Jan. 29, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-0 / 6-0 ACC) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (10-9 / 0-6 ACC)
DATE: Jan. 30, 2014
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 5-1
1ST MTG: ND 75-64 (1/3/01)
LAST MTG: ND 53-40 (1/10/04)
TV: ESPN3/WatchESPN (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/buytickets
No. 2 Fighting Irish Return Home To Take On Virginia Tech Thursday
After posting its second road win over a top-10 opponent in a week, No. 2 Notre Dame is back inside Purcell Pavilion Thursday as it plays host to Virginia Tech in a 7 p.m. (ET) ACC contest that will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app. The Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast also can be heard online through the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
Notre Dame (19-0, 6-0) showed exceptional grit and determination in its last outing at No. 8/6 Maryland, building a 22-point lead, then seeing it evaporate before coming through with clutch baskets down the stretch for an 87-83 nationally-televised victory on Monday night.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd set the pace for the Fighting Irish with a career-high 31 points and six assists (plus seven rebounds), while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride added 20 points (including the clinching basket with 11 seconds left) and sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey came off the bench to chip in 13 points.
The Notre Dame-Virginia Tech Series
Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will be resuming a series that began when both teams were part of the BIG EAST Conference from 2000-04. In that time, the Fighting Irish built a 5-1 series lead against the Hokies, including a 3-0 edge in South Bend.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Virginia Tech Met
Jacqueline Batteast collected her fourth double-double of the season with game highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Teresa Borton added a season-best 14 points and Notre Dame dominated inside, beating No. 16/15 Virginia Tech 53-40 on Jan. 10, 2004, at Purcell Pavilion.
The Hokies shot just 33.3 percent, their second-worst shooting game of the season, and lost their second straight after opening with 12 straight victories. Meanwhile, Notre Dame beat a ranked team for the first time since its season-opening victory over then-No. 22 Auburn at the WBCA Classic in Boulder, Colo.
The Fighting Irish outscored the Hokies 32-20 inside and outrebounded Virginia Tech 41-31, including 22-9 in the second half. Notre Dame also held the Hokies without an offensive rebound over the final 22:45, including the entire second half.
Katy Flecky, who had played sparingly of late while recovering from a sprained ankle, scored all seven of her points during a decisive 22-7 second-half run by the Fighting Irish.
Virginia Tech, which led 20-16 at halftime, tied the score at 29 when Dawn Chriss scored an easy basket on an inbounds pass, but Notre Dame responded with a 9-0 outburst, highlighted by a three-point play from Flecky. Kerri Gardin, who led the Hokies with 10 points, hit a 12-footer and pulled Virginia Tech within 41-35, but the Fighting Irish again answered, this time with a 10-0 run, including a three-pointer by Flecky.
Batteast and Borton each had 10 second-half points for Notre Dame, which overcame 23-percent shooting in the first half with 50-percent accuracy in the second.
Virginia Tech's Ieva Kublina did not score in the second half and was limited to three points on 1-for-5 shooting, well below her team-best average of 13.3 points.
Other Notre Dame-Virginia Tech Series Tidbits
Getting The Jump
At 19-0, 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 19-game winning streak is the fifth-longest success string in program history, and it's the third consecutive season the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 19 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 54-2 (.964) and have won 42 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.).
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 Monday, 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.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 30 consecutive regular season road games (and 37 of its last 42 overall), including the Jan. 27 victory at No. 8/6 Maryland. 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 19 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).
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish entered this week's action leading the nation in assists at 22.1 per game. Notre Dame has dished out at least 20 helpers in 14 games thus far (including a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 65.3 percent of their made field goals this year (420 of 643).
Notre Dame also ranks fourth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.51).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .514 field goal percentage, highlighted by 11 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 is tied for fourth in the ACC with a .571 field goal percentage, along with a .566 mark in conference play (seventh 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 .557, and both junior forward Markisha Wright and freshman guard Lindsay Allen at .552), but none 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 .443 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 .489 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 .443 three-point rate.
In addition, Mabrey is eighth in the ACC with 2.1 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 (.485) would be third in the ACC in three-point percentage, but she is three made triples shy of the minimum 1.0 3FG/game to qualify for ranking. Freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.478) 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 120 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 ninth in the ACC in scoring (17.7 ppg.), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.2 rpg.), assists (2.7 apg.), steals (1.6 spg.) and field goal percentage (.516). She also has six 20-point games thus far (including a career-high 31 points at No. 8/6 Maryland on Jan. 27) after scoring 20 points twice during her rookie campaign.
In fact, Loyd has two 30-point games to her credit this season, having also dropped in an even 30 against Central Michigan on Dec. 22 at Purcell Pavilion. Loyd is one of just two ACC players this season (along with Wake Forest's Chelsea Douglas) to post multiple 30-point games, and she is the first Fighting Irish player to have two 30-point games in the same season since 1999-2000, when Ruth Riley did so against Liberty (32) and Miami (36).
Perhaps giving a preview of things to come, 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 opening-week point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the first 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 1,525 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 1,275 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 (846) 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 .547 career field goal percentage, presently tied for eighth 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 7.6 points and 3.6 assists per game (the latter ranking 13th in the ACC). She also is tied for sixth in the ACC with a 2.0 assist/turnover ratio, and is not far from the top 15 in the conference with 1.26 steals per game.
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 46-1 in her last 47 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 (28.5 ppg. to 16.8 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 (10.0 ppg.), freshman forward Taya Reimer (8.3 ppg.) and junior guard Madison Cable (6.2 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen players score in double figures 17 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 10.0 points and 3.1 assists per game, while ranking second in the ACC (and 33rd in the nation) with a 2.23 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 .443 three-point percentage and placing eighth in the conference with 2.1 three-pointers made per game (thanks in part to making at least three triples in six games this year, including a career-high 5-of-6 vs. Boston College on Jan. 9).
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures 11 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.
Next Game: Duke
Notre Dame begins the critical month of February in one of the most challenging manners possible as the Fighting Irish travel to Durham, N.C., to take on No. 3 Duke in an ACC marquee matchup at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The game, which is the first of a home-and-home set between the programs, will be televised live on ESPN (and streamed online at ESPN3 and through the WatchESPN mobile app) as part of that network's new Sunday women's basketball package.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director