Jan. 23, 2009
#13/9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-2 / 4-1 BIG EAST) vs. Villanova Wildcats (10-8 / 2-2 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 24, 2009
No. 13/9 Irish Back On The Hardwood Saturday At Villanova
Notre Dame (15-2, 4-1) bounced back from just its second loss of the season with a gritty 70-67 win over St. John's last Saturday at the Joyce Center. The Irish jumped out to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game and led by as many as 11 points early in the second half before the Red Storm rallied to take a five-point lead. However, paced by its veteran tri-captains (senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner), Notre Dame forged ahead in the closing minutes and turned back one last St. John's flurry to claim the victory.
Lechlitner had a team-high 15 points and six assists, while Barlow, Schrader and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski each chipped in 13 points to aid the Irish cause.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Villanova
The Wildcats (10-8, 2-2 BIG EAST) looked sharp late in the non-conference season, winning six of eight in the run-up to BIG EAST play. However, since the start of the new year, Villanova has alternated wins and losses in five games, including its first four conference contests.
VU is coming off a 67-60 non-conference loss at George Washington on Wednesday night. The Wildcats trailed by nine at the half, but rallied to take a one-point lead with 3:26 remaining before GW answered with a 12-0 run to take command and ice the victory.
Senior forward Laura Kurz scored a game-high 29 points and junior guard Maria Getty added 10 points for Villanova, which bounced back from a cold-shooting first half (.208) with a much better final 20 minutes (.514 overall, .409 from three-point range on 9-of-22 shooting).
One of the conference's top all-around players, Kurz ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (18.0 ppg., sixth), rebounding (7.8 rpg., 10th) and blocks (1.6 bpg., fifth). Getty is second on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg.) and tops in steals (1.22 spg.), while senior guard Siobhan O'Connor is third in scoring (7.9 ppg.) and tops in both free throw percentage (.849, fourth in BIG EAST) and assists (2.56 apg.).
Veteran head coach Harry Perretta worked his 900th game at Villanova on Wednesday night, having amassed a 563-337 (.626) record in 31 seasons on the Main Line. He is 8-15 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
The Irish have a slim 6-5 series lead at The Pavilion, having won on four of their last six visits to VU's home court after the Wildcats won three of the first five.
The Last Time ND And Villanova Met
Peters entered the game at 15:47 of the first half, grabbed her first steal 20 seconds later and scored her first basket just 29 seconds after that.
The Irish (14-3, 2-1 BIG EAST) went ahead 43-34 when Peters caught a pass inside from Tulyah Gaines and banked it in with 15:52 left. The Wildcats (11-6, 1-3) twice cut the lead to five points and had chances both times to cut it to three, but couldn't do it.
The Irish extended the lead to 62-52 when Ashley Barlow, who led the Irish with 16 points, converted on a three-point play with 4:20 left, and went ahead 68-55 when Peters made a pair of free throws with 67 seconds left.
Laura Kurz led the Wildcats with 20 points. Stacie Witman had 14 points for Villanova, Lisa Karcic had 11 and Siobhan O'Connor added 10. The Wildcats hit five three-pointers in a row in the first half to keep the game close.
The Last Time ND And Villanova Met At The Pavilion
Allen logged her second consecutive 25-point game and her fifth in nine contests. She also tallied six rebounds and tied her career high with six assists, all without a turnover in 37 minutes of action. Ashley Barlow chalked up 15 points, six rebounds and five steals, while Melissa D'Amico came off the bench to score 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Breona Gray also turned in an efficient performance with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-2 from the three-point line).
Stacie Witman and Jackie Adamshick carded 16 points and seven rebounds apiece for Villanova (7-18, 1-11), which lost its 10th consecutive game. Notre Dame also held the Wildcats to 4-of-19 (.211) from beyond the arc and forced the normally sure-handed VU offense into 20 turnovers, with 14 coming on Irish steals.
Allen's three-pointer less than five minutes into the game ignited an 11-0 Irish run that put the visitors in front to stay. Notre Dame also held the Wildcats to one field goal over the final 6:06 while taking a 34-25 halftime lead.
Villanova got as close as 45-42 on Maria Getty's three-pointer with 12:55 to go. But Allen hit a layup 40 seconds later as Notre Dame scored 10 of the next 12 points in a 6:30 span and VU never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Other ND-Villanova Series Tidbits
From Dec. 28-Jan. 6, the Irish embarked on a four-game road swing, their longest regular-season trip since early in the 2002-03 season, sweeping games at Charlotte (68-61), No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (59-57), Seton Hall (66-60) and DePaul (86-62). It's the first time Notre Dame won four consecutive games, all on the road (opponent's home floor) since Jan. 7-19, 1991, when the Irish won at Butler (80-64), DePaul (81-66), Loyola-Chicago (66-55) and Marquette (91-73) in succession during Notre Dame's first full week as a ranked team in program history.
