Jan. 21, 2008
#16/15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-3 / 3-1 BIG EAST) vs. #rv/22 DePaul Blue Demons (13-4 / 2-2 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 22, 2008
No. 16/15 Irish Back Home To Face DePaul Tuesday Night
Notre Dame (15-3, 3-1 BIG EAST) is coming off one of its most complete offensive performances in many years, rolling to a 104-86 win at Georgetown last Saturday. The Irish reached triple digits on the road for the first time in school history and had seven players score in double figures for the first time in nearly 11 years.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headlining a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
A Quick Look At DePaul
The Blue Demons (13-4, 2-2) got off to a roaring start with 10 consecutive victories, rising as high as 12th in the Associated Press poll and 13th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' survey. However, since Christmas, DePaul has struggled to regain its early-season success, dropping four of its last seven games, although two of those losses came to Top 25 opponents (No. 19 Texas and No. 3 Tennessee).
Most recently, the Blue Demons fell at Marquette, 65-56 on Saturday. Senior guard Allie Quigley had a team-high 16 points and junior forward Natasha Williams (a transfer from Minnesota) added 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds for DePaul.
For the season, Quigley ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring (18.5 ppg) and steals (2.35 spg), as well as 10th in assists (3.88 apg). Sophomore guard Deirdre Naughton (a Wake Forest transfer) is 13th in the conference in scoring (14.7 ppg) and leads the league with a 2.36 assist/turnover ratio. Williams is 28th in the conference in scoring (12.1 ppg), but sets the pace with a gaudy .622 field goal percentage and is 13th in rebounding (7.5 rpg).
Doug Bruno is in his 22nd season as head coach at his alma mater, sporting a 407-234 (.635) record. He is 10-5 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-DePaul Series
The series has been largely dominated by the home team of late, with the hosts winning the past nine regular-season meetings. DePaul owns the last road win in the rivalry, a 62-49 victory on Feb. 11, 1992 at the Joyce Center.
The Blue Demons also have won three of the five matchups since they joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06. This year marks the third in a row that Notre Dame and DePaul have been paired as "repeat opponents" in the conference's 16-game scheduling format.
The Last Time Notre Dame And DePaul Met
Charel Allen tallied 18 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead Notre Dame. Gray added 17 points (7-of-13 from the field), but the difference came at the foul line, where the Blue Demons were nearly flawless, making 22-of-23 free throws (95.7 percent).
The Irish and DePaul played to a virtual stalemate in the first half, with five ties and four lead changes in the period, with Notre Dame jumping out to a five-point lead on two occasions and the Blue Demons opening up a six-point edge. The Irish went on top, 36-34 at halftime on Crystal Erwin's layup with 33 seconds left in the period.
Notre Dame kept its momentum going with eight of the first 12 points in the second half, taking a 44-38 lead on two Allen free throws with three minutes gone. DePaul then went on a 19-2 run and held the Irish without a field goal for nearly seven minutes, with China Threatt scoring seven points in the run.
Allen ended the Notre Dame offensive drought with a long jumper 18 seconds later, but the Irish wound up trading baskets for the next four minutes and still faced a 66-56 deficit when Caprice Smith hit a jumper with 6:09 left. That's when Notre Dame ripped off 10 unanswered points in 2:25, with Ashley Barlow accounting for seven points in the surge. Allen capped the rally by making the first of two free throws that tied the game at 66-66 with 3:44 remaining. Yet, she missed the second foul shots, and Jenna Rubino put DePaul back on top to stay with a baseline floater with the shot clock about to expire and 2:46 left. Allie Quigley then took over for the Blue Demons by scoring her team's final eight points on a jumper in the lane and six free throws (part of a 16-for-16 second-half effort by DePaul).
Notre Dame got back within a point twice more, and was within one possession inside the final 10 seconds, but Gray's game-tying three-point attempt was off the mark, knocking the Irish out of the conference tournament.
