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    Fighting Irish
    #17 Irish Face BIG EAST Challenge Tuesday Night Against Rutgers

    FIGHTING IRISH Two-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week Natalie Novosel ranks fourth in the conference with a .613 field goal percentage in league play.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Two-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week Natalie Novosel ranks fourth in the conference with a .613 field goal percentage in league play.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Jan. 26, 2009

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    2008-09 ND Women's Basketball: Game 19
    #17/9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-3 / 4-2 BIG EAST) vs. #rv/24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-6 / 3-3 BIG EAST)

    DATE: January 27, 2009
    TIME: 8:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Joyce Center (11,418)
    SERIES: RU leads 15-9
    1ST MTG: RU 81-74 (11/27/82)
    LAST MTG: RU 57-51 (2/19/08)
    TV: CBS College Sports (live) (Ann Schatz, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TICKETS: (574) 631-7356

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame brings a 12-game home winning streak into Tuesday's game against Rutgers.
  • Only once in the past 11 series games has either team managed to score 70 points.
  • No. 17 Notre Dame Faces BIG EAST Challenge Tuesday Night Against Rutgers
    The BIG EAST Conference is widely considered to be the nation's premier women's basketball circuit and the road gets no easier for No. 17 Notre Dame on Tuesday as the Irish play host to Rutgers in an 8 p.m. (ET) matchup at the Joyce Center. The game will be broadcast live to a national cable audience by CBS College Sports, Notre Dame's third appearance on that network in the past four weeks.

    The Irish (15-3, 4-2) will look to recharge their offensive batteries after a 55-48 loss at Villanova on Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame shot a season-low 32.7 percent from the floor, but still battled back from a 14-point first-half deficit to get within a single point three times down the stretch before succumbing.

    Junior guard Ashley Barlow led the Irish with a team-high 11 points, while adding six rebounds. Freshman forward Erica Solomon also continued her solid play of late, collecting a season-best 10 rebounds.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is ranked 17th in this week's Associated Press poll and was ninth in last week's ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
  • Rutgers is receiving votes in this week's Associated Press poll and was 24th in last week's ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
  • A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.

    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

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 307 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 6,990 fans for its first seven home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 117 of their last 119 home games, including six Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past eight seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Allen, Megan Duffy (New York) and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) all were active in the league during the '08 season, with all three teams making the playoffs (San Antonio made the WNBA Finals, while New York was the Eastern Conference runner-up). Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of 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.
  • For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. Notre Dame also was one of only four teams with a perfect '07 GSR to advance to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 (joining Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt). 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 57-for-57 success rate).
  • A Quick Look At Rutgers
    It would be fair to say Rutgers is a team in transition this year, as the Scarlet Knights mix seven returning letterwinners (including three starters) from last year's squad that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight with a strong incoming freshman class that was ranked among the nation's best prior to this season.

    Rutgers (11-6, 3-3) has won three of its last four games, but comes into Tuesday's contest at Notre Dame on the heels of a 60-58 loss at DePaul on Saturday night. Junior guard Brittany Ray scored a game-high 20 points and junior guard Epiphanny Prince added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in defeat.

    Prince is one of the BIG EAST's elite scorers, ranking third in the conference at 20.4 points per game (23.8 ppg. in league play, also third). Ray is second on the squad in scoring (10.3 ppg.), while senior center Kia Vaughn averages 8.2 ppg., with team highs of 6.6 rebounds and 1.76 blocks per game, as well as a team-best .556 field goal percentage.

    Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer is in her 14th season at Rutgers with a 295-138 (.681) record. In her 38-year career, Stringer has an 815-273 (.749) record with Final Four trips at all three stops (Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers). She is 12-9 all-time against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Rutgers Series
    Tuesday will mark the silver anniversary matchup between Notre Dame and Rutgers, with the Scarlet Knights holding a 15-9 lead over the Irish in the rivalry, which debuted in 1982-83, but truly picked up steam when both schools joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. RU also carries a series-long four-game winning streak into this year's confrontation.

    Notre Dame is 5-3 against Rutgers at the Joyce Center, although the teams have split the past four South Bend showdowns.

