Jan. 19, 2013
Full Notes Package in PDF Format
2012-13 ND Women's Basketball: Game 17
#2/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-1 / 4-0 BIG EAST) vs. St. John's Red Storm (9-6 / 3-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 20, 2013
TIME: Noon ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 21-3
1ST MTG: ND 74-48 (1/4/96)
LAST MTG: ND 71-56 (1/28/12)
TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN (live) (Melissa Lee, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets
StorylinesNotre Dame wraps up a season-long three-game homestand with its second Sunday afternoon game on ESPNU in as many weeks.
The Fighting Irish are 53-5 (.914) all-time against schools from New York, including wins in 11 of their last 12 outings.
No. 2/3 Fighting Irish Welcome St. John's To Town Sunday Afternoon
Following its second consecutive wire-to-wire conference victory, No. 2/3 Notre Dame steps back on the Purcell Pavilion hardwood Sunday for a noon (ET) matinee against BIG EAST foe St. John's. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU, and also can be seen in many parts of the country through WatchESPN.
The Fighting Irish (15-1, 4-0) earned their 10th consecutive win and remained unbeaten in BIG EAST play with a 79-64 victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame jumped out to a 35-11 lead less than 12 minutes into the game and never let the lead dip lower than 13 points from then on.
Junior guard Kayla McBride paced another balanced Fighting Irish offensive attack with 17 points, while senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins added 15 points, nine assists and six steals, and junior forward Natalie Achonwa collected her BIG EAST-leading ninth double-double of the season (12 points, 10 rebounds).
RankingsNotre Dame is No. 2 in this week's Associated Press poll and No. 3 in this week's ESPN/USA Today poll.
St. John's is receiving votes in this week's ESPN/USA Today poll.
Quick HittersNotre Dame is off to a 15-1 start for the third time in four seasons and fourth time in school history (all beginning in 2000-01).
The Fighting Irish are 5-1 against ranked opponents this year, defeating No. 19/21 Ohio State (57-51), No. 19/22 UCLA (76-64), No. 22 Texas A&M (83-74), No. 11 Purdue (74-47) and No. 1 Connecticut (73-72), while dropping a 73-61 decision to No. 3 Baylor (a game Notre Dame led 50-49 with less than eight minutes remaining).
Notre Dame is in the midst of a 10-game winning streak, the third time in four years (13th in school history) the Fighting Irish have posted a double-digit win streak.
In those 10 games since its only loss of the season (Dec. 5 vs. third-ranked Baylor), Notre Dame has averaged 87.9 points per game (winning by 28.4 ppg.), shot .471 from the field, posted a rebound margin of +12.4 per game, and forced opponents into an average of 22.9 turnovers per night (12.7 of those coming on Fighting Irish steals).
The Fighting Irish have won a school-record 15 consecutive regular season road games and 20 of their last 25 overall (Notre Dame's regular season road loss came on Nov. 20, 2011 - 94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game).
Notre Dame also has won a school-record 10 consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular season games, dating back to Feb. 28, 2011 (a 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul). It also tied for the third-longest regular season conference road win streak in program history, and longest since a 12-game run in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) from 1992-95.
According to Friday's NCAA statistical report, the Fighting Irish are ranked in the top 20 in nine categories -- free throw percentage (1st - .822), scoring offense (2nd - 83.2 ppg.), assists (3rd - 19.8 apg.), scoring margin (6th - +25.0 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (9th - 1.19), rebounding margin (12th - +10.4 rpg.), field goal percentage (13th - .459), turnover margin (16th - +6.19) and steals (17th - 12.7 spg.).
Notre Dame has shown remarkably balanced offensive production this season, with 10 of the 11 players on the roster having scored in double figures at least once, including five different players who have scored 20 points in a game.
The Fighting Irish have set a school record with three 100-point games this season. The highlight came on Dec. 31 at home against Saint Francis (Pa.) in a 128-55 victory, marking the highest offensive output by any NCAA Division I team this season (and matching the highest by any D-I program since 2002 - Notre Dame also scored 128 points last year at Mercer).
