Jan. 14, 2011
#12/12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-4 / 3-1 BIG EAST) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (9-7 / 1-2 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 15, 2011
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Pittsburgh, Pa. - Petersen Events Center (12,508)
SERIES: ND leads 18-3
1ST MTG: ND 90-51 (2/7/96)
LAST MTG: ND 86-76 (2/6/10)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
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TICKETS: (800) 643-7488
No. 12 Irish Head To Pittsburgh Saturday Afternoon
For the only time in a three-week stretch, No. 12 Notre Dame heads out on the road, as the Fighting Irish travel to Pittsburgh Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST Conference matchup against the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center.
Notre Dame (14-4, 3-1 BIG EAST) bounced back from its first conference loss of the season with an 80-60 win over Louisville on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish blew the game open with a 27-4 run crossing over halftime and built their lead as high as 29 points late in the second half.
Notre Dame also benefitted from a balanced scoring attack that featured a season-high six players in double figures, led by 14 points each from senior forward Devereaux Peters and freshman guard Kayla McBride. Junior guard Natalie Novosel had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists, while freshman forward Natalie Achonwa added a game-high nine rebounds.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Pittsburgh
It's a mix of youth and experience for Pittsburgh this season, as the Panthers blend four returning senior starters with seven true/redshirt freshmen, as the program seeks to return to the NCAA Championship following a one-year hiatus.
Pittsburgh (9-7, 1-2 BIG EAST), which will be playing its first home game since Dec. 28 and just its second since early December, got back in the win column Wednesday with a 64-58 victory at Seton Hall. Senior guard Taneisha Harrison led the Panthers with 19 points, while redshirt senior guard Jania Sims added 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Senior forwards Chelsea Cole (11 points) and Shayla Scott (11 rebounds, five assists) also played key roles in the win.
Sims currently ranks among the top 15 players in the BIG EAST in scoring (11th - 14.7 ppg.), assists (3rd - 5.1 apg.) and free throw percentage (2nd - .833), while Harrison is tied for 15th in the conference in scoring (14.0 ppg.). Cole adds 9.8 points and a BIG EAST-best 10.0 rebounds per game, while Scott averages 9.3 points per game and ranks third in the league with a .436 three-point percentage.
Head coach Agnus Berenato is in her eighth season at Pittsburgh with a 139-96 (.591) record at the school. Factoring in prior stops at Rider and Georgia Tech, Berenato has a 27-year coaching record of 422-360 (.540), including a 3-6 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
The series between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh didn't take off until the Fighting Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995-96 season. Since then, the teams have squared off 21 times, with Notre Dame holding an 18-3 lead in the series, including an 8-2 record at Pittsburgh. However, the Panthers have won three of the past five series games against the Fighting Irish, including the last two matchups at the Petersen Events Center.
Diggins grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 23 points, both season highs, to lead the third-ranked Fighting Irish to an 86-76 victory over Pittsburgh on Feb. 6, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.
"The rebounding is something we've been working on," McGraw said. "She just did an outstanding job of trying to go get the rebound. That was the last piece that was missing."
Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato said the Panthers struggled to defend Diggins.
"She had a hot hand and Notre Dame did a great job of feeding the hot hand," she said.
Diggins said she is feeling more comfortable in Notre Dame's offense.
"I'm just playing. That's what I'm doing better. I'm not playing not to make a mistake," Diggins said. "I'm just being competitive and let the game come to me."
Diggins, who also had six assists and two blocked shots with no turnovers, said she went into the game focusing on rebounding.
"I wanted to see how many I could get," she said.
Diggins, whose previous high for rebounds was six against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, said she watched tape of recent games and found she was standing around too much.
"I was getting in there, I just wasn't being aggressive to the ball," she said.
Diggins was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and the Fighting Irish were 21-of-29. Pittsburgh was 9-of-15.
Taneisha Harrison led the Panthers with 20 points. Jania Sims had 13 and Chelsea Cole and Selena Nwude had 12 points each.
