Jan. 26, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-0 / 5-0 ACC) vs. #6/6 Maryland Terrapins (16-2 / 4-1 ACC)
DATE: Jan. 27, 2014
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: College Park, Md. - Comcast Center (17,950)
SERIES: MD leads 4-2
1ST MTG: MD 84-62 (1/8/83)
LAST MTG: ND 80-49 (3/27/12)
TV: ESPN2 / WatchESPN (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Kara Lawson, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
No. 2 Fighting Irish Back On Road Monday At No. 6 Maryland
Following a brief midweek stopover at home, No. 2 Notre Dame is back on the road for the fourth time in the past five games as it heads to College Park, Md., on Monday for a 7 p.m. (ET) ACC matchup with No. 6 Maryland at the Comcast Center. The game will be televised live on ESPN2's Big Monday, and available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app.
The Fighting Irish (18-0, 5-0) stayed the course on Thursday, weathering some early shooting difficulties to steadily pull away from Miami and post a 79-52 win at Purcell Pavilion.
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa paced five Notre Dame players in double figures for the third game in a row with game highs of 23 points and nine rebounds, while freshman guard Lindsay Allen had a season-high 16 points and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride added 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The Notre Dame-Maryland Series
Notre Dame and Maryland will be meeting for the seventh time in their series history, with the Terrapins holding a 4-2 edge over the Fighting Irish (2-1 in College Park).
However, this will mark just the third time Notre Dame and Maryland have played in the past 27 years, and only the second in the regular season (the others coming in the 2007 Preseason WNIT semifinals and the 2012 NCAA Raleigh Regional final).
The Last Time Notre Dame And Maryland Met
Skylar Diggins had a triple-double, and No. 4 Notre Dame earned its second straight NCAA Women's Final Four berth by beating fifth-ranked Maryland 80-49 on March 27, 2012, in the NCAA Raleigh Regional final at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Diggins, the 2012 BIG EAST Player of the Year and AP All-America First Team selection, finished with 22 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and, for good measure, five steals. She kept Notre Dame's four-guard lineup humming and causing the second-seeded Terrapins fits all night, while also becoming the first Fighting Irish player to record a triple-double since 1990, as well as just the second player ever to log a triple-double in a regional game (Old Dominion's Anne Donovan did so at Penn State in 1983).
Natalie Achonwa added 18 points, while Kayla McBride had 16 and Natalie Novosel finished with 14 for Notre Dame, which built a 46-27 rebounding advantage against low-post-oriented Maryland, which came in as the second-best team nationally in rebounding margin. A huge run late in the first half essentially ended this one at halftime and propelled them to their fourth Final Four trip and second in a row.
Alyssa Thomas scored 17 points, and Tianna Hawkins and Alicia DeVaughn added 10 apiece for Maryland. After rallying from 18 points to beat reigning national champion Texas A&M two days earlier in the regional semifinal, the Terps finally slipped into a deficit they couldn't escape.
Notre Dame raced out to a 19-point lead in the first half, wasted no time after halftime pushing the margin over 20, and Maryland simply couldn't recover while being denied its fourth Final Four trip and first since its national title in 2006.
The Fighting Irish broke things open midway through the first half, holding the Terps without a field goal for roughly 5 1/2 minutes during a 26-7 run that pushed their lead well into double figures. Diggins scored seven points during the run while Achonwa had eight, including a pretty layup off a pick-and-roll that put Notre Dame up 38-19 with 2:15 before the break. Maryland would get no closer than 17 the rest of the way.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Maryland Met At The Comcast Center
With Laura Harper and Kristi Toliver leading the way, No. 3 Maryland used a dazzling display of inside-outside basketball to advance to the championship game of the Preseason WNIT.
Harper had 17 points and 13 rebounds, Toliver made five of the Terrapins' school-record tying 12 three-pointers, and Maryland defeated No. 23/25 Notre Dame, 75-59 on Nov. 16, 2007, at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
Toliver scored 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had seven assists.
Playing without standout center Crystal Langhorne, who was out with a sprained ankle, the Terrapins spread out Notre Dame's defense with a barrage of shots from the outside. Toliver went 5-for-7, Marissa Coleman made four of seven from beyond the arc and Marah Strickland was 2-for-4.
Harper, meanwhile, made up for Langhorne's absence with a double-double, and Coleman and Jade Perry each had eight rebounds to help Maryland control the boards, 46-35.