The Last Time Notre Dame And DePaul Met At The Joyce Center
Allen, who registered her third career double-double, chalked up five key points during a 14-5 second-half run as Notre Dame turned back a determined Blue Demon squad down the stretch. Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner scored 13 points apiece, while Tulyah Gaines added 12 points and a team-high five assists for the Irish.
Behind Allie Quigley's 11 consecutive points to start the game, DePaul moved out to a six-point lead four times in the first half, the last coming at 19-13 on Quigley's layup with 7:45 remaining. Notre Dame came out of the gate slowly, missing on 10 of its first 12 shots from the floor, but the Irish used a 9-0 run midway through the period to take a 32-26 halftime lead.
DePaul halved the deficit on its first possession of the second half, as Missy Mitidiero knocked down her lone three-pointer of the game. However, the Irish answered with an 11-2 run during the next two and a half minutes, capped by Allen's layup off a pretty Gaines assist at the 16:25 juncture. The Blue Demons came back with a run of their own, using a 10-2 spurt to get as close as 47-43 when Threatt hit a jumper in the lane with 10:13 to play.
That's when Allen came through with her biggest plays of the night, converting an old-fashioned three-point play and adding a long jumper in a span of 21 seconds to help Notre Dame rebuild a nine-point lead and DePaul would never get closer than five points the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame-DePaul Series Tidbits
Barlow Named To BIG EAST Honor Roll
Last week, Barlow averaged 18.5 points per game and shot a blistering .706 from the field (12-of-17), including a .500 three-point percentage (4-of-8), and also was a perfect 9-of-9 at the free throw line, as Notre Dame picked up BIG EAST wins over Villanova and Georgetown. In the midweek 69-58 victory over VU, Barlow scored a team-high 16 points (5-8 FG, 5-5 FT) and added four steals. She followed that up in Saturday's 104-86 triumph at Georgetown with a team-best 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting and matched her career high with three three-pointers (on five attempts).
For the season, Barlow ranks second on the team (and 26th in the BIG EAST) in scoring at 12.6 points per game, while also standing among the league leaders in free throw percentage (tied-3rd - .867), steals (tied-12th - 2.0 spg.) and three-point percentage (tied-15th - .385).
A full recap of Notre Dame's positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 11 of this notes package. The newest NCAA rankings will be released Tuesday afternoon.
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least seven 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only six of those came in the first 18 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and ninth in the nation as of Jan. 18) at 79.4 points per game, having tallied at least 77 points in 12 of their 15 wins. What's more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 18 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 84.5 points at this juncture on the way to the single-season school scoring record (81.0).
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points five times this season. That's the most 90-point games for the Irish in one year since 1998-99, when they tied the school record with seven 90-point games. In fact, during the six seasons prior to the current one (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference (and sixth in the nation as of Jan. 18) in scoring margin, outpointing its opposition by 20.1 points per night.
McGraw's Shock Troops
While Irish women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw may not quite be following Rockne's philosophy to the letter, she could easily rotate in much of her second unit and not see much decline in productivity. In fact, Notre Dame's bench is averaging 31.9 points per game (compared to 47.5 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored all 18 opponent benches this season by an average of +17.0 points per night.
Leading the way for this year's Irish "shock troops" is freshman forward Devereaux Peters, who is averaging 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and a BIG EAST-best 2.11 blocks per game with a .521 field goal percentage (10th-best in the conference). Peters has come off the bench in 16 of 18 games this year, dropping in a season-high 15 points and added a season-best seven steals on Jan. 16 vs. Villanova.
All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 15-3 record, with each one averaging at least 11 minutes and having scored in double figures at least three times. Peters is fourth on the team in scoring (8.6 ppg.) and has scored in double digits in nine of the past 13 games, while also leading the BIG EAST Conference in blocked shots (2.11 bpg.). Mallory is averaging 7.0 points per game, is second on the team with 19 three-pointers and most recently chalked up a season-high 15 points last Saturday at Georgetown. Bruszewski is logging 4.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, collecting her third double-digit scoring game of the year with 10 points at Georgetown.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but three games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia) this year, with a season-high seven in double digits at Georgetown (the most in one game for the Irish since Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse).
