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    Fighting Irish
    #16 Irish Square Off With #1 Connecticut Sunday Night

    FIGHTING IRISH Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow is averaging 20.0 points per game with a .690 field goal percentage and .545 three-point percentage in her last three games.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow is averaging 20.0 points per game with a .690 field goal percentage and .545 three-point percentage in her last three games.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Jan. 25, 2008

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    2007-08 ND Women's Basketball: Game 20
    #16/16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-4 / 3-2 BIG EAST) vs. #1/1 Connecticut Huskies (18-0 / 5-0 BIG EAST)

    DATE: January 27, 2008
    TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Joyce Center (11,418)
    SERIES: UCONN leads 20-4
    1ST MTG: 1/18/96 (UCONN 87-64)
    LAST MTG: 1/27/07 (UCONN 64-47)
    RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
    TV: ESPN2 (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Carolyn Peck, color)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TICKETS: (574) 631-7356

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame plays host to a top-ranked team for the sixth time in school history and first since New Year's Eve 2005.
  • A limited number of tickets remain for Sunday's game, which is expected to be the second sellout of the season (and fifth all-time) for the Irish.
  • No. 16 Irish Square Off With No. 1 Connecticut Sunday Night
    For the third time this season, No. 16 Notre Dame will match up against a top-five opponent when No. 1 Connecticut comes to town Sunday for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest at the Joyce Center. The game will be broadcast live to a national cable audience by ESPN2 and is expected to be a sellout.

    Notre Dame (15-4, 3-2 BIG EAST) is still smarting from a tough 81-80 loss at home to No. rv/25 DePaul on Tuesday night. The Irish led by 10 points twice in the first half, then trailed by that same margin with 14 minutes remaining before trimming the deficit to a single point five times down the stretch. However, Notre Dame couldn't quite pull off the comeback, as a last-second shot attempt didn't find the mark.

    Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow continued her recent hot streak, scoring a career-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Sophomore center Erica Williamson tied her career high with 16 points and added six rebounds for the Irish.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is ranked 16th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week.
  • Connecticut is ranked first in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week.
  • A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    Even after a 20-12 record and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006-07, Notre Dame still continues to fly below the national radar. Head coach Muffet McGraw wouldn't want it any other way.

    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.

    Potent Notables About The Irish

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 282 victories in that span.
  • Notre Dame's incoming class of 2008 (next year's freshmen) has an average ranking of 15th (peaking at No. 8 by Dan Olsen Collegiate Girls Basketball Report), marking the 12th consecutive season that the Irish attracted a Top 25 recruiting class. Notre Dame is one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have an active streak of that length.
  • Notre Dame ranked ninth in the Jan. 21 unofficial national attendance rankings (compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office), averaging 6,830 fans to its 10 home games this season (including two of the top five crowds in school history). The Irish also have attracted 5,000-or-more fans to 104 of their last 106 home games, including four Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Jan. 5, 2008 vs. Tennessee). Last season, Notre Dame ranked 10th nationally in attendance (6,364 fans per game), marking the seventh consecutive year the Irish were among the national top 20 in attendance.
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as six Notre Dame players have been selected in the past seven seasons. Megan Duffy was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Minnesota Lynx in the third round (31st overall pick) of the 2006 WNBA Draft. Duffy and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) both were active in the league during the 2007 season, with Riley making her sixth playoff appearance (on her third different team) in a solid seven-year pro career. All told, seven Notre Dame alums have competed in WNBA regular-season play, with three of them combining to win four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • Notre Dame has been an elite program in the classroom as well. For the second year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2007. Notre Dame was one of 23 Division I-A programs to achieve this distinction, and one of only two BIG EAST schools (Syracuse was the other). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a perfect 53-for-53 success rate).
  • A Quick Look At Connecticut
    Few teams could overcome what Connecticut has had to conquer this season. However, with two key players out for the season with knee injuries, the Huskies haven't missed a beat, rolling to an 18-0 record (5-0 in the BIG EAST) and a five-week stay atop the national polls.