    The Last Time ND And Rutgers Met
    Epiphanny Prince scored 18 points, Matee Ajavon added 15 and No. 5/4 Rutgers overcame an eight-minute scoreless drought to beat No. 14 Notre Dame 57-51 on Feb. 19, 2008, in Piscataway, N.J.

    Kia Vaughn, who finished with 14 points, finally broke the offensive drought with a putback 4 1/2 minutes into the second half that cut Rutgers' deficit to 28-26. That basket started a 17-5 run over the next seven minutes for the Scarlet Knights. Prince capped the spurt with a three-point play that gave Rutgers a 41-33 lead with 8:49 left. Notre Dame would get no closer than four points the rest of the game.

    Charel Allen scored 18 points and Lindsay Schrader added 10 and a game-high eight rebounds for the Irish.

    It was a sloppy first half with the teams combining for 19 turnovers and missing shot after shot. After a forgettable first 12 minutes, Rutgers used a 9-0 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 22-14 lead with 6:21 left. Those were the last points the Scarlet Knights' would score in the half.

    Notre Dame scored the last eight points of the half, including a jumper by Allen at the buzzer to tie the game at 22.

    Prince had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first half and Ajavon added seven points. The rest of the Scarlet Knights were a combined 2-for-16 from the field.

    The Last Time ND And Rutgers Met At The Joyce Center
    Matee Ajavon scored a season-high 26 points, including 15 in a row for Rutgers in the second half, and the No. 21/22 Scarlet Knights beat Notre Dame 76-60 on Feb. 24, 2007, at the Joyce Center.

    Essence Carson added 17 points for the Rutgers, while Notre Dame, which had four double-figure scorers in its previous five games, had two vs. RU. Charel Allen had 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting and a team-high seven rebounds, while Tulyah Gaines had 10 points.

    Rutgers led 29-28 at the half before Ajavon took charge. The guard scored 20 points in the second half and her two free throws with 6:18 left put the Scarlet Knights ahead 60-47. Ajavon finished 8-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point range.

    As a team, Rutgers was 4-of-5 from long distance in the second half after going 3-of-8 in the first half. The Knights also scored 21 points off 16 turnovers by the Irish.

    Kia Vaughn added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Rutgers, and Epiphanny Prince had 10 points.

    Other ND-Rutgers Series Tidbits

  • The series has been split fairly evenly (Rutgers leads 12-9) since the two schools joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.
  • Both teams are known for their defense, so it should come as no surprise that Rutgers' 76 points on its last visit to the Joyce Center in 2007 marked the first time either side cracked 70 points in a regulation game since Feb. 13, 1999, when the Scarlet Knights posted a 77-57 victory in Piscataway.
  • Nearly half (11) of the 24 series games have been decided by single-digit margins, including two overtime contests (both in 2000). However, last year's 57-51 RU win was the first single-digit finish between the clubs since March 7, 2004, when Rutgers rallied for a 51-45 win in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship in Hartford, Conn.
  • Notre Dame junior guard Ashley Barlow and Rutgers junior guard Epiphanny Prince were named to the 2006 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Team and subsequently played in the WBCA High School All-America Game in Boston. Barlow and Prince were teammates on the White Team, which lost to the Red Team, 68-61.
  • Notre Dame sophomore forward Devereaux Peters and Rutgers redshirt freshman guard Khadijah Rushdan both played in the 2007 McDonald's High School All-America Game in Louisville. Peters had one point, five rebounds and two blocks as a reserve for the West squad, while Rushdan came off the bench to tally four points, eight rebounds and four assists for the East, which earned a 105-76 victory.
  • Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer both rank among the 25 winningest coaches in NCAA Division I history, with a combined total of nearly 1,400 wins between them. McGraw ranks 22nd all-time and 12th among active coaches in career victories (577), while Stringer is third all-time and second among active mentors with 815 career wins.
  • Born To Run
    Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned nine game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.

    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.

    Serving Notice
    Four of Notre Dame's wins this season have come against AP Top 25 opponents, marking the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent nearly half of the BIG EAST's nine Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than two Top 25 non-conference victories this season).

