Jan. 26, 2010
#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-1 / 4-1 BIG EAST) vs. Providence Friars (12-7 / 3-3 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 27, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 17-0
1ST MTG: ND 90-80 (1/14/96)
LAST MTG: ND 65-56 (2/28/09)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
No. 3 Irish Play Host To Providence Wednesday Night
Following its fifth win over a ranked opponent in six opportunities this season, No. 3 Notre Dame doesn't have much time to savor the feeling as the Irish get back on the hardwood Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST contest against up-and-coming Providence at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com.
The Irish (17-1, 4-1) got their latest Top 25 win the hard way, climbing out of a 13-point second-half hole to defeat No. 16/11 West Virginia, 74-66 on Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame used a 16-3 run midway through the second half to take the lead, then finished off the Mountaineers with a 10-1 run in the final three minutes.
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader paced the rally with her fifth double-double of the year, collecting game highs of 16 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) and 12 rebounds.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Providence
Behind a combination of talented veterans and fresh, energetic newcomers, Providence has transformed itself into one of the feel-good stories in the BIG EAST Conference this season.
At 12-7 overall (3-3 in the BIG EAST), the Friars already have exceeded their win total of all of last year, when they went 10-20 and ended up 4-12 in conference play (tying for 13th place).
Providence last took the court on Jan. 23, dropping a 72-58 decision at home to Pittsburgh. The Friars had to battle through an unevenly-paced game, due in large part to a combined 49 fouls and 69 free throw attempts on the afternoon. PC also forced 25 Panther turnovers (16 on Friar steals) and held Pittsburgh to a .296 field goal percentage, but could not make up two deficits -- minus-23 in the rebounding column, and minus-24 in terms of free throws made.
Senior guard Chelsea Marandola continues to stake her claim as one of the BIG EAST's best, scoring a game-high 22 points with eight rebounds and a game-best six assists in the loss to Pittsburgh. Senior center Emily Cournoyer was the only other Providence player in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
Marandola leads the Friars in most categories this season, most notably scoring (18.3 ppg./BIG EAST-best 19.3 ppg. in league play), three-point percentage (.475), free throw percentage (.895), assists (2.5 apg.) and steals (2.2 spg.). Junior guard/forward Mi-Khida Hankins is second in scoring (11.8 ppg.) and tops in field goal percentage (.522), while Cournoyer is third in scoring (9.1 ppg.) and first in both rebounding (5.2 rpg.) and blocks (1.3 bpg.).
Head coach Phil Seymore is in the midst of his fifth season at Providence with a 55-79 (.410) record, including an 0-4 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Providence Series
Notre Dame and Providence did not meet on the basketball court until the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season. Since then, Notre Dame has held the upper hand in the series with a 17-0 record, including an 8-0 mark at Purcell Pavilion.
The teams have played once each season since that '95-96 campaign, with the exception of second matchups in 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2001-02.
The Last Time ND and Providence Met
Lindsay Schrader scored 18 points, including the 1,000th of her career, and Ashley Barlow hit two key three-pointers in the second half to spark a Notre Dame rally and the No. 23/22 Irish beat Providence 65-56 on Feb. 28, 2009, at Alumni Hall in Providence, R.I.
Notre Dame (20-7, 9-6 BIG EAST) and PC were tied at 41 when Barlow made consecutive three-pointers and then scored on a layup after her steal.
Chelsea Marandola led Providence (10-18, 4-10) with 15.
The Last Time ND and Providence Met At Purcell Pavilion
The first time Notre Dame pressed full-court, Providence guard Kendria Holmes threw a long pass to Mi-Khida Hankins for an easy layup.
It was the only basket for the Friars in a span of nearly seven minutes as the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish used a 20-2 run to take control en route to an 85-54 victory on Jan. 30, 2008, at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame forced Providence into a season-high 29 turnovers, including 23 steals -- the most by the Irish in 13 years and one shy of the BIG EAST Conference record.
Lindsay Schrader had game highs of 15 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame. Charel Allen had 12 points and Devereaux Peters provided the Irish with a spark off the bench, also scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Point guards Tulyah Gaines and Melissa Lechlitner added 10 points apiece, while Allen also had a career-high six steals, and Gaines and Ashley Barlow picked up four each.
The Irish scored 34 points off Providence turnovers, outrebounded the Friars, 45-32, and outscored them inside, 38-28.
Notre Dame started slowly, making just one of its first 10 shots to fall behind, 9-3. But Gaines got the Irish going with a steal, behind-the-back dribble and layup to ignite the 20-2 run and Notre Dame never saw its lead dip below 10 points the rest of the way.