Charel Allen led Notre Dame with 16 points. The Fighting Irish committed a school record-low three turnovers (one of which came on an offensive foul), but missed 48 shots from the field and went 1-for-12 from three-point range.
Up by six at halftime, Maryland got three-pointers from Coleman and Strickland in an 8-2 run at the outset of the second half for a 46-34 lead. It was 50-41 before Coleman hit a three and Harper made two layups in a 9-2 spree that put the Terrapins ahead by 16 with 14:42 left.
Both teams were extremely sharp in an entertaining and competitive first half that ended with the Terrapins up 38-32.
The Fighting Irish committed only one turnover in the first half, while Maryland had seven, but made up for it by going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc.
After Maryland scored the game's first five points, Notre Dame went on a 10-0 run. Maryland responded with eight straight points, but the Fighting Irish regained the lead before Coleman hit a three-pointer and Harper added five successive points for a 29-24 advantage. The Terrapins never trailed after that.
Other Notre Dame-Maryland Series Tidbits
Getting The Jump
At 18-0, Notre Dame is off to the second-best start in the program's 37-year history. The only time the Fighting Irish opened with a better record than this season was in 2000-01, when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship.
Notre Dame's current 18-game winning streak is the fifth-longest success string in program history, and it's the fourth time in the past five seasons the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 18 games or longer.
Notre Dame also has strung together 14 double-digit winning streaks in the program's 37-year history, with 12 of those coming during the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-88 to present).
Dating back to the start of last season, the Fighting Irish are 53-2 (.964) and have won 41 consecutive regular season games. In that span, their lone losses have come against a pair of third-ranked teams -- Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion) and Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.).
Notre Dame has won a school-record 29 consecutive regular season road games (and 36 of its last 41 overall), including the Jan. 20 victory at No. 11/10 Tennessee. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 18 consecutive conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 21 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion. As of Sunday, the Fighting Irish are tied with Dayton for the nation's third-longest active home winning streak, with this run also the third-longest in school history (longest since a 25-game stretch from Feb. 1, 2003-Nov. 22, 2004).
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 13 conference home games since that loss to WVU in 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish entered the weekend leading the nation in assists at 22.2 per game. Notre Dame has dished out at least 21 helpers in 13 games thus far (including a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 65.4 percent of their made field goals this year (400 of 612).
Notre Dame also ranks fifth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.53).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .511 field goal percentage, highlighted by 10 games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent, including five games where they topped 60 percent from the field.
In addition, Notre Dame had a remarkable three-game stretch from Dec. 7-22 when it connected at better than a 55-percent clip in each contest. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 55-percent outings since Nov. 20-29, 1997, when they did so in victories over North Carolina State (.565), Bowling Green (.558) and Ohio University (.567).
Notre Dame's sharpshooting brigade has been led by senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa, who ranks fourth in the ACC with a .570 field goal percentage, along with a .560 mark in conference play (sixth in the ACC).
Freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.579) actually has a higher field goal percentage than Achonwa, and two others aren't far behind (junior guard Madison Cable at .564 and freshman guard Lindsay Allen at .560), but neither has made the minimum number of shots (three per game) to qualify for ACC ranking.
Dialing Long Distance
Although not usually a primary part of the Notre Dame arsenal, the Fighting Irish have found the three-point shot much to their liking this season. Notre Dame leads the nation with a .444 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Kayla McBride leads the way for the Fighting Irish with a .475 three-point percentage that ranks second in the ACC, while sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey also stands among the top five in the conference, ranking fourth at a .439 three-point rate.
In addition, Mabrey is tied for ninth in the ACC with 2.0 three-pointers per game, a mark she bolstered on Jan. 9 against Boston College with a career-high five triples (on six attempts). It was one of five times this season Mabrey has canned at least three treys in a game, and the second time a Notre Dame player has made five three-pointers in a contest (junior guard Madison Cable posted an identical 5-for-6 effort against UCLA on Dec. 7).
In fact, Cable (.500) would be tied for the ACC lead in three-point percentage, but she is two made triples shy of the minimum 1.0 3FG/game to qualify for ranking. Freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.500) also doesn't meet the minimum standard despite her efficiency from distance.
As a team, the Fighting Irish have twice connected on 10 three-pointers in a game this season (victories over UCLA and Tennessee), their highest production outside the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.