Born To Run
Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That marked the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.
A Start We Can Believe In
Getting Off On The Right Foot
In each of their five prior 3-0 BIG EAST starts, the Irish have gone on to finish no lower than second, either overall or in their division (when the conference featured divisional play from 1995-96 through 1997-98).
What's more, of the 12 teams ranked ahead of Notre Dame in this week's Associated Press poll, none has more wins over ranked opponents than the Irish (through Thursday night's action). In fact, only North Carolina even has as many road Top 25 wins as Notre Dame at this point in the season (Stanford has a pair of neutral-site ranked victories on its resume).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Almost half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 178 thefts (10.5 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
Long Distance Defense
Notre Dame is 27th in the country (and third in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .267 percentage (65-of-243) from long range. What's more, in the first 17 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 36.8-percent efficiency posted by St. John's (7-of-19) on Jan. 17.
Wearing The Collar
The last time the Irish blanked the opponent's leading scorer was Dec. 22, 2001, when Notre Dame kept Marquette's Rachel Klug out of the scorebook in a 60-33 win at the Joyce Center (Klug was averaging 13.7 ppg. at tipoff).
New Kids On The Block
With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class -- forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.
Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame's 15-2 start. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least twice (Novosel-6, Solomon-5, Watson-2), with both Watson and Novosel also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Watson - Dec. 1 & 8; Novosel - Dec. 29 & Jan. 12).
What's more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 16 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame's go-to defensive stopper, averaging nearly one steal per game in her 12 appearances this season.
Notre Dame's knack for quick player development should come as no surprise -- the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.
Spreading The Wealth
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club (along with walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19).
More On The Balance Beam
At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings -- junior guard Ashley Barlow currently stands 38th in the nation in steals (2.67 spg.).
Nostradamus In High Heels
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program's first national championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 170 weeks during the program's 32-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 stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 31st consecutive ranking in Tuesday's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, tumbling to No. 9 after spending the previous two weeks at a season-high fourth. It was the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 5, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 3. Notre Dame has appeared in the coaches' poll for 162 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 170 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 24 people on this list, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Irish posted two of the larger winning margins in the program's record books, rolling to a 48-point victory at Boston College (102-54), followed by a 49-point win at home over Georgia Southern (85-36).
In fact, the only time Notre Dame logged a larger combined margin of victory in consecutive games than its Thanksgiving Eve 97-point spread was Nov. 24-25, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla., when the Irish downed Liberty (113-35) and host Central Florida (81-61) by a combined 98 points.
Game #17 Recap: St. John's
The Fighting Irish (15-2, 4-1 BIG EAST), who led by as many as 11 in the second half and trailed by as many as five with 9:40 left, held on for a 70-67 victory when senior guard Lindsay Schrader deflected a three-pointer by Kelly McManmon in the corner as the buzzer sounded.
The St. John's bench jumped up thinking McManmon, who fell down, was fouled, but there was no call.
The Irish, who led 34-27 at halftime, extended the lead to 40-29 early in the second half on a three-point play by junior center Erica Williamson. But with the Irish missing eight straight shots, the Red Storm (13-4, 1-3) used a 12-0 run to take their first lead. The Red Storm went ahead 52-48 when Monique McLean, who led St. John's with 17 points and eight rebounds, hit a three-pointer midway through the period.
The teams traded the lead five times in the last six minutes, including four times on four possessions. The final time came when freshman forward Erica Solomon scored inside with 1:24 left to give the Irish a 67-66 lead. St. John's failed to keep up when Da'Shena Stevens, who finished with 11 points, missed inside and Solomon came up with the rebound.
Solomon, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, then made a free throw with 26 seconds left to give the Irish a 68-66 lead.
Sky Lindsay made a free throw with 14 seconds left for St. John's to cut the lead to 68-67. Junior guard Ashley Barlow, who finished with 13 points, made a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining to give the Irish the three-point lead.
Schrader added nine of her 13 points in the final 8:07 and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski also had 13.
Noting The St. John's Game
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA's hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a "medical redshirt") that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team's scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
This season, Notre Dame is 13-2 when it is ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, and 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13.
Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in seven games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- 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 Joyce Center, posting a 319-82 (.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.
Additional sellouts could be on the horizon, as approximately 1,000 tickets remain for next Tuesday's Rutgers game, while admissions for the Feb. 8 WBCA Pink Zone game vs. DePaul also are rapidly dwindling.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version of this notes package.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
LeSEA now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 128 televised games, including 78 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark three times -- in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19) and Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
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 -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, 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 Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project 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.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: Rutgers
After a rocky start to the season, Rutgers (11-5, 3-2) appears to be finding its rhythm, having won three in a row as it embarks on a two-game Midwest road swing that opens Saturday night at DePaul before continuing Tuesday at Notre Dame.