Hankins led Providence with 15 points and Shantee Darrian had 10.
Other Notre Dame-Providence Series Tidbits
Diggins, Schrader Honored By BIG EAST
For the third time this season and the second time in three weeks, freshman guard Skylar Diggins has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday by the conference office. Diggins becomes just the fourth Fighting Irish rookie ever to earn three BIG EAST Freshman of the Week citations in a single season, joining Ruth Riley (three in 1997-98), Alicia Ratay (six in 1999-2000) and fellow Washington High School alum Jacqueline Batteast (six in 2001-02).
In addition, fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader notched her own triple on Monday, making her third appearance on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll this season after both she and Diggins helped the No. 3/5 Fighting Irish to a pair of comeback victories in BIG EAST play last week, including their fifth win over a ranked opponent this year.
Diggins also earned BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors back on Nov. 23 and Jan. 11, and was chosen for a place on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Nov. 30. Meanwhile, Schrader nabs the sixth BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll citation of her career, the most by any Notre Dame player since the Honor Roll was created in 2005-06. Schrader is one of four different Fighting Irish players to make the conference's Weekly Honor Roll this season, joining Diggins, and senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow -- a two-time honoree on Nov. 23 and Dec 21 -- and Melissa Lechlitner, who was tapped for a place on the Jan. 11 Honor Roll.
Last week, Diggins averaged 17.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game with a .538 field goal percentage (14-of-26) and a .500 three-point percentage (3-of-6), as Notre Dame erased a 12-point first-half deficit to win at Louisville, 78-60, before wiping out a 13-point second-half deficit for a 74-66 home win over No. 16/11 West Virginia. Diggins scored 15 of her team-high 20 points at Louisville in the second half, making 8-of-13 shots in the win. On Sunday against WVU, Diggins got the Fighting Irish going with eight quick points in the first half, then converted seven crucial points in a 2:06 span late in the second half, finishing with 15 points (6-13 FG) and a team-high four steals.
Schrader played an equally pivotal role in Notre Dame's success last week, averaging a double-double with 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, as well as a .786 field goal percentage (11-of-14). She opened with 12 points (5-6 FG) and a game-high 10 rebounds at Louisville, before dropping in 13 of her team-high 16 points against West Virginia in the second half, and adding a game-high 12 rebounds. Schrader now has logged double-doubles in three of her last four games, giving her five on the season and 16 in her career.
Notre Dame Lends A Hand For Haitian Earthquake Relief
Fundraising efforts held in conjunction with two University of Notre Dame home basketball games have resulted in more than $250,000 in donations that will go toward relief efforts in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the island nation on Jan. 12.
Through the generosity of fans and alumni, as well as contributions from the University and the Notre Dame Monogram Club, the money was raised at the men's and women's basketball games that were played Jan. 23 and 24, respectively, at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame donated full gate receipts and net concession revenue from both games to the relief effort. In addition, a collection organized by the Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) -- led by president and current Irish women's basketball senior center Erica Williamson, as well as baseball player Ryan Connolly and rower Emily Crosby -- raised more than $25,000 from fans and alumni who contributed during the games. The Monogram Club added a $10,000 matching gift to the student total.
Money raised will benefit short-term needs and long-term rebuilding efforts in Haiti and will be distributed to the Notre Dame Haiti Program, which works to eradicate the debilitating mosquito-borne disease lymphatic filariasis; the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has served in Haiti since 1944 and was heavily affected by the earthquake; and Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.
Information about Notre Dame's response to the Haiti earthquake, including ways to contribute to the relief effort, is available on the Web at http://haitidisaster.nd.edu.
Notre Dame already has faced a rigorous schedule through the first two months of the 2009-10 season, taking on six ranked opponents in its first 18 games. The Irish also have risen to that challenge quite well, winning five of those six contests (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and West Virginia), including three victories away from home (MSU, SDSU and OU).
Four of Notre Dame's five wins over ranked opponents came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.
Making The Right Adjustments
While Notre Dame's tradition of success with the halftime lead is well-documented (see related note later in this package), the Irish also have shown a propensity for being able to bounce back with strong second-half showings.
In the past four games, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents by an average of nearly 12 points per game (including 18.5 ppg. in the past two outings), shooting .457 from the floor, averaging just 5.4 turnovers and owning a +5 rebound margin in the final 20 minutes.