With its No. 2 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 107 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with the vast majority of that time (57 of 68 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have helped Notre Dame win 110 games to date, already the second-most wins by a Fighting Irish senior class and only seven back of the school record set by last year's seniors (117) with six weeks remaining in the regular season.
With 606 victories in her 26 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
McGraw also is six wins away from becoming the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 700 victories (and should she do so within the next 48 games, she would be the 11th to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games coached). What's more, when McGraw reaches the 700-win milestone, she will be the third BIG EAST Conference skipper to hit that landmark, along with C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Other Notre Dame NotablesNotre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 17 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fourth with 424 victories.
Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years), and is well on its way again this year, ranking third in the nation at 8,948 fans per game. Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation (8,571), setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 184 of their last 186 home games (including an active streak of 27 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 31 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 25 in the past four seasons (a school-record eight in 2011-12). Notre Dame already has six sellouts in eight home games this season, most recently for Tuesday's win over Georgetown.
The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as nine Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 12 seasons. Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with both going in the first round (Peters third overall to Minnesota; Novosel eighth overall to Washington) of the 2012 WNBA Draft. Last year's draft marked the first time Notre Dame has had two first-round picks in the same year, while Peters was the highest-drafted player (and first lottery selection) in program history. Ruth Riley (Chicago) was active in the league during the '12 season, helping the Sky contend for a playoff berth into the final weeks of the season. Three of Notre Dame's 10 all-time 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 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit. Peters nearly joined that list in 2012, helping Minnesota return to the WNBA Finals, but the Lynx could not defend their title, falling to Indiana in four games.
For the sixth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What's more, Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous five years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it twice, pulling off that feat in 2011 and 2012).
Scouting St. John's
Despite adjusting to injuries, close losses and a new head coach, St. John's (9-6, 3-0 BIG EAST) has found its footing, winning four of its last five and entering this weekend as one of just four unbeaten teams in BIG EAST Conference play.
The Red Storm are coming off a 61-32 rout of Pittsburgh at home on Wednesday night. Senior guard Shenneika Smith narrowly missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds, while freshman guard Aliyyah Handford added 11 points and six rebounds for a St. John's side that played suffocating defense, holding the Panthers to a .203 field goal percentage.
Smith leads the Red Storm in scoring (16.6 ppg.), rebounding (8.4 rpg.), blocks (2.6 bpg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), while classmate/backcourt partner Nadirah McKenith also scores in double figures (12.7 ppg.) and adds a team-high 4.9 assists per game.
Head coach Joe Tartamella is in his first season at the helm in Queens, taking the reins when his former St. John's boss, Kim Barnes Arico, left to take the same post at Michigan.
The Notre Dame-St. John's Series
Notre Dame and St. John's will square off for the 25th time on Sunday afternoon, with the Fighting Irish holding a 21-3 edge in the series with the Red Storm, including wins in the past three meetings.
Notre Dame also is 10-0 all-time against St. John's at Purcell Pavilion, having won eight of those 10 games by double digits.
The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John's Met
Devereaux Peters had 18 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and four steals to help No. 2 Notre Dame beat St. John's 71-56 on Jan. 28, 2012, at Carnsecca Arena in Queens, N.Y.
Trailing 6-1 early on, Notre Dame went on a 19-2 run to take an early 12-point lead. Peters had six points during the burst and Diggins, who led the Fighting Irish with 24 points, scored the final eight, including a pretty floater down the lane that made it 20-8 with 11:16 left in the half.
St. John's scored the next eight points, including two three-pointers by Tesia Harris, to cut it to a four-point game. That's as close as the Red Storm would get as Notre Dame put it away with a 14-0 spurt.
Notre Dame dominated the glass, outrebounding St. John's 49-29 -- including a whopping 26-8 advantage in the first half.
During the decisive run Diggins scored four points and had two assists on beautiful lookaway passes to Natalie Achonwa. Later in the first half, with her team up 18 points, the Fighting Irish point guard blocked a shot on one end, ran the floor and caught a long outlet from Peters for a lay-in.
Da'Shena Stevens and Shenneika Smith each scored 10 points to lead St. John's.