    Piping Hot Turnovers
    After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again this year, causing 373 turnovers (20.7 per game) through 18 games.

    Almost half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 185 thefts (10.3 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.

    Long Distance Defense
    One of the focal points of Notre Dame's preseason workouts was improving its three-point defense, after opponents shot .355 from beyond the arc last year. So far, it would appear that emphasis in practice has paid off.

    Notre Dame is 36th in the country (and third in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .278 percentage (75-of-270) from long range. What's more, in the first 18 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 37.0-percent efficiency posted by Villanova (10-of-27) this past Saturday.

    Road Warriors
    Notre Dame is 18-7 (.720) in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past six road losses for the Irish have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including all three setbacks this season (63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13, and 55-48 at Villanova on Jan. 24).

    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.

    Wearing The Collar
    Notre Dame held DePaul's leading scorer, Deirdre Naughton, scoreless in its victory on Jan. 6, marking the first time in Naughton's three-year career she had been shut out (she came into the game averaging 18.3 ppg.).

    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
    It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame's freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.

    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 15-3 record. 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
    Notre Dame has seen eight different players lead the team in scoring this season, with six of the Irish leading scorers registering a career-scoring high -- Becca Bruszewski at Boston College (18), Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Natalie Novosel at Eastern Michigan (18), Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19) and Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown (21). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish six times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted three team-high scoring games.

    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
    Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in 10 of a possible 18 NCAA team statistical categories (as of Monday). Included in that count are four top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 7 rank in field goal percentage (.460) and a No. 21 rank in scoring margin (+15.1 ppg.).

    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 47th in the nation in steals (2.63 spg.).

    Nostradamus In High Heels
    With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.

    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.

    A Start We Can Believe In
    Notre Dame's 14-1 start was the second-best 15-game debut in school history. The only time an Irish squad started better than this year's club was 2000-01, when Notre Dame opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program's first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.

    Getting Off On The Right Foot
    Notre Dame opened 3-0 in BIG EAST play for the sixth time in its 14-year conference membership (1995-96 to present), but the first time since 2001-02.

    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).

    Thirty Deeds
    Last year, the Irish tied a school record with 10 wins by 30-or-more points. It would seem Notre Dame is intent on challenging that mark this season, having won four games this season by at least 35 points -- a first in school history.

    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.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked 17th in this week's Associated Press poll, dropping four spots from the last week's rank. Still, it is the 32nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 171 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 last week'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
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 171 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).

    Game #18 Recap: Villanova
    Laura Kurz scored 16 points, including a key layup and two free throws in the final 2:29, and Villanova beat No. 13/9 Notre Dame 55-48 on Saturday at The Pavilion in Villanova, Pa.

    The Wildcats (11-8, 3-2 BIG EAST) defeated the Fighting Irish for the first time since Feb. 7, 2006. It was their first win over a ranked team since beating No. 22 Boston College in the quarterfinals of the 2005 BIG EAST Championship.

    Junior guard Ashley Barlow scored 11 points and freshman forward Erica Solomon grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds for Notre Dame (15-3, 4-2), which lost for the second time in three road games.

    Villanova never trailed in leading by as many as 14 points in the first half and held a 30-20 advantage at halftime thanks to Notre Dame's 25 percent shooting (6-of-24).

    Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner's three-pointer got the Irish within 49-48 with 2:54 left, but Kurz made a layup and two free throws and Maria Getty added two free throws to seal the victory.