The Irish have won the second half in three of those four games and played top-ranked Connecticut nearly even in the second half (28-27 UConn), going primarily up against the Huskies' starting five until the closing moments.
Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to win three times in the past three weeks, including each of the past two games. The Irish erased a 10-point first-half margin at Purdue on Jan. 4, followed by a 12-point first-half spread at Louisville on Jan. 19, and most recently, they wiped out a 13-point second-half gap at home against West Virginia on Jan. 24.
The three double-digit comeback victories are the most for Notre Dame in a single season since 2002-03, when it came back to win at West Virginia (trailed by 14), at Providence (trailed by 10) and at home vs. Seton Hall (trailed twice by 12).
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen seven different players led the team in scoring and rebounding this season.
That trend has been particularly evident in the past 11 games, with a different player setting the pace in scoring seven times. Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso and UCF), fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Vanderbilt, South Florida and West Virginia) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (Villanova and Louisville) are the repeat leading scorers for the Irish in that span.
Stat Sheet Stuffers
Another sign of Notre Dame's versatility is seen in the number of "5-5-5" games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year.
Junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt) has a team-high three 5-5-5 games, while senior guard Ashley Barlow (Iona and South Florida) and freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB and Charlotte) have two 5-5-5 outings apiece, and junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Louisville) and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) each have one.
Taking What We Can Get
Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 15 of 18 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 25.0 giveaways per game.
In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 36 at UCF on Dec. 29).
Charlotte's 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary's (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program's second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.
The Irish also are making even the most disciplined teams fall victim to their aggressive defensive style. Villanova came into its Jan. 9 game with Notre Dame ranked second in the nation with just 12.6 turnovers per game, but the Irish dogged the Wildcats into 34 turnovers (17 in each half).
Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents in 10 home games this season, forcing 27.8 turnovers per game (at least 29 in six Purcell Pavilion contests) while holding visitors to 54.4 points a night.
The Five-Finger Discount
According to Monday's NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks third in the nation in steals (14.0 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 12 of their 18 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.
Notre Dame and Connecticut are the only two BIG EAST teams with at least two current players having 500+ career rebounds. Irish fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader is tied for ninth all-time at Notre Dame with 730 boards, while senior guard tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 572 caroms.
The Irish will soon join UConn and have a third player in this group, as senior center Erica Williamson has 487 career rebounds, while Wednesday's opponent, Providence will join the mix with a second 500-rebounder when Emily Cournoyer collects two boards.
Getting The Jump
At 15-0, Notre Dame got off to the second-best start in the program's 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that 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 season-opening 15-game winning streak tied for the third-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it was the longest since the school-record 23-game run to begin the 2000-01 season.
Notre Dame is 24-10 (.706) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 4-1 record this year.
In addition, seven of the past eight road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Notre Dame is ranked third in the latest Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the 12th consecutive week -- it's the second-longest run in the AP Top 5 in program history, and the longest for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
This marks the 50th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who have spent a total of six weeks this year at a season-high No. 3 ranking. That is Notre Dame's highest poll position since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 190 weeks during the program's 33-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 is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish are checking in at No. 3 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. After a one-week dip to fifth, Notre Dame is back up to a season-high third for the fifth time in six weeks in the ESPN/USA Today poll, the highest Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year. It also was the first time they were in the top three in consecutive weeks since the final 14 weeks of the 2000-01 season (capped by a No. 1 ranking in the final poll after winning the national championship).
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 3 ranking this week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 182 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 27 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 190 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 27 people on this list, 15 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Irish point guard Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and now is in her third season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into this week's AP poll at No. 23.
Game #18 Recap: West Virginia
No. 16 West Virginia could contain fourth-ranked Notre Dame and Lindsay Schrader only for a half.
After being held without a shot in the first half, Schrader went 6 for 8 from the floor in the second half and scored eight of her 16 points during a decisive run as the Fighting Irish rallied for a 74-66 victory on Sunday.
"In the second half, Schrader just took over," West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. "She got physical with us. Every time we got physical we got a foul called. She took over. I think she was the key."
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the Irish usually turn to Schrader when they need a key basket.
"Everybody on our team knows when we're not scoring we're going to try to find Lindsay," McGraw said. "Not to the exclusion of anybody else, but that's going to be a look we want because she has so many mismatches. They had guards trying to guard her down there and we needed to take advantage of that."
The Irish trailed 44-31 after Madina Ali scored the opening basket of the second half, and trailed 49-39 when Vanessa House hit a 3 for the Mountaineers (18-2, 5-1 BIG EAST). But the Irish responded with a 16-3 run led by Schrader, who repeatedly scored baskets inside. Natalie Novosel capped it with a baseline runner that gave the Irish a 55-52 lead.