The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John's Met at Purcell Pavilion
Devereaux Peters dominated inside with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to lead No. 11/10 Notre Dame to a 69-36 rout of No. RV/23 St. John's on Jan. 23, 2011, at Purcell Pavilion.
Becca Bruszewski scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting for the Fighting Irish.
The Red Storm shot 32 percent, with no player reaching double figures. Leading scorer Shenneika Smith was held to seven points on 3-of-8 shooting. Da'Shena Stevens had nine rebounds, but missed all seven free-throw attempts.
Notre Dame outrebounded St. John's, 42-31.
On the final play of the first half, Skylar Diggins drove and dished to Natalie Achonwa, whose layup as time expired gave the Fighting Irish a 39-21 lead. Diggins had six assists.
Other Notre Dame-St. John's Series TidbitsNotre Dame won the first seven times it faced St. John's at Carnesecca Arena. However, last year's win was the first for the Fighting Irish in Queens since Feb. 17, 2004 (a 69-56 victory).
St. John's had not scored more than 60 points in its first 14 series games against Notre Dame, but has topped that mark in seven of the past 10 matchups, including a series-high 76 points on Feb. 16, 2010 (a 76-71 Red Storm win at Carnesecca Arena).
Conversely, the Fighting Irish have scored fewer than 66 points only three times in 24 series games against St. John's, going 20-1 in those contests (the lone loss being the aforementioned 2010 Red Storm victory in Queens).
The first 14 games in the series were decided by 13 points or more, all going in Notre Dame's favor. However, six of the past 10 contests have seen spreads of 10 points or fewer, with each team winning three of those close affairs.
Notre Dame has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in almost half (10) of the 24 series games with St. John's, including a series-best .571 percentage (36-of-63) on Feb. 12, 2000, at Purcell Pavilion (a 94-51 Fighting Irish win, the largest by either side in the series).
The 66-31 Fighting Irish victory over St. John's in 2002 at Purcell Pavilion marked the lowest opponent scoring total by a conference opponent in any of Notre Dame's three league affiliations (North Star, Midwestern Collegiate, BIG EAST).
New York State Of Mind
Notre Dame is 53-5 (.914) all-time against New York-based teams, including a 27-0 record at Purcell Pavilion and wins in 11 of their last 12 games overall (only loss a 76-71 setback at St. John's on Feb. 16, 2010).
The Fighting Irish are facing the first of two New York schools this season, with a home date against Syracuse scheduled for Feb. 26.
Coincidentally, St. John's and Syracuse account for all five New York wins over Notre Dame (three for the Red Storm, two for the Orange -- four road, one neutral site).
Climbing Another Rung On The Ladder
With Tuesday's 79-64 victory over Georgetown, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw took over sole possession of 13th place on the NCAA Division I career coaching wins list with 694 victories in a legendary Hall of Fame career that began at Lehigh (1982-87) and has continued with tremendous success under the Golden Dome since the 1987-88 season.
Tuesday's win lifted McGraw past her old college coach, Rene Portland (first name pronounced REE-nee; 693 wins from 1976-2007), who began her coaching career at McGraw's alma mater, Saint Joseph's (Pa.), during McGraw's final two seasons of 1976-77 and 1977-78, before going on spend two years at Colorado (1978-80) and the majority of her career at Penn State (1980-2007).
Next up on the career milestone watch for McGraw -- her 700th career win, and if she hits that landmark in the next 48 games, she'll be the 11th NCAA Division I coach to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games, and the third current BIG EAST Conference coach to do so, following Hall of Famers C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut).
Jewell Loyd Earns Third BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week Honor
For the third time this season, freshman guard Jewell Loyd has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday afternoon by the conference office. Loyd is the first three-time recipient of the honor during the 2012-13 season, and she becomes the fifth Fighting Irish women's basketball player to earn three BIG EAST Freshman of the Week citations in her career (first since current senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins was a four-time rookie choice in 2009-10).
Loyd nearly averaged a double-double in two games last week, averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds with a .480 field goal percentage, .750 three-point percentage and .833 free throw percentage to help Notre Dame extend its winning streak to nine games with victories at South Florida and at home against Rutgers.