    UConn is coming off an 82-71 home win over No. 3 North Carolina on Monday night. The Huskies erased an 11-point halftime deficit with strong second-half defense and a balanced offensive attack that featured four players in double figures. Junior guard Renee Montgomery led the way with a game-high 26 points, while sophomore center Tina Charles piled up 15 points and 19 rebounds (11 offensive).

    Freshman forward Maya Moore has been a major sparkplug for the Connecticut machine, leading the team in scoring (16.8 ppg) and ranking second in both rebounding (7.0 rpg) and three-point percentage (.379). Charles averages a double-double herself (13.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg), along with a .596 field goal percentage and team-best 1.83 blocks per game.

    Head coach Geno Auriemma is in his 23rd season at Connecticut with a 639-120 (.842) record. He is 20-4 all-time against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Connecticut Series
    Although they didn't begin playing until the 1995-96 season, Notre Dame and Connecticut have developed one of the stronger rivalries in the BIG EAST Conference. The Huskies lead the series with the Irish, 20-4, including a 6-2 edge at the Joyce Center. The visitors also have won the past four games in the series.

    UConn won the first 11 games in the series before Notre Dame broke through by winning two of three games in 2000-01. The Irish also claimed single victories in 2004 (66-51 at the Joyce Center) and 2005 (65-59 at Gampel Pavilion), with the latter triumph breaking the Huskies' 112-game BIG EAST regular-season home winning streak.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Connecticut Met
    Tina Charles had 12 points and tied a school-record with nine blocks to help No. 7 Connecticut run its BIG EAST record to a 64-47 win over Notre Dame on Jan. 27, 2007, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. Charles also had 10 rebounds and came within one block of recording only the second triple-double in UConn history.

    Kalana Greene added 10 points and seven rebounds for Connecticut. Erica Williamson had 12 points to lead Notre Dame and Crystal Erwin added 11.

    The Huskies jumped to an early 8-4 lead, in what was a sloppy game, as Renee Montgomery hit her first three shots. Notre Dame shot just 24 percent from the floor, and hit one of its first 11 attempts from the field. However, the Irish were able to stay in the game thanks to 15 first-half turnovers by Connecticut, eight in the first 10 minutes of the game. The two teams combined for 45 giveaways -- 27 turnovers for Connecticut and 18 for Notre Dame.

    UConn led just 29-23 at the half, and got its first double-digit lead, 35-25, three minutes into the second half on a spin move and bucket by Charde Houston. The Huskies stretched that to 18 after Erwin was called for an intentional foul. Houston hit one foul shot, and Charles hit a turnaround on the ensuing possession to put UConn up 54-36.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Connecticut Met At The Joyce Center
    Ann Strother scored 11 of her 19 points during a decisive run midway through the second half to lead No. 8 Connecticut to a 79-64 victory over Notre Dame on Feb. 19, 2006, at the Joyce Center.

    UConn led 52-48 when Strother made a pair of free throws and a pair of three-pointers to give the Huskies a 60-51 lead. Strother added another trey during the run to give the Huskies a 15-point lead. UConn stretched the lead to 18 points twice before finally winning by 15.

    Strother was 5-for-8 from three-point range. Renee Montgomery had 15 points, Charde Houston 14 and Barbara Turner scored 11 of her 13 in the second half. She also grabbed nine rebounds. The Huskies, who outrebounded the Irish 36-31, shot 45 percent while the Irish shot 44 percent. Charel Allen, Lindsay Schrader and Breona Gray each had 12 for the Irish, and Megan Duffy added 11.

    Notre Dame, which trailed by nine late in the first half, opened the second half with a 5-0 spurt to take a 38-37 lead on a basket inside by Courtney LaVere. The teams traded leads, with the Irish moving ahead 42-41 on a basket inside by Crystal Erwin.

    But Montgomery hit a three to spark a 7-0 run to make it 48-42. The Irish had one last 6-2 spurt before the Huskies went on their decisive run.