"We have to have at least four players in double figures," Berenato said.
After Notre Dame went on a 14-2 run in the first half to open a 13-point lead, the Panthers gradually cut the deficit to four late in the first half. But the Fighting Irish led 45-37 at halftime, then used a 10-2 run early in the second half take a 48-45 lead.
Notre Dame extended the lead to 81-62 when Ashley Barlow hit a three as the shot clock sounded with 5:13 left. Pittsburgh used a 14-3 run to cut the lead to 84-76 on a jumper by Sims, but couldn't get any closer.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Pittsburgh Met At The Petersen Events Center
Shavonte Zellous scored 29 points and No. 22/24 Pittsburgh beat No. 19/16 Notre Dame 82-70 on Feb. 3, 2009, at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
Xenia Stewart and Taneisha Harrison scored 17 points and Shayla Scott added 11 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Panthers (17-4, 7-2 BIG EAST).
Notre Dame, which never led, closed to 49-48 on Erica Williamson's basket five minutes into the second half. Zellous then scored eight points during a 14-6 Pitt run which put the Panthers ahead 63-54. The Fighting Irish got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series Tidbits
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday's game ranked second in the nation in steals with 14.8 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 13 of 18 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 (five with at least 25 thefts), led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.4 steals per game (seventh in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame also enters the weekend ranked fourth in the country in assists (19.8 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 11 games this season.
Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 62.8 percent of its baskets this season, with 356 assists on 567 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, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.6 assists per game (while flirting with the top 15 in the league with a 1.32 assist/turnover ratio). She also has handed out at least five assists in 11 games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the nation with a .493 field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 11 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 15 outings.
Notre Dame also has seen a recent rise in its three-point shooting numbers. During the past nine games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 39.1 percent clip (34-of-87) 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 ranks among the top 10 in the nation in seven categories according to Monday's NCAA statistics report -- second in steals (now 14.8 spg.) and field goal percentage (.493), fourth in assists (19.8 apg.) and scoring margin (+29.1 ppg.), sixth in three-point field goal percentage defense (.230), eighth in scoring offense (83.8 ppg.) ninth in turnover margin (+7.5).
In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 20 in the NCAA in 10 of a possible 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in assist/turnover ratio (12th, 1.14), rebound margin (14th, +10.1 rpg.) and field goal percentage defense (19th, .343).
Yet for all of these high statistical marks, no Fighting Irish player ranks higher than No. 75 in any single category -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is exactly 75th in the nation in assists (4.6 apg.).
High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses (83.8 ppg., eighth 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 nearly half (8) of their 18 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 A Repeat Selection On BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll
For the second consecutive week, senior forward Devereaux Peters has been named to the BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Weekly Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. Peters was one of five players chosen for this week's honor (also the second of her career), which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.
As she did the week prior, Peters nearly averaged a double-double in two games last week, registering 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game with a .560 field goal percentage (14-of-25) and a double-double as Notre Dame earned a convincing BIG EAST road win at Marquette (73-55) on Jan. 5 and then pushed No. 2 Connecticut to the breaking point on Jan. 8 before the Huskies pulled out a last-second 79-76 decision at Purcell Pavilion.
At Marquette, Peters chalked up game highs of 18 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), eight rebounds and four steals, pacing the Fighting Irish to their first win at MU's Al McGuire Center since 2004. Three days later against Connecticut, Peters was dominant to the tune of 17 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and a game-best/season-high four blocks, posting her third double-double of the season, all in the past five games. Peters also was a major contributor in Notre Dame's 38-30 scoring edge in the paint (the most points allowed by UConn in the paint this season), as well as the 23 offensive rebounds collected by the Fighting Irish (also the most by a Huskies' opponent this year).
The first multiple BIG EAST weekly honoree for Notre Dame this season, Peters is part of a group of four Fighting Irish players that feature at least one conference weekly award recipient from all four classes. Junior guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins join Peters as Notre Dame players who 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.
