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    Fighting Irish
    #4/3 Irish Look To Bounce Back Tuesday At Louisville

    FIGHTING IRISH Junior forward Devereaux Peters scored a season-high 12 points and tied her season best with eight rebounds in Saturday's loss at top-ranked Connecticut.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Junior forward Devereaux Peters scored a season-high 12 points and tied her season best with eight rebounds in Saturday's loss at top-ranked Connecticut.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Jan. 18, 2010

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    2009-10 ND Women's Basketball: Game 17
    #4/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-1 / 2-1 BIG EAST) vs. Louisville Cardinals (10-7 / 2-2 BIG EAST)

    DATE: January 19, 2010
    TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Louisville, Ky. - Freedom Hall (18,865)
    SERIES: LOU leads 4-3
    1ST MTG: LOU 80-75 (3/22/91)
    LAST MTG: LOU 71-66 (2/11/09)
    TV: CBS College Sports (live) (Dave Ryan, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame takes on a third participant from last year's Final Four, having split prior games with Oklahoma and Connecticut.
  • All seven games in the series with Louisville have been decided by 15 points or fewer, with all four BIG EAST matchups featuring margins of 10 points or fewer.
  • No. 4/3 Notre Dame Looks To Bounce Back Tuesday At Louisville
    For the first time this season, No. 4/3 Notre Dame will get a chance to see how it handles adversity, as the Irish look to rebound from their first loss when they travel to Louisville Tuesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup with the Cardinals at Freedom Hall. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by CBS College Sports, marking Notre Dame's third appearance on that network in the past three weeks.

    The Irish (15-1, 2-1) saw their season-opening 15-game winning streak snapped Saturday with a 70-46 loss at top-ranked Connecticut. Notre Dame actually played the powerful Huskies to a standstill over the final 25 minutes, but an early 36-10 deficit proved too much to overcome.

    Junior forward Devereaux Peters scored a season-high 12 points and matched her season best with eight rebounds for the Irish.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 4 in the new Associated Press poll and was No. 3 in last week's ESPN/USA Today poll (new poll released Tuesday).
  • Louisville is not ranked.
  • Quick Hitters

  • The Irish have appeared in the top five of the AP poll all 11 weeks this season (through Monday), marking the second-longest string of consecutive AP Top 5 rankings in program history behind only the final 17 weeks in 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame's 15-game winning streak earlier this season tied for the third-longest in school history, and longest since a school-record 23-game run from Nov. 17, 2000-Feb. 14, 2001.
  • At 15-0, the Irish posted the second-best start in program history, topped only by a 23-0 debut in 2000-01 (the season in which Notre Dame won its first NCAA title).
  • Notre Dame has defeated four ranked opponents (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt) this season, including three away from home.
  • The Irish won the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division title (their first regular-season tourney crown since the 2005 Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas), with freshman guard Skylar Diggins capturing MVP honors and senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner making the all-tournament team.
  • Seven different players have led the Irish in scoring this season. In the past nine games alone, Notre Dame has had a different player lead it in scoring seven times.
  • In Monday's NCAA statistical rankings, Notre Dame appears among the top 15 in six categories -- steals (2nd at 14.7 spg.), assists (3rd at 18.6 apg.), turnover margin (5th at +8.13), scoring offense (7th at 80.1 ppg.), scoring margin (11th at +20.9 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (15th at 1.06).
  • Conversely, Notre Dame has only one player ranking among the top 100 in any NCAA statistical category -- senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow stands 91st in the land in steals (2.4 per game).
  • Notre Dame is forcing 25.6 turnovers per game this season, including 28.7 at home. The Irish also have caused at least 20 takeaways in 13 of 16 games to date, with no fewer than 29 opponent turnovers in six of nine home games this year.
  • Notre Dame is averaging 8,522 fans per game this year, unofficially ranking fifth in the nation and showing a 18.9-percent increase from last year (7,168). The Irish also are the only school from the top 25 of the final 2008-09 NCAA attendance rankings to see an increase in attendance this year.
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 329 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past nine seasons. Last year, the program finished ninth in the country for the second year in a row with an average of 7,168 fans for its 13 home games (the second-highest single-season attendance average in school history). The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 133 of their last 135 home games, including seven Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 31, 2009 vs. Vanderbilt).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past nine seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '09 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fourth year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2009. What's more, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 58-for-58 success rate), with all five members of this year's senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson earned her undergraduate degree one semester early in January 2010).
  • A Quick Look At Louisville
    Louisville reached new heights in its women's basketball history in 2008-09, advancing to its first Final Four, and then, its first national championship game before falling to Connecticut. The Cardinals had six letterwinners, including two starters, back from that 34-5 club, although injuries have already sent one of those veterans (starting point guard Deseree' Byrd) to the sideline for the season. Nevertheless, Louisville has proven to be a tough out this season, particularly at home, where the Cardinals are 5-1 thus far.

