Jan. 28, 2011
#9/9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-4 / 6-1 BIG EAST) vs. Villanova Wildcats (8-11 / 0-6 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 29, 2011
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Villanova, Pa. - The Pavilion (6,500)
SERIES: ND leads 16-10
1ST MTG: VU 70-57 (1/6/81)
LAST MTG: ND 81-46 (1/9/10)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
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TICKETS: (610) 519-4100
No. 9 Irish Reach Midpoint Of BIG EAST Season Saturday Night At Villanova
Two important season mileposts are on the horizon for No. 9 Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish reach both the midpoint of the BIG EAST Conference and close out the month of January when they travel to Villanova Saturday for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup with the Wildcats at The Pavilion.
Notre Dame (17-4, 6-1 BIG EAST) is coming off a six-day hiatus following its 12th win in 13 outings, a 69-36 decision over No. RV/23 St. John's last Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish led from the opening tip to the final horn against the Red Storm, shooting 58.6 percent in the first half and holding at least a 20-point lead for the final 15 minutes of the game.
Senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski scored a season-high 19 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) to lead Notre Dame, while senior forward Devereaux Peters piled up her fifth double-double in the past nine games with 14 points (7-10 FG), a game-high 10 rebounds and a season-best five blocks.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Villanova
Behind its methodical motion offense, Villanova continues to present a challenge unlike any other in the BIG EAST. The Wildcats have five letterwinners back in the fold from last year's club, providing a solid base from which to operate head coach Harry Perretta's baffling and bedeviling system.
Like Notre Dame, VU (8-11, 0-6) has been off all week after dropping three in a row and five of its last six games. The Wildcats' most recent contest was a 60-44 loss at No. 16/17 Georgetown on Jan. 22, a contest that saw Villanova trail by just six (46-40) with seven minutes left before the Hoyas pulled away down the stretch.
Sophomore forward Laura Sweeney had a team-high 13 points at Georgetown and leads the Wildcats in most major categories this year, including scoring (10.2 ppg.), rebounding (6.1 rpg.), steals (1.5 spg.), blocks (1.3 bpg.) and field goal percentage (.453). Junior guard/forward Lindsay Kimmel is second in scoring (9.6 ppg.) and rebounding (tied-3.1 rpg.), while sophomore guard Rachel Roberts is third in scoring (9.0 ppg.) along with a team-high .422 three-point percentage.
Perretta is in his 33rd season at Villanova with a 594-370 (.616) record at the school, including a 10-16 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
Notre Dame and Villanova will be squaring off for the 27th time on Saturday night, with the Fighting Irish leading the all-time series 16-10, and the two sides splitting their 12 previous matchups on the VU campus. However, since 2001-02, the series has tightened considerably, with the Wildcats winning seven of their last 12 contests against Notre Dame.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Villanova Met
Third-ranked Notre Dame forced Villanova into a season-high 34 turnovers in beating the Wildcats, 81-46 on Jan. 9, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion, the largest margin of victory in the 26-game series between the schools. The Wildcats entered the game second in the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 12.6. They had 17 in the first half -- one shy of their previous season high.
The Fighting Irish turned the ball over nine times, matching their season low set against Purdue the previous game.
Skylar Diggins led Notre Dame with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and was key in leading the Fighting Irish defensively. She was among seven Notre Dame players with at least two steals. Melissa Lechlitner added 11 points.
Villanova's leading scorer, Laura Sweeney, who had a career-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in loss at Providence three days earlier, played just three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. She finished with five points. Maria Getty scored 10 points to lead the Wildcats.
The Fighting Irish used a 19-4 run to end the first half and open a 43-22 lead at intermission. That was one point shy of the most points surrendered in a half all season by the Wildcats, who were giving up an average of 48 points a game. Notre Dame added a 23-3 run in the second half to go ahead 75-38.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Villanova Met At The Pavilion
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 Jan. 24, 2009, at The Pavilion.
The Wildcats defeated the Fighting Irish for the first time since Feb. 7, 2006, and it was their first win over a ranked team since beating No. 22 Boston College in the quarterfinals of the 2005 BIG EAST Tournament.
