Jan. 15, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-0 / 3-0 ACC) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (9-8 / 1-2 ACC)
DATE: Jan. 16, 2014
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Pittsburgh, Pa. - Petersen Events Center (12,508)
SERIES: ND leads 21-3
1ST MTG: ND 90-51 (2/7/96)
LAST MTG: ND 73-47 (1/23/13)
TV: ESPN3 (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (800) 643-7488
No. 2 Fighting Irish Continue Road Trip Thursday At Pittsburgh
After passing the midpoint of the 2013-14 regular season last weekend, No. 2 Notre Dame continues its season-long three-game road trip at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday when it pays a visit to fellow ACC newcomer Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3, with the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast available free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
Notre Dame (15-0, 3-0) turned back a stern challenge in its inaugural ACC road game on Sunday, opening up a double-digit lead, then holding off Virginia down the stretch for a 79-72 win in Charlottesville, Va.
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa rang up a career-high 26 points and grabbed a season-best 16 points, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride added 23 points and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd chipped in 17 points to pace the Fighting Irish to the victory.
The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh will celebrate the silver anniversary installment of their series on Thursday, with the Fighting Irish holding a 21-3 edge all-time against the Panthers, including a current four-game series winning streak.
Notre Dame also maintains a 10-2 record against Pittsburgh in the Steel City, including a 4-2 record against the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center since that facility opened prior to the 2002-03 season.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Pittsburgh Met
Notre Dame turned up its defense in the second half and turned away Pittsburgh.
Kayla McBride scored 19 points to help the No. 2 Fighting Irish beat host Pittsburgh, 73-47 on Jan. 23, 2013, at the Petersen Events Center.
Notre Dame held Pitt to just 1-of-10 shooting to open the second half and just 23.1 percent overall (6-of-26) in the half.
With the game tied at 29, Notre Dame scored the final six points before break. The Fighting Irish continued the spurt in the second half, scoring 25 of the first 28 points.
Notre Dame led 60-32 with 10 minutes left and coasted from there, with the Panthers not getting closer than 24 points the rest of the way.
Brianna Kiesel scored 12 points to lead Pitt, which was without leading scorer Asia Logan (15.5 points per game).
Notre Dame jumped out to a 5-0 lead and Pitt coach Agnus Berenato called a timeout just 17 seconds into the game.
Trailing 16-5, the Panthers went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to four with 12:38 remaining in the first half. Notre Dame went back ahead by eight on a layup by Pittsburgh-area native Madison Cable and another layup by Jewell Loyd, but the Panthers answered back with a 13-2 run to take their first lead of the game, 25-22 with 7:44 left in the half.
Skylar Diggins' three-pointer tied the score a little more than a minute later and the Panthers missed their next six shots as Notre Dame went back ahead by four. Pittsburgh would tie it once more at 29 with 3:07 remaining in the half before Notre Dame closed with its 6-0 run.
Other Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series Tidbits
Getting The Jump
At 15-0, Notre Dame has tied the second-best start in the program's 37-year history. The only times the Fighting Irish opened with an equal or 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).
Notre Dame's current 15-game winning streak is tied for the fifth-longest success string in program history, and it's the fourth time in the past five seasons the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 15 games or longer.
Notre Dame also has strung together 14 double-digit winning streaks in the program's 37-year history, with 12 of those coming during the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-88 to present).
Dating back to the start of last season, the Fighting Irish are 50-2 and have won 38 consecutive regular season games. In that span, their lone losses have come against a pair of third-ranked teams -- Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion) and Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.).
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 third-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 27 consecutive regular season road games (and 34 of its last 39 overall), including the Jan. 12 victory at Virginia. 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 17 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 week leading the nation in assists at 22.2 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 65.4 percent of their made field goals this year (333 of 509).
Notre Dame also ranks fifth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.50).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .511 field goal percentage, highlighted by eight games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent, including four games where they topped 60 percent from the field.
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 fifth in the ACC with a .569 field goal percentage, and freshman forward Taya Reimer, who is 15th in the conference with a .521 mark.
Freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.667), junior forward Markisha Wright (.636) and junior guard Madison Cable (.589) 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 third in the nation and leads the ACC with a .415 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 .455 three-point percentage that ranks third in the ACC, while sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey also stands among the top 10 in the conference, ranking seventh at a .415 three-point rate.
In addition, Mabrey is 11th in the ACC with 1.8 three-pointers per game, a mark she bolstered on Jan. 9 against Boston College with a career-high five triples (on six attempts). 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 (.500) would be second in the ACC in three-point percentage, but she is two made triples shy of the minimum 1.0 3FG/game to qualify for ranking. Freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.444) 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.
The .667 three-point mark (8-of-12) on Jan. 9 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).
McBride, Diggins Named To 2014-16 USA Basketball National Team Player Pool
Notre Dame senior All-America guard Kayla McBride and former Fighting Irish All-America guard Skylar Diggins ('13) were among 33 players who have been named to the 2014-16 USA Basketball Women's National Team pool, from which the 2014 USA World Championship Team and (if the U.S. qualifies), the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team will be selected, it was announced Monday by USA Basketball.