What's more, Notre Dame's .750 three-point mark (9-of-12) on Jan. 16 at Pittsburgh was its best performance from long range (with a minimum of five attempts) in more than five years, stretching back to Nov. 23, 2008, against Boston College at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., when the Fighting Irish made 7-of-8 three-pointers (.875) in a 102-54 win.
Nearly In A Class By Themselves
For the third consecutive season, a Notre Dame senior class is threatening to re-set the bar in terms of career wins by one group. The current class of tri-captains Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride is second all-time with 119 wins, behind only the seniors from 2012-13.
Last year, led by its two-player senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, Notre Dame posted the best four-year record (130-20, .867) in school history, topping the win total (117) compiled by the previous year's seniors (Brittany Mallory, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters).
Prior to the 2011-12 season, the highest four-year win total by a senior class was 109, set by the Class of 2001 that included (among others) consensus national player of the year and 13-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley and current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 14 games this year, going 14-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 89-5 (.947) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 59 of their last 60 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has continued her development as one of the top young talents in the country this season, building on last year's selection as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year.
The Lincolnwood, Ill., product currently ranks 12th in the ACC in scoring (16.9 ppg.), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.1 rpg.), assists (2.5 apg.), steals (1.6 spg.) and field goal percentage (.509). She also has five 20-point games thus far (including a career-high 30 points against Central Michigan on Dec. 22) after scoring 20 points twice during her rookie campaign.
Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame's first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).
Loyd's point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the opening three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program's all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.
McBride currently ranks 11th in program history with 1,505 career points, passing Ashley Barlow (1,492 from 2006-10) with 15 points against Miami on Jan. 23, while also becoming the 11th player ever to score 1,500 points under the Golden Dome.
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 21st in Notre Dame history with 1,268 points, closing in on the next rung up the ladder, currently held by Megan Duffy (1,290 from 2002-06).
Coming Up Aces
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed "Ace") also is making her way up Notre Dame's career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She currently ranks seventh on the rebounding list (843) and is tied for seventh on the double-doubles chart (25), moving up one spot on the rebounding rundown with her seven boards at No. 11/10 Tennessee on Jan. 20.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .546 career field goal percentage, presently ranking ninth in program annals.
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame's season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team's first five points of the season.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 7.7 points and 3.7 assists per game (the latter ranking 13th in the ACC). She also is fifth in the ACC with a 2.09 assist/turnover ratio, and is not far from the top 15 in the conference with 1.33 steals per game.
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 45-1 in her last 46 games as a starting point guard. Last year as a senior at St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., she guided her squad to a 27-1 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) title -- the highest level of play in the District of Columbia, which does not have a state tournament.
The Second Platoon
Another reason for Notre Dame's success this season has been the performance of its reserves, who are averaging nearly 30 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by close to a 2-to-1 margin (29.1 ppg. to 16.1 ppg.).
The Fighting Irish second unit has outscored its opposite number in 13 games this season, including a season-high 55 points on Jan. 9 against Boston College, outscoring the entire BC roster by two points (not to mention the Notre Dame starters by 15).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (9.8 ppg.), freshman forward Taya Reimer (8.6 ppg.) and junior guard Madison Cable (6.6 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen players score in double figures 16 different times in a reserve role.
Call Her Mabrey
While the regular season is just a bit more than half over, certainly a leading candidate as one of the nation's most improved players would have to be Notre Dame sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 9.8 points and 3.1 assists per game, while ranking second in the ACC (and 34th in the nation) with a 2.33 assist/turnover ratio, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.
Mabrey also has proven to be a dynamic three-point threat for Notre Dame, ranking fourth in the ACC (21st in the nation) with a .439 three-point percentage and tying for ninth in the conference with 2.0 three-pointers made per game.
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures 10 times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
What We're Put On This Earth To Do
According to veteran women's basketball broadcaster Debbie Antonelli, we were put on this Earth to score, and Notre Dame has certainly done that this season, averaging 88.1 points per game (well above the program record of 81.2 set last year).
Of course, it should come as absolutely no surprise that the Fighting Irish had the nation's fourth-highest scoring offense heading into this weekend's action -- they've got a high-octane coaching staff to show them the ropes.
According to research initially compiled by the Purdue Sports Information Office, the Notre Dame coaches (head coach Muffet McGraw, associate head coach Carol Owens, associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey) have the highest combined point total from their playing careers of any staff in the country, scoring an aggregate 6,415 points while in uniform. The next closest coaching quartet that could challenge the Fighting Irish staff would be Delaware's foursome (led by head coach Tina Martin) that chalked up 6,119 points.