Loyd registered her first career double-double in Notre Dame's 75-71 overtime win at USF on Jan. 8, logging 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, along with three assists and three steals. On Sunday's 71-46 victory over Rutgers at Purcell Pavilion, Loyd knocked down 6-of-8 shots (including 2-of-2 from three-point range), finishing with 14 points and five rebounds as Notre Dame posted its fourth consecutive win over the Scarlet Knights (the longest Fighting Irish winning streak in the 29-game series with Rutgers).
Start Me Up
For the third time in four years, and the fourth time in school history (all starting with the 2000-01 season), Notre Dame has posted a 15-1 record or better through its first 16 games.
This year's start (as well as those in 2009-10 and 2011-12) matches the second-best 16-game debut in program history, exceeded only by the 2000-01 squad that opened with a school-record 23 consecutive wins on the way to a 34-2 record and the program's first NCAA national championship.
Notre Dame also is off to a 4-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the second consecutive season and the sixth time since it joined the league in 1995-96. Prior to last year, the Fighting Irish had not opened their league slate with four wins in a row since 2000-01.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 13 games this year. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 65-4 (.942) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including an active 35-game winning streak that dates back to Feb. 28, 2011 (70-69 loss at DePaul).
Everyone Pitches In
With the graduation of two-time honorable mention All-Americans (and 2012 WNBA first-round draft picks) Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame entered this season searching to find a way to make up for the talented duo's 27.0 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.
Thus far in 2012-13, it would appear the Fighting Irish are making this mission truly a team effort. On the scoring side, 10 of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including junior forward Ariel Braker (six times, after having two double-figure games in her first two seasons combined), sophomore guards Madison Cable (twice) and Whitney Holloway (once - the first double-digit games of both Cable and Holloway's careers) and freshman guards Jewell Loyd (11 times) and Michaela Mabrey (three times).
On the backboards, junior forward Natalie Achonwa is second in the BIG EAST at 9.1 rebounds per game and has piled up nine of her 11 career double-digit rebounding games this year. The Guelph, Ontario, native, and 2012 Canadian Olympic Team member also has a BIG EAST-leading nine double-doubles after logging one double-double in her career prior to this season.
The Best Things In Life Are Free
At the midpoint of the 2012-13 regular season, Notre Dame is displaying a penchant for making opponents pay at the free throw line.
Through their first 16 games, the Fighting Irish lead the nation in free throw percentage, shooting a remarkable .822 (319-of-388) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .933 (14-of-15) on Jan. 13 in a win over Rutgers.
On average, Notre Dame is getting to the line more than 24 times per game, converting nearly 20 free throws a night. At the same time, the Fighting Irish have made better than 35 percent more foul shots than their opponents have attempted (319 made, 235 opponent attempts).
Last year, Notre Dame set a school record by connecting at a .763 clip from the foul line, leading the BIG EAST with a stellar .807 percentage during conference play.
Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making 34 of 36 free throws (.944) to rise to the top of the conference statistical rankings this year. She also would rank second in the nation in free throw percentage (behind Oklahoma State's Liz Donohoe at .967), but she has not yet reached the minimum required for ranking (2.5 FTM/game).
McBride is one of four Notre Dame players who appear among the top 10 in the current BIG EAST free throw rankings, with senior guard Skylar Diggins ranking second (.869), junior forward Natalie Achonwa standing eighth (.805) and freshman guard Jewell Loyd in ninth (.796).
For her career, McBride has logged an .887 free throw percentage, putting her ahead of Alicia Ratay's school-record mark (.872) from 1999-2003.
According to the time-honored adage, "there's no substitute for experience." In the case of Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwa, that experience was second to none and it's paid off exceptionally well for the veteran Fighting Irish frontliner this season.
During the summer of 2012, Achonwa was a key contributor on Canada's Senior National Team, helping leading her country to its first Olympic appearance in 12 years. Not content to merely qualify, Canada then earned two hard-fought wins in the group stage to reach the Olympic quarterfinals (medal round) for the first time since 1984.
As the second-youngest player in the London Olympic Basketball Tournament at the tender age of 19, Achonwa averaged 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, highlighted by a 14-point, eight-rebound effort against eventual Olympic silver medalist France during the preliminary round.