    The Irish were able to keep the score close until then. They started the game by making eight of 12 shots and took a 21-18 lead when Melissa D'Amico made a pair of free throws. The Huskies defense finally slowed the Irish, holding them to 1-of-7 shooting, using a 17-5 spurt to open a 35-26 lead when Houston scored inside.

    The Huskies then made just one basket the rest of the half, turning the ball over twice, missing two shots and a pair of free throws as Notre Dame closed to 37-33 at halftime.

    Other Notre Dame-Connecticut Series Tidbits

  • Connecticut is one of 11 other former or current NCAA champions Notre Dame has faced in its history (and the fourth this year following games at 2006 winner Maryland and 1999 titleist Purdue, and home vs. seven-time champion Tennessee). The Irish are 25-72 (.258) all-time against schools that have hoisted the hardware (either before or after they won the title), with records of .500 or better against USC (7-2), North Carolina (2-1) and Texas (1-1). The only NCAA winner the Irish have never played is '05 champion Baylor.
  • Sunday's game will mark the 14th time in the 25-game series that both teams will be ranked at tipoff. The last time it happened was Jan. 30, 2005, when No. 6/7 Notre Dame downed No. 9/10 Connecticut, 65-59, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., ending the Huskies' 112-game BIG EAST regular-season home winning streak.
  • Connecticut is one of three BIG EAST Conference opponents to hold a series edge over Notre Dame, leading the Irish, 20-4. The other league foes with winning records vs. Notre Dame are Rutgers (14-9) and DePaul (18-11), although the majority of the latter two series came prior to both schools joining the BIG EAST before the 2005-06 season.
  • Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points only seven times, with nearly half (three) of those losses coming to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).
  • Notre Dame is one of only four teams in the nation to defeat Connecticut at least three times in the past 12-plus seasons (1995-96 to present). During that 12-year stretch, the only programs with more wins over the Huskies than the Irish are Tennessee (nine) and Rutgers (five), while North Carolina also has defeated UConn three times.
  • Notre Dame sophomore guard Ashley Barlow and Connecticut sophomore forward Kaili McLaren were teammates on the White squad at the 2006 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game in Boston. Barlow had four points and four rebounds, while McLaren tallied eight points and two rebounds, but their White Team fell to the Red Team (led by UConn sophomore center Tina Charles), 68-61.
  • Connecticut junior forward/center Cassie Kerns is a native of Valparaiso, Ind., and graduated from Valparaiso High School. Kerns also developed her game with the Indiana Elite AAU program, based at Midwest Basketball Academy in Mishawaka, Ind. (located less than five miles east of the Notre Dame campus). Notre Dame sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman forward Becca Bruszewski also matriculated from the Indiana Elite program.
  • The two head coaches -- Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma -- have more than a few connections. Both are from the Philadephia metro area (McGraw from West Chester, Auriemma from Norristown), both cut their coaching teeth in the region (including separate stints as assistants at Saint Joseph's under current Ohio State head coach Jim Foster), and both are currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) -- Auriemma as vice president and McGraw as NCAA Division I Legislative Chair.
  • Running With The Top Dogs
    Sunday's game will mark the sixth time Notre Dame has welcomed a top-ranked opponent to the Joyce Center. The Irish are 1-4 (.200) in their previous five home games against a No. 1 team, most recently dropping a 62-51 decision to Tennessee on Dec. 31, 2005.

    Notre Dame is 2-11 (.154) all-time against top-ranked teams, with both victories coming vs. Connecticut in the 2000-01 season (92-76 on Jan. 15, 2001, at the Joyce Center; 90-75 on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis).

    Barlow Named To BIG EAST Honor Roll
    For the second time this season, sophomore guard Ashley Barlow was named to the BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Weekly Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. It's also the third time this season a Notre Dame women's basketball player has been tapped for the honor, with Barlow previously being chosen on Dec. 17, and senior guard Charel Allen earning the distinction on Jan. 7.

    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 a 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.

    Chart Toppers
    Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings. The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in six categories, led by a No. 6 ranking for scoring offense (79.4). Notre Dame also is eighth in scoring margin (+19.0), 10th in field goal percentage (.471) and assist/turnover ratio (1.14), 12th in fewest turnovers (14.2) and 16th in steals (12.0).

