Jan. 22, 2010
#4/5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-1 / 3-1 BIG EAST) vs. #16/11 West Virginia Mountaineers (18-1 / 5-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 24, 2010
TIME: 1:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 16-2
1ST MTG: ND 73-55 (2/26/96)
LAST MTG: ND 72-66 (3/2/09)
TV: ESPNU (live) (Jim Barbar, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
No. 4/5 Irish Return Home For Sunday Matinee With No. 16/11 West Virginia
After a challenging two-game road swing to visit both of last year's national championship game combatants, No. 4/5 Notre Dame returns to the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion for a top-20 BIG EAST matchup with No. 16/11 West Virginia on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET). The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU, the seventh nationally-televised game in the past eight contests for the Irish.
Notre Dame (16-1, 3-1) bounced back from its first loss of the 2009-10 season with a 78-60 win at Louisville on Tuesday night. Shrugging off a slow start, the Irish used a 12-0 run late in the first half and a 13-0 run in the second stanza to take control and win going away.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins led four Notre Dame players in double figures with 20 points, 15 of those coming in the second half.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At West Virginia
West Virginia is moving into uncharted territory this season, as the Mountaineers are off to their best start (18-1, 5-0 BIG EAST) in nearly two decades and have risen to No. 16 in the latest AP poll, as well as 11th in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
WVU also carries a 16-game winning streak into Sunday's contest, its longest success string since 1991-92. The Mountaineers stepped out of conference for their most recent win on Wednesday, defeating in-state rival Marshall, 74-42 at the annual Capital Classic in Charleston, W.Va. Redshirt junior guard Vanessa House led four West Virginia players in double figures, coming off the bench for a game-high 16 points.
Junior guard Liz Repella leads the Mountaineers in scoring (14.2 ppg.), and is second in three-point percentage (.315) and steals (1.6 spg.). Freshman center Asya Bussie is second in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.513), and tops in blocks (1.8 bpg.), while junior guard/forward Korinne Campbell -- a transfer from Minnesota -- is third in scoring (11.3 ppg.) and adds a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game with a team-best .412 three-point percentage.
Head coach Mike Carey has been the architect of WVU's resurgence in recent seasons, owning a 169-102 (.624) record in his ninth year in Morgantown. He also has a 22-year career record of 457-204 (.691), with a 2-8 all-time mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-West Virginia Series
In a series played entirely under the auspices of the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame and West Virginia will meet for the 19th time on Sunday afternoon, with the Irish holding a 16-2 lead over the Mountaineers, including a 9-0 edge at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame also has won five of its last six against WVU.
The Last Time Notre Dame and West Virginia Met
Lindsay Schrader had 14 points and 11 rebounds and No. 20 Notre Dame defeated short-handed West Virginia 72-66 on March 2, 2009, at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish (21-7, 10-6 BIG EAST) led comfortably for most of the game after using a 9-2 run midway through the first half to open up a 25-15 lead. West Virginia (16-13, 5-11) played with just seven players because starting point guard Ashley Powell was ill and three players are sidelined for the season with injuries. The Mountaineers closed to 70-66 on a basket inside by Sarah Miles with 44 seconds left.
But the Irish, who struggled with free throws, made five of six in the final 64 seconds to hold on. They finished 14-of-24 from the line.
Takisha Granberry, who was 5-of-9 from three-point range, led WVU with 21 points.
Other Notre Dame-West Virginia Series Tidbits
Irish Involved In Haiti Relief Effort
The University of Notre Dame will donate the full gate receipts, as well as the net concession revenue, from both the men's and women's home basketball games this weekend to benefit relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
The men play DePaul Saturday at 2 p.m. (ET), and the women take on West Virginia Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion. Both games are expected to sell out.
In addition, the Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) -- led by president and Irish women's basketball senior center Erica Williamson -- is organizing a fund drive to be held in conjunction with both games to encourage fans and alumni to make their own personal contributions to aid the relief efforts.
During the first half of both games, more than 100 Notre Dame student-athletes wearing monogram jackets will pass buckets through the crowd. The council's hope is that spectators will each donate at least $1, which would raise $11,000 for the relief effort.
Money raised will be directed toward the Notre Dame Haiti Program, the Congregation of Holy Cross and Catholic Relief Services.
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 10 games, with a different player setting the pace in scoring seven times. Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso and UCF), fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Vanderbilt and South Florida) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (Villanova and Louisville) are the 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 junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Louisville) and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) each have 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 14 of 17 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 25.3 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 Friday's NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks third in the nation in steals (14.2 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 11 of their 17 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.
What's more, Notre Dame has been particularly aggressive in the past 10 games, posting at least 19 steals four times and averaging 14.9 steals per game during that span.