What's more, the Irish fielded five double-figure scorers in three consecutive games from Nov. 20-27. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Notre Dame has made even the strongest ball-handling teams struggle this season. In fact, Villanova came into its Jan. 16 game at the Joyce Center leading the nation with only 11.2 turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats left town with 24 turnovers, their highest single-game giveaway mark in more than six years (Dec. 1, 2001 at Temple).
The Five-Finger Discount
Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 20 steals this season. Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow leads the way with 36 steals, tying for 12th in the BIG EAST in that category (2.0 spg). Freshman forward Devereaux Peters is next with 34 steals (1.89 spg.), and her seven thefts vs. Villanova on Jan. 16 were the most for an Irish player in a game since Jan. 30, 2005, when Megan Duffy had the last of her three seven-steal games that season in a 65-59 win at No. 9/10 Connecticut (a contest better known for breaking the Huskies' 112-game BIG EAST regular-season home winning streak).
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Off And Running
Even in its defeat at third-ranked Maryland on Nov. 16, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Clutch When It Counts
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
What's more, Allen is 120 points away from moving into the top 10 on the Irish career scoring charts. The person currently holding down that 10th position? First-year assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had 1,430 points from 1996-2001.
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 151 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw currently ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also were in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 10th consecutive week, placing 15th in the Jan. 15 balloting. Notre Dame's No. 14 rankings on Jan. 2-8 were the highest poll position for Notre Dame in two years, when the Irish were tabbed 12th by the coaches prior to the aforementioned losses to St. John's and Seton Hall.
More Polling Data
Of the 22 people on this elite list, 11 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.
Start Me Up
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 13-2 start was the 2004-05 season, when the Irish won their first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. Notre Dame (which rose as high as third in the national polls that season) then reeled off six more wins before suffering consecutive loss at Villanova (59-54) and home vs. No. 16 Connecticut (67-50). However, the Irish rebounded with a 10-game win streak, finishing the year at 27-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame posted a 13-2 record on three other occasions, also doing so in 1999-2000 (27-5, NCAA Sweet 16), 1998-99 (26-5, NCAA second round) and 1977-78 (13-4, program's first varsity season when playing at AIAW Division III level).
We're Going Streaking!
Notre Dame also won six consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 20-Jan. 2). That was the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since a 10-game run from Nov. 17, 2000 to Feb. 14, 2001, a streak that ended with a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers (one of only two defeats for the Irish on their run to the NCAA title).
No Easy Road
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (75-59 loss on Nov. 16), the Irish now will face four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 4), Notre Dame also has or will play No. 1 Connecticut (Saturday at the Joyce Center), No. 2 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center) and No. 5 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top four teams in the poll have combined to win five of the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
This season's burger watch already is at six, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in exhibition wins over Southern Indiana and Hillsdale, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius and Valparaiso.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times, including each of the past three games that the Irish have scored 88 points at home.
A Friend In Need
A loyal supporter of the Irish for many years, Patricia has assisted Notre Dame's coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio with numerous marketing and promotional activities, and also coordinated regular bus trips for fans to see the Irish on the road.
Supporters desiring to send get-well cards are asked to mail them to: Patricia McAdams, Parkview Hospital STICU, Room 1110, 2200 Randallia Dr., Fort Wayne, IN 46805.
Donations (including flowers) on behalf of Patricia and her family may be made to: Ashley Fire Department, c/o Chief Micah Liby, P.O. Box 349, Ashley, IN 46705. Patricia and her family are grateful for the quick response by the emergency medical technicians from the Ashley Fire Department, who were the first on the scene after the accident.
Next Game: Connecticut
Connecticut (17-0, 5-0) has been the nation's top-ranked team the past five weeks and was the lone remaining unbeaten team in the land, heading into its non-conference matchup with No. 3 North Carolina on Monday night.