Parlaying her Olympic experience, Achonwa has moved seamlessly into Notre Dame's starting lineup this season after spending her first two years as an important reserve. The Guelph, Ontario, native was expected to take on a larger role this year with the graduation of two-time All-American Devereaux Peters, but Achonwa has taken that growth to a whole new level, doubling her averages in scoring (7.6 to 14.1 ppg.) and rebounding (4.4 to 9.1 rpg.), while scoring in double figures a team-high 14 times and grabbing double-digit rebounds on nine occasions (including a career-best 17 rebounds on Dec. 29 against No. 11 Purdue).
What's more, Achonwa came into this season with one career double-double and a career scoring high of 20 points. This year, she leads the BIG EAST in double-doubles (9, including five in six games against ranked teams) and has four 20-point games to her credit (career-high 23 vs. Utah State on Dec. 8). She also ranks among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in scoring (tied-16th - 14.1 ppg.), rebounding (2nd - 9.1 rpg.), free throw percentage (8th - .805) and field goal percentage (10th - .543).
Achonwa's development has not gone unnoticed, as she was named to the World Vision Classic All-Tournament Team, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to the title with 22 points and a (then) career-high 14 rebounds in the championship game win over No. 22 Texas A&M. Achonwa also is one of two Notre Dame players (along with junior guard Kayla McBride) to make the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll twice this season, earning a spot on the Dec. 10 and Jan. 14 rundowns.
The Erie Warrior
Along with her classmate Natalie Achonwa, junior guard (and Erie, Pa., native) Kayla McBride has been a major reason for Notre Dame's success this season, capably stepping into a larger role within the Fighting Irish system following the graduation of two-time honorable mention All-America wing Natalie Novosel.
McBride currently ranks 10th in the BIG EAST in scoring (team high 15.3 ppg.) and leads the conference in free throw percentage (.944). In both areas, she is posting career-high marks, including a better than 30-percent improvement in her scoring average from last year (11.6 ppg.).
McBride also shares the team lead (with Achonwa) this season with 14 double-figure scoring games, including at least 16 points in all six of Notre Dame's games against ranked opponents to date (18.3 ppg.) and a career-high 21 points at No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 5.
In fact, in her last 21 games against a Top 25 opponent, McBride is averaging 14.5 points per game, scoring in double figures 19 times and posting both of her career double-doubles (10 points, career-high 12 rebounds vs. No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 7, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion; 13 points, 10 rebounds at No. 13/14 Rutgers on Jan. 31, 2012).
Freshman guard Jewell Loyd is rapidly making her presence felt as one of the top rookies, not only in the BIG EAST Conference, but around the country.
The Lincolnwood, Ill., native has appeared in all 16 games for the Fighting Irish this season (starting 15 times), scoring in double figures 11 times, earning her first career double-double (18 points/13 rebounds at South Florida on Jan. 8) and posting two "5-5-5" games (at least "5" in three of the five main statistical categories - points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals).
Loyd currently ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in three-point percentage (3rd - .447), scoring (tied-19th - 13.1 ppg.) and free throw percentage (9th - .796).
She also is a three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week selection, first earning that honor on Nov. 26 after averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists with a .727 field goal percentage in wins over Mercer (19 points/six rebounds/five assists) and at No. 19/22 UCLA (19 points/seven rebounds/five assists).
Loyd then became the first repeat honoree of the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week award this season when she was tapped for the designation on Dec. 10 after averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals with a .481 field goal percentage (.556 three-point percentage) against No. 3 Baylor and Utah State.
Loyd made it three rookie honors this year with her selection this week (see entry earlier in this notes package).
Loyd opened eyes on the national scene with a season- (and game-) high 24 points and team-best seven rebounds in the 73-61 loss to Baylor on Dec. 5 at Purcell Pavilion. The 5-foot-10 guard connected on her first four three-point attempts of the evening (finishing 4-of-5 from beyond the arc) on the way to notching the most points by a Fighting Irish rookie against a ranked opponent since Jan. 26, 2002, when Jacqueline Batteast scored 26 points in Notre Dame's 64-57 win over No. 16/17 Virginia Tech at Purcell Pavilion.