    Noting The Villanova Game

  • Notre Dame sees its two-game series winning streak against Villanova snapped, but still holds a 15-9 lead all-time over the Wildcats.
  • Exactly half of the 24 games in the series have been decided by eight points or fewer (teams have split those 12 close games), including seven of the past nine contests (VU has won five of those seven).
  • Notre Dame now has forced 59 Villanova turnovers in the past three series games, an average of 19.7 per game (VU was averaging 12.8 turnovers per game coming into Saturday's contest).
  • All three Irish losses this season have come on the road by 10 points or fewer.
  • Notre Dame falls to 7-1 this season (191-13 in its 14-year BIG EAST membership) when holding its opponent to fewer than 60 points.
  • The Irish were held to season lows for points in a game (previous was 59 on two occasions), points in a half (tied the second-half total at Michigan on Dec. 10), field goal percentage (previously was .344 vs. #17/20 Purdue on Dec. 7) and assists (tied the total at Valparaiso on Dec. 13).
  • Notre Dame's 48 points were the fewest it has scored in a game since Jan. 27, 2007, in a 64-47 loss at Connecticut.
  • For the first time all season, Notre Dame did not have multiple double-digit point scorers, something the Irish had not done since Jan. 13, 2008, in a 56-50 loss at West Virginia.
  • Villanova's 10 three-pointers were the most by an Irish opponent since Jan. 5, 2008, when Tennessee made 11 treys in an 87-63 win at the Joyce Center.
  • Solomon's season-high 10 rebounds were one more than her previous best that she set on Dec. 2 at Eastern Michigan.
  • Peters, Mallory Out For Season
    Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters' injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame's win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Mallory underwent successful corrective surgery on Jan. 6, while Peters is expected to do the same in the coming weeks before both players begin their respective rehabilitation programs.

    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
    With the injuries to Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame added junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen to its roster on Dec. 19. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has appeared in three games, averaging 1.0 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.3 minutes per contest.

    A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of these game notes.

    Half And Half
    During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 159-16 (.909) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 87 of their last 97 such contests.

    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...
    During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 191-13 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    Notre Dame is 7-1 in such games this season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt. The lone loss came this past Saturday at Villanova (55-48).

    ...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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 121-4 (.968) 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 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
    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 169 of their last 190 games (.889) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 95-15 (.864) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the 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 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.

    Crowded House
    The Dec. 7 home game vs. No. 17/20 Purdue was sold out, representing the sixth women's basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game sold out.

    Additional sellouts could be on the horizon, as approximately 1,000 tickets remain for 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 this notes package.

    Irish Have New Home On The Dial
    On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 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
    Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including five games on the ESPN family of networks and three others on CBS College Sports (including next Tuesday's home game against Rutgers).

    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
    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

    Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
    Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.

    Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:

  • Open Practice/Tip-Off Luncheon - On Oct. 19, the Irish open the doors to one of their preseason practice sessions and allowed approximately 600 season ticket holders to watch the team prepare for the upcoming season. A luncheon with the team followed and a total of $3,311 was raised.
  • Three-Point Pledge - Fans can pledge an amount to donate for every three-pointer the Irish make this season. Pledge cards are available at the Joyce Center Gate 10 marketing table prior to each home game.
  • Beanie Bears/Calendars - The Irish are collecting $5 donations for every special-edition Notre Dame women's basketball beanie bear and team calendar sold during the season.
  • T-Shirt Sales - Specially-commissioned "Irish Believe" pink t-shirts are on sale in the Hammes Bookstore and Varsity Shop on the Notre Dame campus. Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt will go to breast cancer awareness and research.
  • Brittany and Becca's Class - Sophomores Brittany Mallory and Becca Bruszewski currently are taking a management class in Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business under the guidance of Chuck Lennon, an Irish women's basketball season ticket holder, as well as Associate Vice President for University Relations and Executive Director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. This class has been focusing on ways to help promote and enhance the Pink Zone initiative on the Notre Dame campus and rolled out their ideas at the Dec. 7 Purdue game.
  • Pink Zone Challenge - The Irish women's basketball program has challenged some of the other top-drawing teams in the country to a friendly fund-raising competition to see which school can raise the most money for breast cancer awareness and research during the WBCA's designated Pink Zone games (Feb. 13-22, 2009). A total of 15 schools from among the top 20 in last year's final NCAA attendance rankings have committed for this inaugural challenge -- Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. The school raising the most money during their specific Pink Zone game will earn the first-ever Pink Zone Challenge Trophy, to be commissioned by Notre Dame and awarded during the WBCA National Convention, to be held April 3-7, 2009, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis.
  • Game Day (Feb. 8 vs. DePaul) - The Irish have selected their Feb. 8 home game against DePaul as Notre Dame's Pink Zone game, presented by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The Irish will take the court in white, pink and navy uniforms, specially-designed by the school's official athletics apparel provider, adidas. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a free pink Irish t-shirt, compliments of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and pink pom-poms, balloons and posters will fill the crowd. In addition, breast cancer survivors will be recognized on the court during a special halftime ceremony. What's more, should Notre Dame sell out this game, the Irish will donate an additional $10,000 to the Pink Zone initiative.
  • 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
    Notre Dame's Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year's NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.

