Jan. 28, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
One of the country’s top offenses meets one of the country’s top defenses at high noon on Sunday as No. 8/9 Notre Dame plays host to Virginia at Purcell pavilion. ESPNU will broadcast the sold out game nationally.
The Irish rank in the top 10 nationally for both field goal percentage (fifth at 48.7%) and 3-point field goal percentage (ninth at 39.2%), adding up to a 19th-place standing in scoring offense at 78.0 points per game. Virginia leads the ACC for yielding just 52 points per game.
Notre Dame will count on a typically-packed home crowd, something which helped lift the Irish to Thursday’s night 62-58 win over No. 14 Duke if some late-game noise. The Virginia game will be the milestone 50th sell-out in school history with 44 of them coming since 2009-10. It will be the second this year, joining the Dec. 7 UConn game.
Notre Dame stands sixth nationally in average attendance (8,244) and also fifth in total (74,200) home attendance. Notre Dame is second nationally for operating at 90.11% of capacity at 9,149 seat Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, narrowly behind Gonzaga’s 91.35%.
Here are a few more things to know about the game.
About the Cavaliers
Virginia enters the game at 14-6 overall and 3-4 in ACC play on the heels of a stunning 76-27 win over rival No. 19 Virginia Tech on Thursday night in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers held the Hokies to single digit scoring in each of the final three quarters, including just two points in the third. Virginia is among the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (52.0) and opponent field goal percentage (33.8%). The Hokies were the fifth team this year to be held to 40 points or less by Virginia.
Virginia’s offense has just one double-figure scorer as Lauren Moses averages 10.8 points per game. However, the Cavaliers come with a highly-balanced attack as all five regular starters average between 9.3 and 10.8 points per game. Joanne Boyle is in her sixth season as head coach at Virginia and owns a 104-78 record there. She is 308-171 overall as a head coach including her years at Richmond and California.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 3-2, with Virginia winning a pair of games in the 1980s and the Irish claiming each of the three meetings since joining the ACC.
Ranked UVa teams claimed victories over the Irish on a neutral court in Chicago in 1981 and at the Cavaliers’ University Hall in 1988. The Irish beat the Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena in 2014 and 2016 with Notre Dame also taking the only previous visit to Purcell Pavilion by UVa, 7-5-4, on Feb. 5, 2015.
Last year, Brianna Turner had 19 points and nine rebounds to help the Irish to a 74-46 win in Charlottesville. Marina Mabrey (15) and Arike Ogunbowale (13) each had double figures off the bench for the Irish. Turner’s near-double-double 2016 efforts came on the heels of a 2015 game against the Cavaliers in which she had 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Morgan to Enter Ring of Honor
Beth Morgan (Cunningham) will have her number 21 raised to the rafters in a postgame ceremony as she joins the Notre Dame basketball Ring of Honor. She will be the fourth representative from the women’s team, joining Skylar Diggins (4), Niele Ivey (33) and Ruth Riley (00). Ivey just joined the group on Dec. 4 with her timing ahead of Cunningham’s simply being a matter of timing out better days for their respective families.
An all-state player at Bloomington South High School, Morgan was one of Muffet McGraw’s first elite level recruits to Notre Dame. She would graduate in 1997 as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,322 points, a number only since surpassed by Diggins’ 2,357. Morgan was a two-time honorable mention All-American, two-time first-team all-BIG EAST pick and a two-time team captain. Most notably, Morgan led the Irish to the 1997 Final Four (the program’s first) on the back of her career-high 326 points in a Sweet 16 upset of second-seeded Alabama.
After 11 years at Virginia Commonwealth, including nine as head coach, the now-Beth Cunningham returned to Notre Dame as associate coach for the 2012-13 season. Cunningham has helped the Irish to three Final Fours and a Sweet 16 in her first four seasons back at her alma mater coaching the team’s wing players (Erin Boley, Marina Mabrey and Jackie Young).
Allen and Turner Have Hot Hands
Allen assisted on 11 baskets in Chapel Hill and 12 more at home against Duke. It marked the first time a Notre Dame player had hit double figures in assists in consecutive games in exactly 12 years. Megan Duffy had 11 assists against Rutgers on Jan. 23, 2005, and 10 more against St. John’s on Jan. 26, 2005.
The school record is three consecutive games with 10-plus assists, a feat only previously done by Mary Gavin. Gavin had triplet 10-assist games four times, most recently from Feb. 11-17, 1988, against Detroit (12), Dayton (11) and Cleveland State (10).
Allen (725 career assists) averages 5.4 assists per game. Matching this on Sunday, she will pass Niele Ivey (727) for third all-time at Notre Dame and both North Carolina’s Nikki Teasley (728) and Virginia’s Dawn Staley (729) for the third-most in ACC history.
Turner collected a double-double in both of those contests with 24 points and 12 rebounds at North Carolina followed up by 25 points and 12 rebounds against Duke. Curiously, Turner’s six double-doubles this season have come in a trio of couplets. Turner picked up her other four 2016-17 double-doubles on Nov. 20 and 22 against Washington and UL-Lafayette, and on Dec. 7 and 10 against UConn and DePaul.
Also of note, four of Turner’s six double-doubles have come against ranked teams in No. 17 Washington (since moved up to 7), No. 1 UConn, No. 16 DePaul and No. 14 Duke. Turner also grabbed 10 rebounds in the win at No. 14 Miami but only scored seven points against the Hurricanes.
19-3 Seems Routine
The 2016-17 Irish stand at 19-3 on the year. This high rate of success is not uncommon. This is the sixth consecutive year where Notre Dame has started a season 19-3 or better.
The 2010-11 team was the last one to win less than 19 of its first 22 games and that squad still stood at a solid 18-4 at this mid-season juncture.
How to Watch/Listen
Sunday's matinee against Virginia will be a national telecast on ESPNU with Roy Philpott and Brooke Weisbrod on the call. It will also be streamed live online via WatchESPN.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Sunday's game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame's local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame's women's basketball and men's golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.