McBride, who was one of six collegians in the 33-player pool, and Diggins both took part in the USA Basketball Women's National Team mini-camp in Las Vegas Oct. 4-6, with that camp used to identify the players that will make up the National Team pool for the upcoming cycle. The duo are seeking to become the first Notre Dame players to compete with the USA Basketball Women's National Team in either the FIBA World Championships or the Olympics since 2004, when Ruth Riley ('01) helped the Americans to a gold medal at the Athens Olympics.
A third-team Associated Press All-America choice last year and a preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) pick prior to this year, McBride is one of three captains on the 2013-14 Notre Dame women's basketball squad, currently ranking third in the ACC in three-point percentage (.455) and 13th in scoring (16.1 ppg.), while posting career-high averages in scoring, rebounding (5.6 rpg.), assists (3.5 apg.) and three-point percentage. She also is tied for team-high honors with four 20-point games this season, and for her career, she is Notre Dame's all-time leader in free throw percentage (.878) while ranking 13th in school history with 1,448 career points.
McBride is no stranger to USA Basketball, having earned a gold medal with the USA U18 National Team at the 2010 FIBA U18 Americas Championship in Colorado Springs. McBride started all five contests for Team USA in the tournament, averaging 8.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
McBride is the second current Fighting Irish player to represent her country as part of its national team. Senior All-America forward Natalie Achonwa has been a mainstay with the Canadian Women's National Team since 2009 and was a member of her nation's Olympic squad in 2012, helping Canada to its first medal-round (quarterfinals) berth in 28 years.
Most recently, Achonwa helped Team Canada earn a silver medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship last September in Xalapa, Mexico, averaging 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game with a .462 field goal percentage as Canada clinched a berth in the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
Meanwhile, Diggins graduated last May as the program's all-time leader in points (2,357) and steals (381), as well as a four-time All-American (the past two years as a consensus first-team choice). She was selected third overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock, becoming Notre Dame's second draft lottery pick in as many years (only the second school to field lottery selections in consecutive seasons). The South Bend native then went on to become the first Fighting Irish player ever to earn WNBA All-Rookie Team honors after averaging 8.5 points, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game (tops among all WNBA rookies in the latter two categories) and helping Tulsa to 11 victories, the franchise's highest win total since moving to Oklahoma from Detroit in 2010.
Diggins is one of the most decorated players to come through the USA Basketball youth national team system in recent years, having earned five gold medals with USA Basketball squads since 2007. She also has been a co-captain on her last three gold medal-winning American squads, leading her teams to victory at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship (a squad guided by current Fighting Irish associate head coach Carol Owens), the 2011 World University Games and the 2012 FIBA 3x3 World Championship. She started her international career by striking gold at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival and the 2008 FIBA U18 Americas Championship.
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 10th in the ACC in scoring (17.1 ppg.), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.5 rpg.), assists (2.5 apg.), steals (1.5 spg.) and field goal percentage (.495). 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 13th in program history with 1,448 career points, making a big move up the charts in her last outing on Jan. 12 at Virginia when she passed three players -- 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). McBride could step up another spot in the coming days, just 12 points behind Sandy Botham (1,460 from 1984-88).
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 23rd in Notre Dame history with 1,216 points, rising two rungs up the ladder in her last outing at Virginia, passing Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91) and Heidi Bunek (1,202 from 1985-89). Achonwa has the next two spots in her sights as well, just three points behind Letitia Bowen (1,219 from 1991-95) and 17 behind Mary Beth Schueth (1,233 from 1981-85).
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 (820) and is tied for seventh on the double-doubles chart (25), moving up one spot on the latter rundown with her career-high 26 points and season-best 16 rebounds at Virginia on Jan. 12.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .545 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 7.6 points and 3.7 assists per game (the latter ranking 11th in the ACC). She also is sixth in the ACC with a 2.04 assist/turnover ratio, and is just outside the top 15 in the conference with a team-high 1.53 steals per game.
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 42-1 in her last 43 games as a starting point guard. Last year as a senior at St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., she guided her squad to a 27-1 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) title -- the highest level of play in the District of Columbia, which does not have a state tournament.
The Second Platoon
Another reason for Notre Dame's success this season has been the performance of its reserves, who are averaging nearly 30 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by close to a 2-to-1 margin (29.3 ppg. to 15.3 ppg.).
The Fighting Irish second unit has outscored its opposite number in 11 games this season, including a season-high 55 points on Jan. 9 against Boston College, outscoring the entire BC roster by two points (not to mention the Notre Dame starters by 15).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (9.3 ppg.) and freshman forward Taya Reimer (9.1 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen players score in double figures 13 different times, including seven by Mabrey.
Call Her Mabrey
While the regular season is just half over, certainly an early favorite as one of the nation's most improved players 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 9.3 points and 3.0 assists per game, while ranking third in the ACC (and 40th in the nation) with a 2.37 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: Tennessee
Notre Dame wraps up its three-game road swing and steps out of conference for the final time this season at 7 p.m. (ET) Monday when it heads to Knoxville, Tenn., to face No. 12/10 Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 as part of its Big Monday package, the first of two consecutive weeks the Fighting Irish will play a road game against a ranked opponent on ESPN2's Big Monday (preceding a Jan. 27 visit to sixth-ranked Maryland).
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director