    In its most recent contest on Saturday afternoon, Louisville (10-7, 2-2) dropped a hard-fought 60-56 decision at No. 24/18 Georgetown. The Cardinals outrebounded the Hoyas, 37-35, but fell victim to 30 turnovers that results in 33 GU points. Junior center Keshia Hines paced Louisville with a double-double (game highs of 15 points and 12 rebounds), while her linemate, sophomore forward Monique Reid added 15 points and eight rebounds.

    Reid and sophomore guard Becky Burke share the team lead in scoring (15.6 ppg.), with Reid snaring a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game. Hines is third in scoring (9.1 ppg.), second in rebounding (7.2 rpg.) and tops in field goal percentage (.553) for the Cardinals.

    Head coach Jeff Walz is in his third season at Louisville with a 70-22 (.761) record. He is 1-1 all-time against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Louisville Series
    Notre Dame and Louisville will meet for the eighth time on Tuesday night, with the Cardinals maintaining a slim 4-3 series lead on the Irish (although Notre Dame is 2-1 all-time at Freedom Hall).

    The teams have split their four matchups since Louisville joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, with each side winning once at home and once on the road.

    The Last Time Notre Dame and Louisville Met
    No. 22 Notre Dame was a second away from forcing 10th-ranked Louisville into a big turnover. Angel McCoughtry made sure it didn't happen.

    After Notre Dame used a 6-0 run to close within two points with less than two minutes left, there was one second left on the shot clock when McCoughtry threw up a hurried three-pointer. She missed, but Melissa Lechlitner was called for the foul. McCoughtry hit all three free throws and the Cardinals hung on for a 71-66 win on Feb. 11, 2009, at Purcell Pavilion.

    McCoughtry, who started the game making just 2-of-11 shots for four points in the first half, finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals. Candyce Bingham added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

    Becca Bruszewski led Notre Dame (17-6, 6-5) with 18 points to tie her (then) career high, Natalie Novosel had 17 and Ashley Barlow added 16 points and eight rebounds.

    Notre Dame, which trailed by 10 at halftime, opened the second half on an 11-4 run, closing to 42-41 on a layup by Barlow with 14:52 left. The Cardinals quickly regained control, though, with a 13-0 run. McCoughtry had a pair of steals for easy layups during the run.

    The Irish, though, made a game of it, getting within 63-61 on Bruszewski's basket with 1:49 remaining before McCoughtry's game-changing free throws sealed matters for the visitors.

    The Last Time Notre Dame and Louisville Met At Freedom Hall
    Charel Allen scored 26 points to lead No. 14 Notre Dame to an 82-74 win over Louisville on Jan. 8, 2008, at Freedom Hall in Louisville.

    Allen scored six of her points during a decisive 10-2 run in the second half that turned a one-point lead into a nine-point cushion for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame outscored the Cardinals, 44-36 in the second half after the two teams were tied at 38 at halftime.

    Tulyah Gaines added 13 points while Erica Williamson chipped in 11 for Notre Dame.

    Candyce Bingham led Louisville with 22 points while Angel McCoughtry finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. She was just 8-for-25 from the field and had six turnovers. Chauntise Wright added 12 points.

    The Cardinals struggled to convert at the free-throw line, going 15-of-32 (46.9 percent).