"We were rattled a little bit," said Liz Repella, who led the Mountaineers with 24 points.
The Irish put the game away with a 10-1 burst late to take a 74-63 lead.
Skylar Diggins added 15 points for the Irish, Melissa Lechlitner had 12 and Ashley Barlow had 10 points and a career-high seven assists. Korinne Campbell had 12 points and nine rebounds for West Virginia.
After being outscored 16-10 in the paint in the first half and outrebounded 18-17, the Irish had a 20-16 rebounding advantage in the second half and outscored the Mountaineers 20-14 in the paint.
"In the second half we got more disciplined and worked on our defense and rebounding," Schrader said.
The Irish (17-1, 4-1) also turned the ball over only three times in the second half after having 14 turnovers in the first half.
Carey said his team played less aggressive in the second half because three of his starters, including Repella, were in foul trouble.
"We started standing around on both ends because we were afraid of fouling. That's not an excuse. We can't play that way. I told them, `Whether you are in foul trouble or not, we've got to do what we do.' We quit doing what we do in the second half there."
The Fighting Irish improved to 5-1 against ranked opponents while the Mountaineers fell to 1-2 against ranked teams. The loss also ended a 16-game winning streak for West Virginia, the second longest in school history.
Noting The West Virginia Game
McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached her second important career milestone of the season on Jan. 19, as she became the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins when the Irish posted a 78-60 victory at Louisville.
McGraw earned the milestone win in her 839th career game (she now has a 28-year mark of 601-239, .715), tying her with former Saint Peter's coach Mike Granelli as the 10th-fastest to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.
In honor of the historic 600th victory, Notre Dame fans held up signs with the number "600" on them when McGraw and her staff took the floor prior to Sunday's win over No. 16/11 West Virginia. The visibly-moved Irish coach later called the scene "one of the top five moments" of her Notre Dame career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 513-198 (.722) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 601-239 (.715) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.
Keeping It Close To Home
Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 13 players on this year's Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while five others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).
What's more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana -- senior guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and the all-South Bend backcourt of senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman guard Skylar Diggins -- while the fifth starter (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.
As if that weren't enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 288 career starts between them.
Schrader reached a personal milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now stands eighth in school history with 109 career starts, including a current streak of 67 in a row (putting her seven away from moving into the Notre Dame top five in that category).
For the first time in Notre Dame women's basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001, while the current Irish senior quartet is closing in on 10th place (127) in that category (Lechlitner at 114, the other three at 113).
Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.
Barlow currently ranks 13th in school history with 1,318 career points, while Schrader is 16th with 1,264 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 855 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Pomp And Circumstance
On Jan. 3, senior center Erica Williamson received her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and has begun graduate studies this spring.
With Williamson collecting her diploma, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 177-17 (.912) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 105 of their last 116 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in 14 games this season and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 15 seasons, 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 203-14 (.935) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added eight more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Charlotte, UCF and Villanova.
...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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 133-4 (.971) 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 already has added 10 more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, No. 23/24 San Diego State, No. 20/17 Oklahoma, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte, Villanova and South Florida.
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 183 of their last 207 games (.884) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 102-17 (.857) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former 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 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 333-85 (.797) 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.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through 10 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,585 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 700 fans ahead of their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted eight sellouts in program history, the most recent coming this past Sunday, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their win over No. 16/11 West Virginia -- it was the second women's basketball sellout since the renovated arena opened this fall (the other capacity crowd coming on New Year's Eve for a win over No. 18/16 Vanderbilt).
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, 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 originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. 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 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 (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
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 for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
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 155 televised games, including 102 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year three of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, 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.
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 17 times, including wins this year over Indianapolis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso and Charlotte.
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 -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has too much time on his hands"), 10 different players have converted the "burger ball", including nine current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 17 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and three on three-pointers.
Next Game: Syracuse
Notre Dame opens a quick two-game weekend road trip on Saturday with a 1 p.m. (ET) visit to Syracuse for a BIG EAST matchup at the Carrier Dome. The Orange have been in and out of the Top 25 all season, and are currently receiving votes in both major polls.
Syracuse (16-3, 3-3) got off to one of the best starts in program history at 12-0 and already has assured itself of a third consecutive winning season for the first time in two decades. The Orange are slated to welcome St. John's to town Wednesday night before this weekend's game against Notre Dame.