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).
Melissa Lechlitner's three-pointer got the Fighting 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.
Other Notre Dame-Villanova Series Tidbits
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday's game ranked third in the nation in steals with 14.6 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 16 of 21 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 24 steals at Valparaiso (Dec. 2) and 23 steals against IUPUI (Nov. 26).
Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).
Individually, Notre Dame has 10 different players with double-digit steals this season (five with at least 30 thefts), led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.4 steals per game (sixth in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame also enters the weekend ranked fifth in the country in assists (19.5 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 12 games this season.
Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 63 percent of its baskets this season, with 410 assists on 651 field goals.
At the head of the Fighting Irish assist company is sophomore Skylar Diggins, who has adapted well to her role as Notre Dame's primary point guard, ranking fifth in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.7 assists per game, and 13th in the league with a 1.38 assist/turnover ratio. She also has handed out at least five assists in 14 games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the nation with a .492 field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 12 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 18 outings.
Notre Dame also has seen a recent rise in its three-point shooting numbers. During the past 12 games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 40.2 percent clip (49-of-122) from beyond the arc. Compare that with the first nine contests of the season, when Notre Dame had a .269 (29-of-108) three-point percentage.
Notre Dame ranks among the top 10 in the nation in eight categories according to Monday's NCAA statistics report -- second in field goal percentage (.492), third in scoring margin (+29.1 ppg.) and steals (14.6 spg.), fourth in scoring offense (82.9 ppg.), fifth in assists (19.5 apg.), sixth in three-point field goal percentage defense (.244), eighth in rebounding margin (+10.3 rpg.) and turnover margin (+7.19).
In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 20 in the NCAA in 11 of a possible 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in assist/turnover ratio (13th, 1.12), scoring defense (17th, 53.8 ppg.) and field goal percentage defense (20th, .345), with a No. 26 ranking in blocked shots (5.0 bpg.).
Yet for all of these high statistical marks, no Fighting Irish player ranks higher than No. 61 in any single category -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is 61st in the nation in assists (4.7 apg.).
High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses (82.9 ppg., fourth as of Monday), Notre Dame is moving into uncharted territory in the school's record books.
The Fighting Irish have scored 90 points in a game in eight contests this season, setting a new school record for 90-point games in a season (the previous mark was seven, set on three occasions - 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
Notre Dame also has set a new school record with eight wins by at least 35 points, doubling the previous program standard of four 35-point victories set in 2008-09.
What's more, the Fighting Irish have won 11 games by at least 30 points, topping the school record of 10 30-point victories, which was set during the program's 2000-01 national championship season.
Last year, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in school history, and best since the Fighting Irish logged a school-record 81.0 ppg. mark in 1998-99.
One of Notre Dame's greatest areas of improvement this season has been in the rebounding column, where the Fighting Irish are averaging 42.7 caroms per game, up nearly two rebounds from last year's total at this time (40.8 rpg.) and good enough for fourth in the BIG EAST.
Notre Dame also is giving up just 32.4 rebounds per game, nearly four caroms better than last year at this time (36.2 rpg.) and also fourth in the conference.
With a +10.3 rpg. margin this season, the Fighting Irish rank third in the BIG EAST and eighth in the country as of Monday.
What's more, Notre Dame has outrebounded its opponent by double digits in 10 games this season, including seven games in which the Fighting Irish posted rebound margins of +15 or better, topped by a season-high +42 mark (66-24) on Jan. 2 against Southeast Missouri State at Purcell Pavilion.
Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Fighting Irish have spread the wealth so far this season, with six different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game thus far, with four different 20-point scorers along the way.
Notre Dame also has seen no fewer than seven different players claim team-high rebounding and assist honors this season.
Missed It By That Much
Notre Dame may hold a 17-4 record coming into Saturday's game, but the Fighting Irish are oh-so-close to owning a much better mark, with all four losses coming to top-15 opponents by an average margin of just 5.5 points per game (three by single digits and the fourth by 11 points).