    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.

    Thirty Deeds
    Nearly half (7) of Notre Dame's 15 wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish have held 30-point leads late in the second half against Western Kentucky and Richmond. This marks the first time in school history that Notre Dame has fashioned seven 30-point wins in its first 18 games.

    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 19 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
    Less than two seasons after posting the program's lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.

    The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and seventh in the nation) at 79.4 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 11 times this season. What's more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 19 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 85.2 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 eighth in the nation) in scoring margin at +19.0 points per game.

    McGraw's Shock Troops
    During his coaching tenure with the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s, Knute Rockne was at the forefront of the two-platoon system, using his "shock troops" -- a full team of second stringers -- at the start of most games.

    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 31.1 points per game (compared to 48.3 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored all 19 opponent benches this season by an average of +16.2 points per night.

    Leading the way for this year's Irish "shock troops" is freshman forward Devereaux Peters, who is averaging 8.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and a BIG EAST-best 2.16 blocks per game (also 33rd in nation) with a .516 field goal percentage (11th-best in the conference). Peters has come off the bench in 17 of 19 games this year, dropping in a season-high 15 points and adding a season-best seven steals on Jan. 16 vs. Villanova.

    Youth Movement
    Last year's Irish rookie class (aka the "BMW" trio of guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson) became the first threesome from one school ever to be named to the BIG EAST Conference All-Freshman Team in the same season. Following on the heels of that success, Notre Dame has a new freshman trio that is aiming to make an early splash at the college level -- the "BBD" lineup of guards Brittany Mallory and forwards Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters.

    All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 15-4 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 (8.5 ppg.) and has scored in double digits 10 times, while also leading the BIG EAST Conference and ranking 33rd in the nation in blocked shots (2.16 bpg.). Mallory is averaging 6.9 points per game, is second on the team with 19 three-pointers and most recently chalked up a season-high 15 points on Jan. 19 at Georgetown. Bruszewski is logging 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, carding her third double-digit scoring game of the year with 10 points at Georgetown.

    Spreading The Wealth
    One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's squad this season is its balance and depth. That's been particularly evident through the first 21 games of the season (counting the exhibitions), with six different players from all five floor positions and all four classes leading the team in scoring.

    Double Trouble
    Another example of Notre Dame's balance this season is seen in its point distribution. No fewer than 10 of the 11 Irish players on this year's roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, with only senior guard Amanda Tsipis yet to crack the 10-point mark.

    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
    Notre Dame has gotten off to a strong start this season, thanks in large part to its ability to take care of the basketball. The Irish rank 12th in the nation with just 14.2 turnovers per game and had a 30-game streak of committing 18 turnovers or fewer until being charged with 20 turnovers Jan. 8 at Louisville.

    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 is forcing 22.8 turnovers per night and currently leads the BIG EAST with a +8.58 turnover margin, more than 3.5 takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 14 of 19 games this season, including a season-high 33 takeaways against Boston College on Nov. 24.

    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
    Notre Dame ranks second in BIG EAST in steals, averaging 12.0 thefts per game, including seven games this season where the Irish have collected at least 15 steals. What's more, Notre Dame's season-high 21 steals vs. Boston College were the most for the Irish in a single game since Dec. 13, 1997 (22 vs. South Florida at the Joyce Center).

    Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 20 steals this season. Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow leads the way with 37 steals, ranking 13th in the BIG EAST in that category (1.95 spg). Freshman forward Devereaux Peters is next with 36 steals (1.89 spg.), good for 15th in the conference, 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.

    Keeping It On The Plus Side
    Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 12 games this season and ranks fourth in the BIG EAST (10th nationally as of Jan. 18) with a 1.14 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 53.4 percent of its field goals this year (307 assists on 575 baskets), ranking fourth in the conference and 29th in the country with 16.16 assists per game.

