kuhns came off the bench to chip in 14 points, including a 2-of-5 performance from the newly-created three-point line.
Donna Holt led all scorers with 23 points and added a game-high six steals for Virginia, which opened up a 46-31 halftime lead and kept Notre Dame at arm's length in the second half to secure the victory.
Other Notre Dame-Virginia Series Tidbits
Getting The Jump
At 14-0, Notre Dame is off to the third-best start in the program's 37-year history. The only times the Fighting Irish opened with a better record than this season were in 2000-01 (when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship) and 2009-10 (when they started 15-0 on the way to a 29-6 record and spot in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen).
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 20 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish currently own the nation's fourth-longest active home winning streak, with this run also tied for the third-longest in school history (longest since another 20-game stretch from Jan. 12, 2011-Feb. 5, 2012, a run that ended a week later with a 65-63 loss to West Virginia).
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 12 conference home games since that loss to WVU in 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 26 consecutive regular season road games and 33 of its last 38 overall, including the Dec. 29 victory at Oregon State. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 16 consecutive conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish enter the weekend leading the nation in assists at 22.9 per game. Notre Dame has dished out at least 21 helpers in 11 games thus far (including a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 66.7 percent of their made field goals this year (321 of 481).
Notre Dame also ranks fifth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.54).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .517 field goal percentage, highlighted by eight games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent (as well as five of the past seven), including four games where they topped 60 percent from the field (two of the past five).
In addition, Notre Dame had a remarkable three-game stretch from Dec. 7-22 when it connected at better than a 55-percent clip in each contest. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 55-percent outings since Nov. 20-29, 1997, when they did so in victories over North Carolina State (.565), Bowling Green (.558) and Ohio University (.567).
Notre Dame's sharpshooting brigade has been led by senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa, who ranks eighth in the ACC with a .559 field goal percentage, and freshman forward Taya Reimer, who is 15th in the conference with a .516 mark.
Freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.667), junior forward Markisha Wright (.636), junior guard Madison Cable (.623) and freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.574) actually have higher field goal percentages than Achonwa, but none has made the minimum number of shots (three per game) to qualify for ACC ranking.
Dialing Long Distance
Although not usually a primary part of the Notre Dame arsenal, the Fighting Irish have found the three-point shot much to their liking this season. Notre Dame ranks second in the nation and leads the ACC with a .427 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Kayla McBride leads the way for the Fighting Irish with a .483 three-point percentage that ranks second in the ACC, while sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey also stands among the top 10 in the conference, ranking ninth at a .406 three-point rate.
In addition, Mabrey is 11th in the ACC with 1.9 three-pointers per game, a mark she bolstered in her last outing with a career-high five triples (on six attempts) against Boston College. It was the third time this season Mabrey has canned at least four treys in a game, and the second time a Notre Dame player has made five three-pointers in a contest (junior guard Madison Cable posted an identical 5-for-6 effort against UCLA on Dec. 7).
In fact, Cable (.542) would be leading the ACC in three-point percentage, but she is one made triple shy of the minimum 1.0 3FG/game to qualify for ranking. Freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.471) also doesn't meet the minimum standard despite her efficiency from distance.
As a team, the Fighting Irish connected on 10-of-17 three-pointers in their victory over UCLA, their highest production outside the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.
Thursday's .667 three-point mark (8-of-12) against Boston College was Notre Dame's best performance from long range (with a minimum of five attempts) in more than five years, stretching back to its last meeting with BC on Nov. 23, 2008, at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., when the Fighting Irish made 7-of-8 three-pointers (.875) in a 102-54 win.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 11 games this year, going 11-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 86-5 (.945) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 56 of their last 57 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
Irish Join The 800-Win Club
Notre Dame's 106-72 victory over Central Michigan on Dec. 22 at Purcell Pavilion was a milestone for the Fighting Irish, who became the 27th program in NCAA Division I women's basketball history (and fourth Atlantic Coast Conference school) to record 800 victories. The Fighting Irish have posted a 804-316 (.718) record in their 37 seasons of varsity competition, dating back to the 1977-78 campaign.
Prior to Notre Dame reaching the milestone, the last school to reach the 800-win mark was LSU (which did so on Nov. 25, 2012, at Florida International). Along with the Fighting Irish, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are the other three ACC members in the 800-victory club (with Duke and North Carolina State to follow later this year).
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has continued her development as one of the top young talents in the country this season, building on last year's selection as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year.
The Lincolnwood, Ill., product currently ranks 11th in the ACC in scoring (17.1 ppg.) and 20th in rebounding (6.4 rpg.), sporting career-high marks in both areas. She also has four 20-point games thus far (including a career-high 30 points against Central Michigan on Dec. 22) after scoring 20 points twice during her rookie campaign.
Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame's first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).
Loyd's point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the opening three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program's all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.
McBride currently ranks 16th in program history with 1,425 career points, but has the chance to make a big move up the charts in the coming days, now within striking distance of Lindsay Schrader (1,429 from 2005-10), current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey (1,430 from 1996-2001) and Sheila McMillen (1,439 from 1995-99).
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 25th in Notre Dame history with 1,190 points, closing in on the next two rungs up the ladder, held by Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91) and Heidi Bunek (1,202 from 1985-89).
Coming Up Aces
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed "Ace") also is making her way up Notre Dame's career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She currently ranks ninth on the rebounding list (804) and is tied for eighth on the double-doubles chart (24), moving up one spot on the latter rundown with 15 points and 13 rebounds against Clemson on Jan. 5.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .544 career field goal percentage, presently ranking ninth in program annals.
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame's season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team's first five points of the season.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 8.1 points and 3.9 assists per game (the latter ranking 11th in the ACC). She also is fourth in the ACC with a 2.20 assist/turnover ratio, and is just outside the top 15 in the conference with a team-high 1.64 steals per game.
The Second Platoon
Another reason for Notre Dame's success this season has been the performance of its reserves, who are averaging nearly 31 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by better than a 2-to-1 margin (30.9 ppg. to 14.1 ppg.).
In fact, only three Fighting Irish opponents to date has finished with a bench scoring advantage against Notre Dame -- No. 19/18 Michigan State (18-11 edge), No. 25 DePaul (33-32) and Clemson (13-4).
Notre Dame's second unit responded to the latter contest in emphatic fashion, rolling up a season-high 55 points on Jan. 9 against Boston College, and outscoring the entire BC roster by two points (not to mention the Fighting Irish starters by 15).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (9.7 ppg.) and freshman forward Taya Reimer (9.4 ppg.) head up the strong Notre Dame bench contingent, which has seen players score in double figures 13 different times, including seven by Mabrey.
Call Her Mabrey
While the season is less than half over, certainly an early favorite as the nation's most improved player would have to be Notre Dame sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 9.7 points and 3.2 assists per game, while ranking second in the ACC (and 31st in the nation) with a 2.50 assist/turnover ratio, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures seven times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
Next Game: Pittsburgh
The Fighting Irish continue their three-game road trip at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday when they take on another ACC newcomer, facing Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center in the Steel City. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3, which will pick up the originating telecast from Pitt Panthers TV.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director