What's more, Notre Dame led inside the final 30 seconds of regulation in two of those losses (#15 UCLA, also at the end of the first overtime; #2 Connecticut), and the Fighting Irish also had a possession to tie the game in the final 30 seconds at #9/10 Kentucky.
The fourth loss (at #2/3 Baylor) saw Notre Dame battle to within six points (65-59) with five minutes remaining and have a look at a three-pointer to halve the margin further on their next possession, but the shot rattled out and the Lady Bears managed to put the game away with nine free throws (despite making only one field goal during the final 8:23).
Diggins Makes Second Appearance On BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll
For the second time this season, sophomore guard Skylar Diggins has been named to the BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Weekly Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. Diggins, who previously earned the accolade on Dec. 6, was one of five players chosen for this week's honor, which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.
In two games last week (both against ranked opponents), Diggins averaged 14.5 points, 6.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game with a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio (12 assists, six turnovers) as the Fighting Irish registered back-to-back wins over Top 25 opponents for the first time in nearly six years, defeating No. 16/17 Georgetown (80-58) and No. RV/23 St. John's (69-36) at Purcell Pavilion.
On Jan. 18 against Georgetown, Diggins rang up a game-high 22 points (including 17 in the first half alone), a game-best six assists (including four in the second half) and four rebounds to help Notre Dame to a near wire-to-wire victory over the Hoyas.
On Jan. 23 against St. John's, Diggins stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of six points, six assists and six rebounds, piloting a Fighting Irish offense that outscored the Red Storm in the paint, 46-20 en route to Notre Dame's largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since Feb. 25, 2004 (93-58 over No. 21/19 Miami (Fla.)).
Diggins joins senior forward and three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection Devereaux Peters as multiple conference weekly honorees for Notre Dame this season. The duo also is part of a group of four Fighting Irish players that feature at least one conference weekly award recipient from all four classes. Junior guard Natalie Novosel was selected for the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Nov. 29, while freshman forward Natalie Achonwa was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Dec. 13.
Diggins Makes Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 Candidate List
Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is among a group of 20 women's basketball players who have been chosen as midseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, it was announced Jan. 11 by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top player, compiled its midseason candidates based upon individual performance and team results, with the current list of student-athletes comprising the frontrunners for this year's award.
A consensus preseason All-America selection and candidate for every major national player of the year award, Diggins is one of three BIG EAST players on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 List, joined by Connecticut's Maya Moore and Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers. Diggins also is one of just three sophomores on the Wooden Award candidate rundown, along with Rodgers and Baylor's Brittney Griner.
Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Nicknamed "Nasty" for her playmaking abilities, junior guard Natalie Novosel is rapidly making a strong case as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference, if not the entire country.
The Lexington, Ky., native currently leads the Fighting Irish (and ranks ninth in the league) in scoring at 15.0 points per game, tripling her offensive output from a season ago. She also has scored at least 20 points in a game four times this year (after coming into the campaign with a career single-game high of 19 points) and has scored in double figures 18 times after doing so a combined total of 14 times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.
In addition, Novosel added some hardware to her personal trophy case as well, taking home Most Valuable Player honors at the WBCA Classic, earning a spot on the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team and also garnering a place on the Nov. 29 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll.
Thus, it's no surprise that ESPN.com's Graham Hays tweeted the following comment after Novosel's career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) vs. Gonzaga in a 70-61 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 29 in Seattle:
"Is Natalie Novosel the most improved player in the nation? Gotta be on the short list."
Peters Showing Her Own Dev-elopment
If Novosel is among the nation's most improved players, senior forward Devereaux Peters can't be far behind. The veteran frontliner is playing some of the best basketball of her career this season, putting a pair of knee injuries and three surgeries well in the rearview mirror.
A three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection, Peters currently is averaging career highs of 10.9 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game (12th in the BIG EAST), along with a .573 field goal percentage (sixth), 1.7 blocks per game (fifth), 1.9 steals per game (14th) and a career-high .825 field goal percentage.
In fact, Peters may not only be challenging Novosel as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player, but she also is staking a hefty claim as the conference's top defensive player, as she currently is one of just two players (along with Connecticut's Maya Moore) to rank among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in the three major defensive statistical categories (rebounds, steals and blocks).
