Jan. 25, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
The No. 8/9 Notre Dame women's basketball team is not only ready for a glimpse of home, but an extended stay as the Irish kick off a stretch of four home games out of five games on Thursday night against No. 14/15 Duke. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center with ACC Network Extra providing the web stream.
After playing 10 out of 12 games on the road, Notre Dame is now set to play consecutive games at Purcell Pavilion for the first time in seven weeks with the combination of the Duke game and Sunday's matinee against Virginia.
"It's great to be home," Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame's Karen and Kevin Keys Family Head Women's Basketball Coach, said. "I'm excited for our fans. We need them. This has been a brutal stretch. We've managed to get through it. Now we need to start moving forward and I think the fans are going to help us."
The Duke game is also "Fitness and Health Night" as the first 1,000 fans will receive water bottles while the halftime festivities will include Zumba. Fans are also encouraged to bring canned foods to be donated to the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
Here are some things to know for the contest with Duke.
About the Blue Devils
Duke stands at 17-3 on the year and 5-2 in ACC play entering what could prove to be a pivotal contest for each team. The Blue Devils are the only team this year to defeat No. 3 South Carolina and have also picked up ranked wins over No. 17 Kentucky, No. 8 Louisville and No. 17 Virginia Tech. All three of Duke's losses have come away from Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Blue Devils have dropped games at Vanderbilt, No. 6 Florida State and No. 23 NC State. Maryland transfer Lexie Brown is the reigning ACC Player of the Week for her role in wins over the Hokies and Boston College where she averaged 25.5 points per game along with 3.0 steals, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Rebecca Greenwell is a Wooden Award Top 25 pick (joining Lindsay Allen and Brianna Turner). Greenwell is averaging 16.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this year.
"I think Lexie Brown has really changed the culture of their team," McGraw said. "She's made them a very different team than they were last year. She's a tremendous point guard. She does so many great things. They've got good inside presence, but Brown's the key to their team."
The Blue Devils are led by head coach Joanne P. McCallie who has claimed 578 wins in her 24-year coaching career and is 262-68 at Duke. McCallie is 2-8 against Notre Dame with a 2-0 mark during her tenure at Michigan State and an 0-8 record since moving to Durham.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 13-1, and has won each of the last 11 meetings since an 80-62 Blue Devil victory on Nov. 22, 1997 at Cameron Indoor Arena. At 14 games, the Duke series is by far Notre Dame's longest against any ACC school which was not also once a fellow member of the BIG EAST Conference, doubling the seven-game histories against Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
The Irish hold a 7-0 record against Duke since Notre Dame joined the ACC for the 2013-14 season, recording a 4-0 record in regular-season contests and a 3-0 record in the ACC Tournament. The Irish and Blue Devils have yet to miss each other in the league's annual showcase, colliding in the 2014 final, 2015 semifinals and 2016 quarterfinals.
In addition to the three ACC Tournament games, Notre Dame and Duke have met on two other instances in the postseason. The Irish downed the Blue Devils, 87-76, in a 2013 NCAA Elite Eight game played in Norfolk, Virginia. Notre Dame also beat Duke, 74-67 in the 1986 WNIT semifinals.
Last year the Irish topped Duke twice. In the ACC quarterfinals on March 4 in Greensboro, Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale both scored 14 points off the bench to tie for the team lead in an 83-54 win. A balanced Notre Dame offense landed five players in double figures during a comfortable victory. On Feb. 1 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke led 55-50 with six minutes left in the game but the Irish went on a 13-0 run from there to eventually claim a 68-61 win. Brianna Turner had 12 points and 13 rebounds while Madison Cable topped Notre Dame with 18 points, adding seven rebounds and five steals to a robust stat line.
Pink Zone Jersey Auctions Close Thursday Night
One exciting addition to the Pink Zone lineup for 2017 is the ability for fans to bid on having the name of a loved one printed on the backs of the Irish warmup shirts for the Feb. 12 Pink Zone game against Georgia Tech. Fans can bid on one of the 11 player jerseys (NCAA rules prohibit specifying by name in advance) or one to be donned by Bob Nagle, radio voice of the Irish, during the broadcast. Shirts will be washed, autographed, and shipped to you in the week following the game.
Bidding will close at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26 so that the jerseys can be printed in time for Pink Zone game day. More information on the Pink Zone game, and auxiliary events like the first Zenathon, is available at UND.com/pinkzone.
Home Court Advantage
When playing at home, Notre Dame has enjoyed its typical home court advantage as provided by its incredibly loyal lime green-glad fans. In the latest NCAA update, the Irish ranked sixth nationally in average attendance (8,244) and also fifth in total (74,200) home attendance. Notre Dame was second nationally for operating at 90.11% of capacity at 9,149 seat Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, narrowly behind Gonzaga's 91.35%.
This advantage has played itself out particularly notably in conference play. Notre Dame has won a school-record 36 consecutive home conference games, beginning with a 66-47 win over Providence College on Feb. 14, 2012, in BIG EAST play.
Notre Dame is 26-0 at Purcell Pavilion in ACC play, going 8-0 in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 while also picking up wins over Wake Forest on Jan. 5 and Pittsburgh on Jan. 12.
The Irish offense has been notably more potent at home, averaging 84.6 points per game as opposed to 72.8 on the road. However, Notre Dame's defense has not missed a beat regardless of venue posting remarkably similar numbers. The Irish have held foes to 57.9 points per game and .380 shooting at home while permitting 60.4 points per game and .397 shooting on the road.
Which players benefit the most from shooting at home? Arike Ogunbowale averages 18.3 points per game at home but just 12.1 on the road. Also, Jackie Young is averaging 9.6 points per game at Notre Dame and 4.6 on opposing home courts.
Call Me Mabrey
Seven games into the ACC season, Notre Dame's leading scorer in the elite league has been Marina Mabrey at 14.1 points per game. Mabrey's league slate started with a 22-point showing in Notre Dame's upset loss at NC State on Dec. 29 with 11 of those points coming in a fourth quarter when the Irish valiantly attempted to dig out of a deep deficit.
The sophomore also broke the 20-point plateau in the Jan. 19 win at Boston College where she tallied 15 points in the third quarter alone en route to a 21-point night.
Hitting double figures in five of the last six games, Mabrey also played well in the non-conference matchup at Tennessee (Jan. 16) where she led the Irish with 17 points.
Coach McGraw Says
On Duke: "They're a great team. They are very difficult matchups because they're athletic defensively. They cans core in a lot of different ways. They play great defense. Their zone is really, really good. They've got some bigs coming in off the bench. They've got depth. They're a great team."
How to Watch/Listen
The first official steps towards the creation of an ACC Network began this summer in conjunction with ESPN. Most non-televised ACC road games will now be streamed under the banner of ACC Network Extra, similar to all of Notre Dame's non-televised home games. Games are available online at WatchESPN.com (formerly branded as ESPN3) or through the WatchESPN app. Streams are free to all ESPN subscribers.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Sunday's game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame's local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame's women's basketball and men's golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.