    Off And Running
    Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In nearly half (7) of their 15 wins, the Irish have opened up a double-digit lead less than 10 minutes into the game, while other first-half runs against Central Michigan (20-0), Bowling Green (18-3), Villanova (16-6) and Georgetown (15-3) aided those wins.

    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.

    Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
    Senior guard Charel Allen continues to make her way up Notre Dame's all-time scoring list, currently standing 12th with 1,327 points. Next up for Allen is Shari Matvey, who is in 11th place with 1,373 points from 1979-83.

    What's more, Allen is 103 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.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked 16th in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, rising one spot from last week's survey. The season-high No. 14 rankings on Dec. 31-Jan. 7 were the highest for the Irish in the media poll since the week of Jan. 2, 2006, when they were ranked 12th prior to losses at St. John's (66-63) and home vs. Seton Hall (74-61).

    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 are in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 11th consecutive week, falling one spot to 16th in this week's 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
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 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 151 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 23 people on this elite list, 12 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.

    Clutch When It Counts
    Notre Dame is 44-of-57 (.772) from the free throw line in the final two minutes (plus overtime) this season. Leading the way is sophomore guard Ashley Barlow, who is 8-of-8 this year and 18-of-20 (.900) in her career when toeing the line down the stretch.

    Crowded House
    Sunday's game vs. Connecticut is expected to be the fifth women's basketball sellout (11,418) in school history and second this season (also Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee). It will be the second time in school history Notre Dame has posted multiple sellouts in one season, having also done so in 2000-01 (Connecticut and Georgetown).

    In addition, Sunday's crowd will represent the first time the Irish have attracted three crowds of 10,000 fans in the same season, as 10,825 fans took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan.

    Start Me Up
    Notre Dame's 13-2 start matched the second-best 15-game mark in the program's 31-year history. In 2000-01, the Irish opened with 23 consecutive victories, en route to their first-ever No. 1 ranking and eventually, the program's first national championship.

    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's 10-game win streak from Nov. 20-Jan. 2 was its longest since a similar 10-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 2005. The Irish now have amassed 10 double-digit win streaks in program history (eight in the Muffet McGraw era), led by the school-record 23-game success string to open the 2000-01 national championship season.

    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
    Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule, using it as a means of preparation for future tests in both the BIG EAST Conference and the postseason. However, this year's slate could be one of the more rugged ones in recent memory.

    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 (Sunday 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
    Notre Dame has introduced a new promotion this season, 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 game. The coupons are issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans leave the arena following the game.

    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.

    Friends In Need
    Longtime Irish women's basketball fan and Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies employee Patricia McAdams remains in critical but stable condition at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne after a Jan. 13 auto accident. While returning from Notre Dame's game at West Virginia earlier in the day, Patricia was severely injured when she stopped on a highway outside Fort Wayne to help a fellow motorist and was then struck by a car.

    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.

    Patricia's OIT colleagues have created a web page to update supporters on her progress: Patricia McAdams Web Page.

    Notre Dame also lost a treasured friend on Tuesday, when longtime Joyce Center clock operator Mark Tulchinsky passed away. Mark was a dedicated educator in the South Bend Community School Corporation, most recently serving as principal at Tarkington Traditional School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark, his wife, Nan (the official scorer for Notre Dame basketball), and the Tulchinsky family.

    Promotional Corner
    Here's a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women's basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet at Notre Dame's official athletics web site (UND.com). Please note -- additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site for the latest information:

  • Jan. 27 vs. Connecticut -- "We Are ND" Night ... Kidahoopla pregame in Joyce Center Fieldhouse ... "We Are ND" t-shirts to first 2,000 fans, courtesy of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center ... post-game autograph session courtside with selected Notre Dame players.
  • Next Game: Providence
    The Irish close out their three-game homestand Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup against Providence at the Joyce Center. The Friars are the only BIG EAST opponent Notre Dame has never lost to (currently 15-0), with a minimum of five games played.

    PC (11-7, 1-4) got off to a solid start in non-conference play, but hasn't found the same success in BIG EAST action, dropping four of five to begin the conference season. The Friars play host to Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon before heading to South Bend.

    -- ND --
     

     

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