And, you could make a case that McGraw herself would have added more to that total had she played in a different era other than her days at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) from 1973-77. While on Hawk Hill, McGraw was a true "pass-first" point guard who not only played before the introduction of the three-point line, but also at a time when colleges often played only 20-25 games per season instead of the current 30-40 game slates.
In addition, Notre Dame's coaching staff point total doesn't even include the output of its associate director of operations & technology Angie Potthoff, who blistered the nets for 1,725 points as a three-time All-America forward at Penn State from 1993-97.
The Benefits Of Leadership
Notre Dame is in the unique position of essentially having three head coaches on its bench, with current Fighting Irish skipper Muffet McGraw enjoying the expertise of two former head coaches on her staff -- associate head coach Carol Owens (who guided her alma mater Northern Illinois from 2005-10) and associate coach Beth Cunningham (who piloted VCU from 2003-12).
Collectively, the Notre Dame staff has 46 seasons of head coaching experience, which ranks third among Division I schools behind only Villanova (51) and Rutgers (47).
Riley Named To 2014 ACC Legends Class
Ruth Riley ('01), one of the most celebrated student-athletes in Notre Dame history, has been named to the 10th annual class of Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Basketball Legends, the ACC announced Jan. 23.
Riley and the rest of the 2014 ACC Legends Class (which includes 13 former student-athletes and two former head coaches who represent four decades of women's basketball) will be honored at the annual ACC Women's Basketball Legends' Luncheon at 1 p.m. (ET) March 8 in Greensboro, N.C. The group then will be introduced to the crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum at halftime of the first ACC Championship semifinal that evening.
The only Notre Dame women's basketball player to compile 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career, Riley was the 2001 consensus national player of the year while leading the Fighting Irish to a 34-2 record and the program's first national championship as a senior.
A two-time first-team Associated Press All-America selection and two-time first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American, Riley went on to be selected as the 2001 CoSIDA Academic All-America Team Member of the Year, and subsequently was inducted into CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 2012.
A native of nearby Macy, Ind., Riley holds program records in seven career categories, including rebounds (1,007), blocked shots (370 - tied-16th in NCAA history), and field goal percentage (.632 - tied-13th in NCAA history), and also set the school single-game scoring record with 41 points against Providence in 1998. A three-time BIG EAST Conference Defensive Player of Year, Riley was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team three times and was the 2001 BIG EAST Player of the Year.
Notre Dame Trio Named To Wooden Award Midseason List
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa, sophomore guard Jewell Loyd and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride are among 21 student-athletes who were named to the 2013-14 John R. Wooden Award Women's Midseason List, it was announced Jan. 17 by the award's presenter, the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
The Fighting Irish were one of two programs in the nation (along with Connecticut) to feature three candidates on the Wooden Award rundown. Only one other school (Duke) had multiple players chosen for the list, although one of the Blue Devils' two selections (Chelsea Gray) will miss the remainder of the season with an injury.
Led by Notre Dame and Duke, the Atlantic Coast Conference had more players (seven) selected to the Wooden Award Midseason List than any other conference. The American Athletic Conference was second with five, followed by the Big Ten (three), the Pac-12 (two) and the Big 12 (two).
This marks the second consecutive year that McBride has made the Wooden Award Midseason List, while both Achonwa and Loyd are appearing on the rundown for the first time in their respective careers. Achonwa and McBride were on the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List, while Loyd was added to this week's Wooden Award Midseason List based upon her performance through the first half of the 2013-14 season.
This year's Notre Dame trio will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of three-time Wooden Award finalist Skylar Diggins ('13), who went on to earn a spot on the Wooden Award All-America Team in both 2012 and 2013.
The 15 Wooden Award finalists named to the National Ballot will be announced in mid-March. The Wooden Award All-America Team, consisting of the nation's top five players, will be unveiled during the week of the NCAA Women's Final Four (April 6-8 in Nashville, Tenn.), and the quintet then will be honored at the 38th annual Wooden Award Gala the weekend of April 11-13 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
Next Game: Virginia Tech
Notre Dame returns home to close out the month of January, welcoming Virginia Tech to Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday for an ACC matchup. The game, which will mark the first meeting between the Fighting Irish and Hokies since Virginia Tech left the BIG EAST for the ACC a decade ago, will be streamed live on ESPN3.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director