    Other Notre Dame-Louisville Series Tidbits

  • Just how close is the series? The aggregate point totals for each team are remarkably close through the seven-game series, with Notre Dame having collected 460 points (65.7 ppg.) and Louisville scoring 459 points (65.6 ppg.).
  • To further illustrate that point, all seven games in the series have been decided by 15 points or fewer. Since Louisville joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, all four series games have been decided by 10 points or fewer (the past three by single digits).
  • Only three times in the seven-game series has either team scored at least 70 points, and ironically, both teams did it in the same game twice. The Cardinals won the first-ever matchup, 80-75, in the 1991 National Women's Invitation Tournament consolation semifinals at Amarillo, Texas, while the Irish won in 2008 at Freedom Hall, 82-74. Notre Dame's 82 points in that game were the most scored by either team in the series.
  • The home team has won only two of the six on-campus games in the series to date, with the Cardinals winning at Freedom Hall in 2006 (61-51) and the Irish taking the 2007 contest at Purcell Pavilion (64-55).
  • Tuesday's game will mark the fourth consecutive meeting in which one of the combatants is in the Top 25. In 2006, Louisville came to South Bend ranked 17th in the AP poll and 16th in the ESPN/USA Today poll, while Notre Dame was ranked 14th in both polls heading into the 2007 game at Freedom Hall. Last season, the Cardinals came into the game at Purcell Pavilion ranked 10th in the media poll and 12th in the coaches' poll, while the Irish were 22nd in both surveys at tipoff.
  • Aside from its series with Louisville, Notre Dame has played only one other game against a Kentucky school, defeating Western Kentucky, 78-59, in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament at the Joyce Center.
  • Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel hails from Lexington, Ky., and is the first Kentucky native to suit up for Notre Dame in the 33-year history of the program.
  • Novosel and Louisville sophomore forward Monique Reid were arguably two of the best players to come out of the Kentucky high school ranks in 2008, with Reid nosing out Novosel for Miss Basketball honors.
  • Novosel and Louisville sophomore forward Gwen Rucker are no strangers to one another, both coming out of the Lexington area. Novosel and her Lexington Catholic High School teammates faced Rucker and her Henry Clay High School squad on numerous occasions during their prep careers, most notably in the 2008 11th Region championship game, when Henry Clay upset LexCath, 47-43, at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena in Richmond, Ky. Both players had double-doubles in the title game -- Novosel charted 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Rucker tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds -- and both were named to the all-region team (Novosel was the regular-season region MVP, while Rucker was the MVP of the regional tournament).
  • Bouncing Back
    In recent years, Notre Dame has shown exceptional resiliency when it comes to responding to a double-digit loss. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish are 52-14 (.788) in "bounce back" games, including a 4-1 record last season (the only loss came in the first round of the NCAA Championship, a 79-71 setback to Minnesota at Purcell Pavilion.

    Overall, Notre Dame is 77-31 (.713) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) when playing its first game following a loss of 10 points or more.

    Spread The Wealth
    Notre Dame has seen seven different players led the team in scoring and rebounding this season.

    That trend has been particularly evident in the past nine games, with a different player setting the pace in scoring seven times. Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso and UCF) and fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Vanderbilt and South Florida) are the only repeat leading scorers for the Irish in that span.

    Stat Sheet Stuffers
    Another sign of Notre Dame's versatility is seen in the number of "5-5-5" games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year.

    Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt) has a team-high three 5-5-5 games, while senior guard Ashley Barlow (Iona and South Florida) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB and Charlotte) have two 5-5-5 outings apiece, and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) has one.

    Taking What We Can Get
    Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 13 of 16 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 25.6 giveaways per game.

    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 also are making even the most disciplined teams fall victim to their aggressive defensive style. Villanova came into its Jan. 9 game with Notre Dame ranked second in the nation with just 12.6 turnovers per game, but the Irish dogged the Wildcats into 34 turnovers (17 in each half).

    Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents in nine home games this season, forcing 28.7 turnovers per game (at least 29 in six of the nine Purcell Pavilion contests) while holding visitors to 53.1 points a night and a .352 field goal percentage (176-of-500).

    The Five-Finger Discount
    According to Monday's NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks second in the nation in steals (14.7 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 11 of their 16 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.

    What's more, Notre Dame has been particularly aggressive in the past nine games, posting at least 19 steals four times and averaging 15.8 steals per game during that span.

    Solid Dev-elopment
    Junior forward Devereaux Peters enjoyed her best game since returning from knee surgery in Saturday's loss at top-ranked Connecticut. The Chicago native dropped in a season-high 12 points (on 6-of-11 shooting) and tied her season best with eight rebounds in only 21 minutes of action.