Diggins Makes Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 Candidate List
Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is among a group of 20 women's basketball players who have been chosen as midseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, it was announced Tuesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top player, compiled its midseason candidates based upon individual performance and team results, with the current list of student-athletes comprising the frontrunners for this year's award.
A consensus preseason All-America selection and candidate for every major national player of the year award, Diggins is one of three BIG EAST players on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 List, joined by Connecticut's Maya Moore and Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers. Diggins also is one of just three sophomores on the Wooden Award candidate rundown, along with Rodgers and Baylor's Brittney Griner.
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 ninth in the league) in scoring at 14.9 points per game, nearly 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 15 times after doing so a combined total of 14 times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.
In addition, Novosel 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 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, along with a .564 field goal percentage (seventh in the BIG EAST), 1.5 blocks per game (eighth in the BIG EAST) and a career-high .848 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 six games, the Chicago native is averaging 14.3 points and 8.5 rebounds with three double-doubles with a .600 field goal percentage (39-of-65).
Asia Taylor had 16 points for Louisville (12-6, 3-1). Shoni Schimmel scored 11 and Monique Reid added 10.
Notre Dame used a 16-2 run to close the first half and take a 37-22 lead at the break.
Peters, who had sat out 10 minutes of the first half, scored eight points as the Fighting Irish opened the second half with an 11-2 run to take a 24-point lead. Their biggest advantage was 29 with 6:08 to go.
Neither team could establish much in the first 8 minutes of play. McBride hit a 10-footer to start an 8-1 run by that gave Notre Dame a 17-13 lead with nine minutes to go in the half.
Louisville shot around 30 percent for much of the game before finishing at 34 percent (21 for 61) -- including 4 for 17 on three-pointers. Notre Dame was at 47 percent (26 for 55) overall and 4 for 10 on threes.
Noting The Louisville 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 12th (matching its season high) in the Jan. 10 Associated Press poll. That marked the 68th 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).
Notre Dame actually moved up one spot in this week's poll despite a last-second 79-76 loss to second-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 8 at Purcell Pavilion. It is just the third time in program history that the Fighting Irish have risen in the AP poll following a loss, and first since Feb. 23, 2009, when they moved from No. 23 to No. 22 after a 76-66 loss at No. 1 Connecticut -- the other such occurrence took place on March 11, 1996, when Notre Dame moved from No. 22 to No. 21 after a run to the BIG EAST tournament title game.
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking 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 207 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 held steady at No. 12 in the Jan. 11 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, maintaining their season-high ranking in that survey (also achieved during the first two weeks of the season). Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 68 of the past 69 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 199 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 207 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 703-306 (.697).
Ironically, Saint Joseph's (Pa.) -- 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 703-306 (.697) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 348-88 (.798) 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 201-17 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 129 of their last 140 such contests, and 38 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 13 games this year, including their Jan. 12 win over Louisville when they led 37-22 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 150-5 (.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 11 games this year (10-1 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 198 of their last 225 games (.880) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 107-19 (.849) 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 348-88 (.798) 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 8,498 fans for its 11 home games this season, including sellout crowds of 9,149 for its games against nationally-televised games against Purdue (Dec. 5) and Connecticut (Jan. 8).
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.
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 prestigious 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. 12 Louisville contest (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 182 televised games, including 128 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 divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Women's Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
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).
In addition, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson (a Notre Dame alumna and breast cancer survivor) will be the keynote speaker at the "Docs in Pink" luncheon at 11 a.m. (ET) on Feb. 12 at Purcell Pavilion.
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: Georgetown
Notre Dame returns to the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion Tuesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup with No. 18/17 Georgetown on CBS College Sports. It's the first of back-to-back nationally-televised games for the Fighting Irish, who will play host to St. John's next Sunday afternoon on ESPNU.
Georgetown (13-4, 1-2 BIG EAST) is winding up a week-long break following a 75-73 double-overtime loss at home to Marquette on Jan. 8. The Hoyas begin a two-game road swing Saturday at Providence before continuing on to Notre Dame next week.