What's more, Loyd also scored the most points by a Notre Dame freshman against an opponent ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since Feb. 19, 2000, when Alicia Ratay netted 26 points (including a school-record 7-for-7 three-pointers) in a 78-74 overtime win at No. 8/11 Rutgers.
Diggins Challenging School RecordsDiggins (476 rebounds) is 24 rebounds away to become the first women's basketball player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. Only one Notre Dame men's basketball player has ever compiled that impressive combination of statistics (Chris Thomas from 2001-05).
Throughout the 2012-13 season, senior guard Skylar Diggins will continue to close the gap that separates her from the highest eschelon of Notre Dame women's basketball players in a number of the program's top career categories. Here's a look at just a few of the notable milestones Diggins will have a shot to reach this season:
Diggins (1,968 points) is 32 points away from becoming the fourth 2,000-point scorer in school history, and she needs 354 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program's all-time leading scorer. On Dec. 21 against No. 22 Texas A&M, Diggins moved into fourth place on the Notre Dame career scoring list, passing All-America forward (and another South Bend Washington High School graduate) Jacqueline Batteast (1,874 points from 2001-05).
In addition, Diggins (315 steals) is 33 steals away from assistant coach Niele Ivey's school record for career thefts. With one steal on Jan. 8 at South Florida, Diggins moved into second place on Notre Dame's career steals list, passing Coquese Washington (307 from 1989-93).
Diggins (614 assists) has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Gavin, needing 164 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 113 ahead of Diggins). Diggins also has moved into the top five in this category, and with her career-high 14 assists on Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.), she passed Karen Robinson for fourth place in school history (579 from 1987-91).
The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted a 110-19 (.853) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA national championship games and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 24-12 record against AP Top 25 teams (11-10 vs. the AP Top 10) and a 78-1 record against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll), including a 63-game winning streak from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012.
Upon closer examination, Notre Dame's 19 losses in Diggins' career primarily have been ones that could have gone either way, with 11 decided by single digits (six were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.
With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10. Notre Dame is on pace to mirror those figures this season, currently averaging 83.2 ppg. (which ranks second nationally).
In addition, thanks to Diggins' penchant for steals (she has a 2.44 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10. And again, Notre Dame is in position to challenge those totals this season, currently averaging 12.7 spg. (which would put the Fighting Irish close to 400 steals by the end of the regular season).
The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11. The Fighting Irish aren't far off those marks so far this year, presently allowing 58.2 points per game.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 15 consecutive regular season road games and 20 of its last 25 overall, including all four contests this season. 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.
Prior to the past two years, the school record for consecutive regular season road wins was held by Notre Dame's 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 10 consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The previous school record for consecutive BIG EAST regular season road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.
The Notre Dame record for consecutive regular season road victories in any conference is 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).
Game #16 Recap: Georgetown
Notre Dame's tough defense and good free-throw shooting were too much for Georgetown.
The second-ranked Fighting Irish held the Hoyas' Sugar Rodgers, the nation's leading scorer, to a season-low 14 points and scored 35 points from the free-throw line to overcome a season-high 28 turnovers and beat Georgetown 79-64 Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion for their 10th consecutive victory.
"We played really well early," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We ran our press well, got some easy baskets, but then the turnovers really hurt us."
Kayla McBride scored 17 points, Skylar Diggins had 15 points, nine assists and six steals and Jewell Loyd added 14 and defended Rodgers for most of the game. Natalie Achonwa added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame (15-1, 4-0 BIG EAST).
Jasmine Jackson led Georgetown with 15 points. Rodgers was 1-of-6 shooting in the first half with just four points and finished 6 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 from 3-point range as Georgetown (10-7, 1-3) lost its third in a row. Rodgers injured her right hand when a Notre Dame player fell on it in the first half.
Notre Dame quickly took control, opening a 15-2 lead in the first five minutes as the Fighting Irish forced six turnovers and held the Hoyas to 1-of-7 shooting. The lead could have been even bigger, but Notre Dame had five turnovers of its own by the time Georgetown scored its second basket seven minutes in.