Peters' numbers in BIG EAST play are even more eye-popping, as she leads the league in field goal percentage (.603) and blocks (2.4 bpg.), while ranking fourth in rebounding (8.1 rpg.) and 20th in scoring (12.9 ppg.). She also is tied for the BIG EAST lead with three double-doubles in seven conference games to date.
Like Novosel, Peters regularly has been pulling in accolades this season, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team and garnering MVP honors at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. During the latter tournament on Dec. 29-30, she averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game with a .684 field goal percentage (13-of-19) in wins over Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.
That tournament effort has been the cornerstone of Peters' post-Christmas surge. In the past nine games, the Chicago native is averaging 13.2 points and 9.2 rebounds with five double-doubles with a .609 field goal percentage (53-of-87).
Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.
At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner's shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes left.
It's believed to be the first time in Griner's two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters' block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball YouTube channel (search for "notredameirishhoops" or click the link through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at www.UND.com).
Bruszewski Set To Join 1,000-Point Club
Senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski is just 15 points shy of becoming the 27th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 points in her career.
When she reaches that milestone, Bruszewski will become the fifth player from Notre Dame's 2007-08 NCAA Sweet 16 team to hit the 1,000-point mark, joining Charel Allen (1,566 from 2004-08), Ashley Barlow (1,492 from 2006-10), Lindsay Schrader (1,429 from 2005-10) and Melissa Lechlitner (1,005 from 2006-10) in that group.
Five other teams in Fighting Irish women's basketball history have featured at least five current or future 1,000-point scorers on the same roster -- from 1995-96 through 1999-2000, every Notre Dame squad had five or more players who had reached or would reach the 1,000-point plateau during their careers (including a school-record six on the 1996-97 and 1997-98 squads).
Aside from head coach Muffet McGraw and current associate coach Carol Owens, the one common link between those teams was guard Danielle Green, who scored 1,106 points from 1995-2000, missing the 1996-97 Final Four season with a preseason Achilles injury and coming back for a fifth year of eligibility in 1999-2000.
Game #21 Recap: St. John's
Devereaux Peters dominated inside with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to lead No. 11/10 Notre Dame to a 69-36 rout of No. RV/23 St. John's on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Becca Bruszewski scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting for the Fighting Irish (17-4, 6-1).
The Red Storm (14-6, 3-4) shot 32 percent, with no player reaching double figures. Leading scorer Shenneika Smith was held to seven points on 3-of-8 shooting. Da'Shena Stevens had nine rebounds, but missed all seven free-throw attempts.
Notre Dame outrebounded St. John's, 42-31.
Noting The St. John's Game
A Defensive Effort Like No Other
Defense has been a major focal point for Notre Dame this season, but in their 97-21 win over Southeast Missouri State on Jan. 2 at Purcell Pavilion, the Fighting Irish took that emphasis to record-setting levels:
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 15 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 26 of their last 29 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three-game runs to the title at last year's Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this year's WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion, as well as a two-game sweep at this year's State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle (which did not officially crown a champion because of its pre-determined matchups).
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.
Notre Dame played two regular-season tournaments this year, the first time the Fighting Irish have competed in multiple tourneys in the same season since 1996-97 (third place at Preseason WNIT; champion of Georgia Tech Comfort Inn Downtown Classic).
Only twice in school history has Notre Dame won two regular-season tournament titles in the same year, and both occurred during the program's Division III era. In 1978-79, the Fighting Irish won the Huntington (Ind.) University Tournament and the Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational. The following season, Notre Dame claimed top honors at the Taylor (Ind.) University Invitational and repeated as the champion of the Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational.
Notre Dame is ranked a season-high ninth in the Jan. 24 Associated Press poll. That marked the 70th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001).
With their current poll position, Notre Dame now has appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll in each of the past four seasons and 11 of the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), as well as 96 weeks overall since the Fighting Irish earned their initial AP top-10 ranking (No. 9 on Nov. 24, 1996).