    Peters has appeared in six games since being cleared by team medical personnel to resume competition. In that time, she is averaging 5.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and a team-high 1.5 blocks per game, all in just 16 minutes per contest.

    Getting The Jump
    At 15-0, Notre Dame got off to the second-best start in the program's 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was 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.

    Streak Stats
    Notre Dame's recent 15-game winning streak tied for the third-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it was the longest since the school-record 23-game run to begin the 2000-01 season.

    Road Warriors
    Notre Dame is 23-10 (.697) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 3-1 record this year.

    In addition, seven of the past eight 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).

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the 11th consecutive week -- it's the second-longest run in the AP Top 5 in program history, and the longest for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.

    This marks the 49th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who spent five weeks at a season-high No. 3 ranking earlier this season. That was Notre Dame's highest poll position 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 189 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 22nd all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Irish spent a fourth consecutive week at a season-high No. 3 in last week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. It was 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 were 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 last week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 180 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 26 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 189 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 26 people on this list, 14 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).

    Game #16 Recap: Connecticut
    Connecticut got off to a near-perfect start, showing there is a chasm between it and the rest of women's basketball.

    Tina Charles scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help the top-ranked Huskies rout No. 3 Notre Dame 70-46 on Saturday night at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., for its 56th straight victory.

    UConn scored 24 of the game's first 28 points to take control, delivering an early knockout.

    "That first 15 minutes of basketball was pretty amazing," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "That was as good a 15 minutes of basketball you could hope to play on a day like today against a team like that."

    Maya Moore added 20 points for the Huskies, who have the second-longest winning streak in women's basketball history. They're 14 short of their NCAA record, set from 2001-03.

    UConn (17-0, 5-0 BIG EAST) has been at its best against top-10 teams during the streak, winning those 10 games by nearly 27 points a game.

    "The gap is huge," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I think that they are on a mission to prove that gap is wider and wider with every game. They've had their way with the top 10. Even Stanford. They are the best team in the country, no question about it."

    Connecticut has won every game during its streak by double digits.

    Devereaux Peters scored 12 to lead the Irish (15-1, 2-1), who had been off to the second-best start in school history. Notre Dame started 23-0 en route to the 2001 national title.

    The Irish wore their alternate green road jerseys for a little extra luck, but they needed a lot more to beat UConn. Before the sellout crowd could settle into its seats, the Huskies were up 17-2 as four different players scored.

    "Once we threw the first couple of punches we sucked the life out of them and had control of the game," said Kalana Greene, who had 13 points for Connecticut.

    Ashley Barlow finally hit a jumper to end the five-minute scoreless drought for the Irish, but it wasn't nearly enough to stop the onslaught.

    By the time Notre Dame scored consecutive baskets for the first time with 2:53 left in the half, the Irish trailed 36-14. UConn led 42-19 at the break with Charles scoring 17 points.

    Notre Dame, which came into the game averaging 82.4 points, got no closer than 20 in the second half. The Irish shot only 27 percent (18 for 67) from the field for the game, including going 3 for 19 from behind the arc.

    "We actually shoot the ball fairly well," McGraw said. "Certainly 3 for 19 isn't where we should have been. Certainly their defense had everything to do with that."