The Irish repeatedly passed their way inside for baskets. Whitney Holloway threw a pass from the top of the key to Achonwa, who flicked it instantly on the other side of the basket to Diggins for an easy basket. Two possessions later, Braker set up Achonwa with a bounce pass for a basket. The next time down, Diggins drove inside, then kicked it out for a three-pointer by Loyd to make it 31-18.
Diggins and Braker then each made two free throws, extending the lead to 35-11, as the Fighting Irish made their first 17 free throws before Diggins finally missed two in a row before the Hoyas attempted their first free throw.
A jumper by Andrea White sparked a 13-4 run for Georgetown. Rodgers scored her first basket during the run to cut the lead and later, a layup by Katie McCormick made it 39-24.
Georgetown center Vanessa Moore was called for a technical foul after elbowing Madison Cable midway through the first half and was ejected late in the half after receiving her second technical for saying something when she and Achonwa got tangled up under the basket.
After trailing 44-29 at halftime, the Hoyas narrowed the lead to 46-33 on a three-pointer by White, but Diggins answered with a three-pointer and the Fighting Irish eventually stretched the lead to 23 again and Georgetown never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Beyond The Box Score: GeorgetownNotre Dame's 35 free throws were third-most in a game in school history, and second-most in Purcell Pavilion history -- the school record for any location is 43 at Mercer on Dec. 30, 2011, while the arena mark is 37 against Wake Forest on Nov. 27, 2010.
The Fighting Irish also attempted a season-high 38 foul shots, their highest total since last year's win at Mercer, when they tried a school-record 52 free throws.
The Fighting Irish shot better than 90 percent from the stripe for the second game in a row and third time this season.
Notre Dame improves to 26-3 all-time against Georgetown (14-0 at home), with the 26 series wins ranking second among all Fighting Irish opponents behind only Marquette (31).
Notre Dame has held Georgetown to fewer than 70 points in 21 of its 24 BIG EAST series games (21-0 record).
The Fighting Irish are 5-0 this year and 33-9 (.786) in the past five seasons when playing on one day's rest or less.
The Fighting Irish came into the game averaging less than 16 turnovers per game, but gave up the ball 28 times, their highest total since Feb. 22, 2011, at West Virginia, when they had 30 turnovers, but still defeated the No. 19/18 Mountaineers, 72-60.
Achonwa tallied her BIG EAST-leading ninth double-double of the season.
Diggins scored in double figures for the 101st time in her career, tying for third place on the Notre Dame all-time list with Katryna Gaither (1993-97) and Jacqueline Batteast (2001-05).
Freshman guard Hannah Huffman scored a season-high six points during the final five minutes.
The Benefits Of Leadership
Notre Dame is in the unique position of essentially having three head coaches on its bench, with current Fighting Irish skipper Muffet McGraw enjoying the expertise of two former head coaches on her staff -- associate head coach Carol Owens (who guided her alma mater Northern Illinois from 2005-10) and associate coach Beth Cunningham (who piloted VCU from 2003-12).
Collectively, the Notre Dame staff has 45 seasons of head coaching experience, which ranks fifth among Division I schools behind only Stanford (52), Villanova (50), Ohio State (48) and Rutgers (46).
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 17 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 34 of their last 38 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three in a row to claim this year's World Vision Classic, and similar runs to the title in four other tournaments since 2009-10 -- 2009 Paradise Jam (Island Division), 2010 WBCA Classic, 2010 State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic and 2011 Junkanoo Jam (Freeport Division).
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were three defeats to teams ranked in the top three nationally during the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. No. 3/2 Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at No. 3 Maryland in 2007) or championship (94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in 2011), 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 made a bit of women's basketball history on Nov. 9, joining with Ohio State to play the first women's game ever on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as the teams squared off outdoors in the second annual Carrier Classic aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (on the shores of Charleston Harbor).