    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.

    Notre Dame Welcomes NCAA Pinnacle Of Fitness Challenge Program
    The NCAA announced the details for the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge program which will energize middle school age children in nine cities across the United States and allow them to compete for a chance to win the national title in St. Louis during the week of the 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four.

    The Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame is one of the nine sites for the competition and will host its first Middle School Challenge at halftime of the first-round game of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship that will be played on March 22. An additional Middle School Challenge will take place on March 24 during halftime of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship second-round game at the Joyce Center. For tickets call (574) 631-7356 or go online to www.UND.com.

    The Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is an NCAA Division I women's basketball initiative of healthy living and education that will challenge and improve individuals and their communities. The 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is expected to involve 100 middle schools in nine selected cities, with 74,000 middle school students participating.

    "The Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is an important and fun initiative that will connect the great game of basketball with youth in communities across the country to help in the promotion of improved physical fitness," said Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president of Division I Women's Basketball. "We have enjoyed the challenge of beginning the program in nine markets in 2009 and hope to expand the reach of the program in the future."

    The cornerstone of the program is the Middle School Challenge, which will educate and challenge students to improve their level of physical fitness through leading active lives, goal setting and developing life skills. The program will reward youth for improving their health and wellness and will be conducted at sites that will host a first- and second-round or regional round of competition during the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.

    The Middle School Challenge will begin with each of the competing middle schools conducting in-school physical fitness assessment and testing. The top-10 students from the competing middle schools will compete in progressive on-court competitions at the sites during the regular season and again during the championship.

    Competing middle schools and individual students will be recognized through school rewards that include fitness support funding for equipment, special events and awards. The winning middle school from each region will be awarded the opportunity to compete in the NCAA National Pinnacle of Fitness challenge on center court at NCAA Hoop City Refreshed by Coca-Cola® during the 2009 Women's Final Four. There, one middle school will be named the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge champion.

    For more information in regard to the Pinnacle of Fitness challenge, go online to www.ncaa.com/champ/wbasket-div1-champ.html or contact Denee Barracato at (317) 917-6643 (dbarracato@ncaa.org).

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its "Big Mac" promotion for 2008-09, 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.

    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
    On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.

    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:

  • New, blue chair-back seating from top to bottom of the arena, including all-new upper-arena sections. All seating will be replaced in the lower bowl (including platform seats), and the wooden bleachers in the upper bowl will be removed and replaced with treads and risers and permanent arena seats. The exchange of the bleacher sections for chair back seats will change the capacity from the current 11,418 to approximately 9,800.
  • A stadium club/hospitality area (approximately 16,500 square feet) in the south end of the arena, with a separate, private entry and with premium club seating for nearly 800 fans (that figure is part of the projected 9,800 capacity). Included in this area will be food service and restroom facilities.
  • New fixed concession areas, increased numbers of women's restrooms and increased handicapped seating options.
  • The interior seating changes provide an opportunity to consider new options for student seating. Students currently sit in both lower- and upper-arena sections behind the basket on the east end of the arena.
  • Next Game: Cincinnati
    The Irish will return to the hardwood Saturday when they play host to Cincinnati in a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matinee at the Joyce Center. It's the second game in a stretch that will see Notre Dame play four out of five at home during the next two weeks.

    Cincinnati (13-6, 3-3) is one of the more improved teams in the BIG EAST this season, having already surpassed its win total from all of last year. The Bearcats are in the midst of their bye week, with the Irish slated to be the third consecutive ranked opponent for UC.

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