    Noting The Connecticut Game

  • Notre Dame sees its 15-game winning streak snapped, ending the third-longest string in school history (tied with a similar run in 1990-91) and the second-longest streak to start a season in program annals (the 2000-01 club was the last to have success strings of a longer length, opening 23-0).
  • The Fighting Irish suffer their first road loss since last year's 76-66 loss at Connecticut, and fall to 23-10 on the road in the past two-plus seasons (2007-08 to present).
  • Entering Saturday night's game, Notre Dame had not trailed by more than 10 points (23-13 at Purdue on Jan. 4) at any time all season.
  • The Fighting Irish were held to 46 points, their lowest scoring total since Jan. 24, 2006 (a 69-43 loss at #10/9 Rutgers).
  • Notre Dame also shot a season-low .269 from the field.
  • The Fighting Irish trailed at halftime for only the second time all year (also at Purdue on Jan. 4).
  • Notre Dame posted double-digit steals for the 11th time this season.
  • The Fighting Irish collected at least 20 offensive rebounds for the fourth time this year.
  • Notre Dame drops to 2-14 all-time against top-ranked opponents.
  • The Fighting Irish now are 4-23 in the series against Connecticut, with a 1-12 series record on the road.
  • Junior forward Devereaux Peters became the seventh different leading scorer for Notre Dame this season, and the seventh different scoring leader in the past nine games.
  • Peters tallied a season-high 12 points (her best output since Nov, 16, 2008, when she also scored 12 at #24/22 LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic) and tied her season best with eight rebounds.
  • Peters' six field goals made also tied her career high that she set three times before (most recently in the LSU game last year).
  • Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow is now tied for 14th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,290 points, matching Megan Duffy's total from 2002-06.
  • Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader rose to 16th place on the Fighting Irish career scoring chart with 1,236 points, passing Mary Beth Schueth, who scored 1,233 points from 1981-85.
  • Freshman guard Skylar Diggins recorded a career-high five steals, after notching four on two other occasions this season (most recently vs. South Carolina on Nov. 27 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands).
  • McGraw Nearing 600th Career Win
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is closing in on an important milestone, as she stands just one victory away from becoming the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins.

    McGraw has a 28-year mark of 599-239 (.715) through 838 games (88-41 in five seasons at Lehigh from 1982-87 before coming to Notre Dame), putting her in position to be one of the 10 fastest coaches to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    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
    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.

    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.

    Pomp And Circumstance
    On Jan. 3, senior center Erica Williamson received her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and has begun graduate studies this spring.

    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.

    Keeping It Close To Home
    Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 13 players on this year's Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while five others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).

    What's more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana -- senior guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and the all-South Bend backcourt of senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman guard Skylar Diggins -- while the fifth starter (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 280 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 eighth in school history with 107 career starts, including a current streak of 65 in a row (putting her nine away from moving into the Notre Dame top five in that category).

    Experience Matters
    For the first time in Notre Dame women's basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).

    Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.

    McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
    With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 511-198 (.721) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 599-239 (.715) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.

    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.

    Upwardly Mobile
    Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.

    Barlow currently is tied for 14th in school history with 1,290 career points, while Schrader is 16th with 1,236 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 829 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.

    Eight Is Enough (For Now)
    Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.

    Century City
    With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).

    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.

    First Impressions
    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.

    Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
    Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.

    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
    During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 177-17 (.912) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 105 of their last 116 such contests.

    Notre Dame has led at the break in 14 of its 16 games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 15 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 Irish have an amazing 203-14 (.935) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    Notre Dame has added eight more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Charlotte, UCF and Villanova.

    ...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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 133-4 (.971) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

    Notre Dame already has added 10 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, Charlotte, Villanova and South Florida.

    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 Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 182 of their last 206 games (.883) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 101-17 (.856) 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 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 332-85 (.796) 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
    If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

    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 nine home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,522 fans per game, putting the Irish nearly 700 fans ahead of 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 since the renovated arena opened this fall.

    Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
    Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center made its regular season women's basketball debut on Nov. 15 when Notre Dame defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57.

    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, involved construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure included a new three-story lobby, which houses 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 led to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift has been 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) opened to the public on Jan. 9, 2010, when the Irish basketball teams swept a BIG EAST doubleheader (women defeated Villanova, 81-46; men upset No. 8 West Virginia, 70-68).

    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. 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
    Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).

    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 153 televised games, including 100 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

    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
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.

    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
    It's year three 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 Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

    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 year over Indianapolis, 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.

    Next Game: West Virginia
    Notre Dame returns to Purcell Pavilion Sunday to open a two-game BIG EAST homestand with a 1 p.m. (ET) matinee against No. 16/13 West Virginia. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU as that network's BIG EAST Game of the Week, while also capping off a run of seven nationally-televised contests in an eight-game stretch.

    The Mountaineers (17-1, 5-0) are off to the best start in school history and are in the midst of a 15-game winning streak, the second-longest in WVU annals. The Mountaineers will step out of conference play Wednesday for their traditional in-state rivalry matchup with Marshall in Charleston, W.Va., before turning their attention to this weekend's visit to Notre Dame.

    -- ND --
     

     

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