The game was played to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, which aids returning veterans who have been injured while in the service of our country, and the Fighting Irish were exceptionally proud and honored to have former Notre Dame guard, U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (`00) join the team on the bench for their historic game against Ohio State. Green, who lost her left (shooting) hand in May 2004 during a rocket-propelled grenade attack while on patrol on the roof of a police station in Baghdad, Iraq, delivered an inspiring pre-game speech to the current Fighting Irish squad before they came out to face Ohio State.
Notre Dame won this year's Carrier Classic game, 57-51, behind the second career double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) from junior forward Natalie Achonwa and 16 points from junior guard Kayla McBride. After the game, head coach Muffet McGraw said the victory was dedicated to Green.
An added postscript -- Green recently accepted a job with the South Bend Veterans Administration Clinic and will be relocating from her hometown of Chicago.
Notre Dame is ranked a season-best No. 2 for the second consecutive Associated Press poll, its 37th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season, and marking 107 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.
The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26 with their No. 5 ranking, which was their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It not only extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), but it made the Fighting Irish are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What's more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (68 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (57) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).
Notre Dame started the year at No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 13th time in the past 14 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only seven schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 14 during that span, while Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 13 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 246 weeks during the program's 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish held steady at a season-best No. 3 in for the second consecutive week in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, after spending the previous seven weeks in the No. 5 spot.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 107 of the past 108 weeks (and 71 in a row), 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 240 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the fifth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 11 of the past 15 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 246 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 to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart in attached PDF file), with McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).
Half And Half
During the past 12 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 261-19 (.932) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 189 of their last 202 such contests (.936).
What's more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 98-2 (.980) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 18 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 266-15 (.947) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including eight outings this season.
...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 18 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 175-6 (.967) 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, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 52-2 (.963) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level seven times this season.
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 228 of their last 257 games (.887) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter from 2011-12, ending on Feb. 12, 2012, vs. West Virginia).
Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 55-5 (.917) -- including wins in 31 of its last 33 home games -- and three of the five Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
Notre Dame also has a 122-20 (.859) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 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 108 of their last 117 non-BIG EAST contests (.923) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the nine 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), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT) and Baylor in 2012 (73-61). 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 378-90 (.808) 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 the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past three seasons have seen 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 in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,571 fans per game in 2011-12) and most sellouts in a single season (eight in 2011-12). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the fourth consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish produce two advanced sellouts (Dec. 5 vs. Baylor; March 4 vs. Connecticut).
Notre Dame has gotten its home slate off to a fine start at the box office with six sellouts in eight home games, and the Nov. 18 game against Massachusetts marking the first home-opening sellout in school history. All told, the Fighting Irish have welcomed 31 sellout crowds in the program's 36-year tenure, including 25 in the past four years alone (2009-10 to present).
The Fighting Irish currently rank third in the nation in average attendance, drawing 8,948 fans per game (which factors to nearly 98 percent of Purcell Pavilion's listed capacity of 9,149).
Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
On Sept. 12, 2012, the University of Notre Dame announced that it had accepted an offer of admission into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for all sports except football (the league does not offer championships in ice hockey or fencing).
The change in conference affiliation (for which a timetable has not yet been established) will be the first for Notre Dame since 1995, when the Fighting Irish moved from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) to the BIG EAST Conference.
In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women's basketball program has been the one of the conference's best, winning two BIG EAST regular-season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 219-64 (.774) record in league play that remains the second-best regular-season winning percentage in BIG EAST women's basketball history.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
Now in its sixth season, Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion will once again look to send fans home with full bellies, offering 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 six-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 39 times, most recently on Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.).
Junior forward Ariel Braker, senior guard Kaila Turner and sophomore forward Markisha Wright are the leaders among current Fighting Irish players, with all three players having registered three "Big Mac baskets" during their respective careers.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "the media relations director has way too much time on his hands"), 21 different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 39 Big Mac games, 17 have been reached on two-point baskets, 14 on free throws, and eight on three-pointers.
Next Game: Pittsburgh
Notre Dame heads back on the road at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday when it travels to Pittsburgh for a BIG EAST Conference matchup with the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center.
Pittsburgh (9-7, 0-3 BIG EAST) has won seven of its 10 home games this season and will welcome Marquette to town Saturday before turning its attention to the Fighting Irish next week.
-- ND --