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 209 weeks during the program's 34-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 Fighting Irish rose to a season-best No. 9 in the Jan. 25 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 70 of the past 71 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 201 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the third consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as nine of the past 13 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 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 209 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 30 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll at No. 23 on Jan. 25, 2010.
Six of the 16 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
The 700 Club
With a 91-47 win over Loyola Marymount on Dec. 30 at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle, Notre Dame became the 32nd NCAA Division I program to record 700 victories -- the Fighting Irish now own an all-time record of 706-306 (.698).
Ironically, Saint Joseph's (Pa.) -- the alma mater of Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw -- earned its 700th win one day before Notre Dame, edging out the Fighting Irish as the first Catholic Division I program to hit the mark.
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 204-17 (.923) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 132 of their last 143 such contests, and 41 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).
The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in 16 games this year, including their Jan. 23 win against St. John's when they led 39-21 through the first 20 minutes.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 16 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 Fighting Irish have an amazing 222-15 (.937) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 14 contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, Southeast Missouri State, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, St. John's).
...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 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 152-5 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in 13 games this year (12-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points.
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 Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 200 of their last 227 games (.881) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 109-19 (.852) 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 Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 93 of their last 101 non-BIG EAST contests (.921) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight 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 defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). 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 350-88 (.799) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.
Notre Dame has wasted little time in getting started with that challenge, averaging 8,557 fans for its 13 home games this season (fifth in the country according to this week's NCAA attendance report), including sellout crowds of 9,149 for its games against games against Purdue (Dec. 5), Connecticut (Jan. 8) and St. John's (Jan. 23).
Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.
McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.
McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.
The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game. The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this prestigious list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).
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. 91 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 third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 26 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage 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.
This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Jan. 23 St. John's contest (televised live on ESPNU), Notre Dame has played in 184 televised games, including 130 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Pink Zone Efforts Underway
Following last year's wildly-successful fundraising efforts for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone breast cancer initiative, Notre Dame is aiming even higher this season, as it draws closer to the Feb. 12 Pink Zone game vs. Rutgers. For that game, the Fighting Irish will wear unique white and pink uniforms, with Notre Dame also holding special events during the game in honor and memory of those touched by breast cancer.
In 2009-10, the Fighting Irish collected more than $103,000 for the global unified effort by the WBCA's membership to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
Notre Dame's local Pink Zone drive is led by primary sponsor Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, with donations divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Women's Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
This year, Notre Dame is bringing back some of its more popular fundraising activities, including the Fighting Irish Three-Point Pledge (fans donate a certain amount for every three-pointer made by Notre Dame this season) and the Notre Dame Pink Zone Store (sales of various Pink Zone items, including t-shirts, buttons, tote bags, etc., in the Joyce Center's Heritage Hall at all Fighting Irish home games). The Notre Dame Gameday Silent Auction also returns in 2010-11, with bids being taken in the Monogram Room at the Joyce Center on Feb. 12 from 12:30 p.m. (ET) to 30 minutes following the Pink Zone game against Rutgers.
Some new events added for this year include the Pink Zone Treadmill Campaign (walk on a treadmill during the Jan. 23, Feb. 1, 8 and 12 games) and the Notre Dame Women's Basketball SPIN-A-THON (a 24-hour event to ride stationary bikes on Jan. 22-23 at South Bend's Knollwood Country Club, which raised $24,000 for the cause).
In addition, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson (a Notre Dame alumna and breast cancer survivor) will be the keynote speaker at the "Docs in Pink" luncheon at 11 a.m. (ET) on Feb. 12 inside Club Naimoli at Purcell Pavilion.
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Notre Dame Pink Zone web page at www.UND.com/pinkzone.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year four 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 Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 25 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State.
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 -- senior 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 "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 15 different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 25 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, eight on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
Next Game: Syracuse
The Fighting Irish return home to tip off the month of February as they play host to Syracuse in a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST contest Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.
The Orange (15-4, 3-3), who have been receiving votes in the national polls for the last two months, have won their last two games as they prepare to entertain South Florida Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome before heading to South Bend next week.