Notre Dame and Connecticut are the only two BIG EAST teams with at least two current players having 500+ career rebounds. Irish fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader is tied for ninth all-time at Notre Dame with 730 boards, while senior guard tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 572 caroms. The Irish will soon join UConn and have a third player in this group, as senior center Erica Williamson has 487 career rebounds.
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.
Notre Dame's season-opening 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.
Notre Dame is 24-10 (.706) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 4-1 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).
Junior forward Devereaux Peters enjoyed her best game since returning from knee surgery in the Jan. 16 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 seven games since being cleared by team medical personnel to resume competition. In that time, she is averaging 5.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and a team-high 1.4 blocks per game, all in less than 16 minutes per contest.
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 are checking in at No. 5 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. That ranking follows four weeks at a season-high third in the ESPN/USA Today poll, 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. It also was 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. 5 ranking this week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 181 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 #17 Recap: Louisville
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw worried how her team would react after the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish were blown out by top-ranked Connecticut on Saturday.
Fifteen minutes into Tuesday night's game against Louisville, McGraw had her answer. And it wasn't good. Notre Dame trailed by 12 and didn't exactly appear to be in a rush to make up the deficit.
"We definitely looked hungover," McGraw said.
The Irish found the cure in the second half, upping their intensity on both ends of the floor to wear down the Cardinals for a 78-60 victory.
Skylar Diggins scored 20 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the Irish pulled away over the final 20 minutes to give McGraw her 600th career victory.
"I think our confidence was a little down after the (UConn) game," said Lindsay Schrader, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. "I definitely think this will help. We just have to go into games with a chip on our shoulder and tell ourselves we are good."
Ashley Barlow added 18 points and Melissa Lechlitner chipped in 14 for the Irish (16-1, 3-1 BIG EAST), who forced Louisville into 20 turnovers and held the Cardinals without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the second half.
Monique Reid led Louisville (10-8, 2-3) with 23 points and nine rebounds, but the Cardinals shot just 37 percent in the second half and had trouble holding onto the ball, a problem they have been unable to shake this season.
"It's the same old, same old," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
The Cardinals entered the game averaging 23 turnovers a game, worst in the BIG EAST. Things appeared to be getting better early against the Irish.
With walk-on freshman point guard Shelby Harper running things, Louisville played arguably its best 15 minutes of the season to open a 33-21 lead.
"They're kind of like a tease sometimes," Walz said. "They'll tease me with how they play."
Harper was forced into action this year after injuries ravaged Louisville's backcourt, part of a nightmarish follow-up to their breakthrough season last spring when the Cardinals made it to the national championship game.
Still, the Cardinals came out firing, the kind of scenario the Irish were trying to avoid three days after falling behind UConn by 22 in the first half.
Yet the Irish steadied themselves with a 16-4 run to end the half to tie the game at 37 at the break as Louisville's offense broke down when Harper went to the bench with three fouls.
The Cardinals briefly led by five in the second half before running out of gas while the Irish came to life behind Diggins, who scored 15 points in the second half.
"Coach preaches attacking," Diggins said. "My teammates were finding me and I was just making the open shot. I was just trying to push the ball and keep going."
While the Irish surged, the Cardinals stalled.
Gwen Rucker hit a layup to give Louisville a 46-43 lead with 16:50 to go, but the Cardinals wouldn't score again until Reid converted a three-point play with 8:14 remaining.
By then Notre Dame had reeled off 13 straight points and the undermanned Cardinals couldn't keep pace. Reid, who was brilliant in the first half, made just 2 of 8 shots in the second half.
The Irish had no such problems. Executing crisply in the halfcourt, Notre Dame found easy baskets for Schrader, Diggins and Lechlitner.
The lead ballooned to 20 in the final minutes, allowing McGraw to celebrate her milestone win.
Noting The Louisville Game
McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached her second important career milestone of the season on Tuesday, as she became the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins when the Irish posted a 78-60 victory at Louisville.
McGraw earned the milestone win in her 839th career game (she now has a 28-year mark of 600-239, .715), tying her with former Saint Peter's coach Mike Granelli as the 10th-fastest to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.
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 512-198 (.721) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 600-239 (.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.
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 284 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 108 career starts, including a current streak of 66 in a row (putting her eight away from moving into the Notre Dame top five in that category).
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, while the current Irish senior quartet is closing in on 10th place (127) in that category (Lechlitner at 113, the other three at 112).
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 ranks 14th in school history with 1,308 career points, while Schrader is 16th with 1,248 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 843 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 17 games this season (one other was tied), 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 154 televised games, including 101 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: Providence
The Irish wind up a brief two-game homestand Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST contest against Providence at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com.
Providence (12-6, 3-2) is one of the most improved teams in the BIG EAST this season, having already exceeded its win total from last year wth six weeks left in the regular season. The Friars will play host to Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in the BIG EAST TV Game of the Week before heading to South Bend next week.