Jan. 30, 2009
#17/13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-4 / 4-3 BIG EAST) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (13-6 / 3-3 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 31, 2009
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: ND leads 4-0
1ST MTG: ND 67-58 (2/13/82)
LAST MTG: ND 73-41 (2/2/08)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (video) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
No. 17/13 Irish Welcome Cincinnati For Saturday Matinee
Unfazed following consecutive losses for the first time all season, No. 17/13 Notre Dame aims to returning to its winning form on Saturday when it plays host to Cincinnati in a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup at the Joyce Center. The Irish also are in the midst of one of their longest home stretches of the season, playing four out of five in the friendly confines from Jan. 27-Feb. 11.
Notre Dame (15-4, 4-3) is dusting itself off after a 78-68 loss to visiting Rutgers on Tuesday night. The Irish picked a bad time for one of their coldest shooting halves of the season, hitting on 28 percent of their shots in the opening 20 minutes, while the Scarlet Knights built enough of a cushion to withstand a Notre Dame comeback in the closing moments.
Freshman guard Natalie Novosel came off the bench to pour in a career-high 19 points, while junior guards and team tri-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner added 18 and 17 points, respectively.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Cincinnati
Perhaps no team in the BIG EAST Conference has shown greater improvement to this point in the season than Cincinnati. The Bearcats (13-6, 3-3) already have surpassed their overall win total (12) from all of last year, and also have matched their BIG EAST victory output from 2007-08.
UC should come into Saturday's game at Notre Dame a rest ballclub, having not played since Jan. 24, when the Bearcats dropped a 65-34 decision to top-ranked Connecticut at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. UC was held to seven first-half points (on .107 shooting), but battled back and actually outscored the Huskies by a point over the final 20 minutes.
Freshman guard/forward Val Schuster came off the bench to score a team-high 11 points for Cincinnati, connecting on 3-of-7 three-pointers.
Redshirt junior guard Kahla Roudebush has mirrored her team's improvement by evolving into a multi-talented threat, averaging a team-best 16.3 points, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Senior forward Jill Stephens is dangerous from inside and outside, averaging 10.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game with a .532 field goal percentage (.481 from beyond the arc). Although just 5-foot-8, senior guard Angel Morgan is a threat on the boards, averaging 7.6 caroms per night (including a staggering 9.7 rebounds per game in conference play).
Head coach J. Kelley Hall is in his second season at Cincinnati with a 25-22 (.532) record. He also sports an overall record of 111-84 (.569) in seven years walking the sidelines, including a five-year stint at Louisiana-Lafayette from 2002-07. He is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series
Notre Dame and Cincinnati will meet for the fifth time in their short series history, while also tangling for the fourth consecutive year since the Bearcats joined the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish are 4-0 all-time against UC and have won both prior matchups at the Joyce Center.
The Last Time ND And Cincinnati Met
Charel Allen scored 16 points and led a pivotal run that swept No. 20 Notre Dame to 73-41 victory over Cincinnati on Feb. 2, 2008, at Fifth Third Arena.
Jill Stephens scored 14 points, and Kahla Roudebush had 11 for Cincinnati (10-11, 1-8), which has lost seven in a row and eight of its last nine.
Allen scored on a pull-up jumper, then stole the ball and fed Gaines for a layup to spark a 21-0 run that started late in the first half and continued after halftime, stretching a total of 12 minutes and 17 seconds. The run put Notre Dame in control at 38-26.
Roudebush scored four points on a pair of pull-up jumpers during a 9-0 Cincinnati run that gave the Bearcats their biggest lead, 26-17. Gaines scored four points in a 9-0 Notre Dame spurt that closed the half and tied it at 26.
Cincinnati missed its first five shots of the second half and committed eight turnovers while Notre Dame completed its decisive run. Cincinnati didn't score in the first seven minutes of the second half.
The Last Time ND And Cincinnati Met At The Joyce Center
Tulyah Gaines poured in a career-high 27 points, including 17 in the second half, to help Notre Dame post an 81-70 victory over Cincinnati on Jan. 10, 2007, at the Joyce Center.
Gaines also collected five assists and four steals for the Irish, while Charel Allen gave Notre Dame a first-half boost with 15 of her 19 points in the period. Allen also shared team-high rebounding honors with Erica Williamson, as both players grabbed seven caroms.
After spotting Cincinnati an early five-point lead, the Irish fired back with seven unanswered points, going in front on a three-pointer by Crystal Erwin at the 16:43 mark. The Notre Dame offense really kicked into gear soon after, on the back of a relentless defense that caused 17 Bearcat turnovers in the first half. The Irish led by as many as nine points in the period (27-18), before UC clawed back with a 14-6 run. However, the hosts stayed in front, taking a 37-34 edge to the locker room.
The Irish regained their footing early in the second half, as Melissa D'Amico dropped in a pair of buckets to spark a 14-6 run by the hosts, pushing Notre Dame's lead into double figures for the first time.
The Irish then put the game away with an 11-3 charge, getting seven points from Gaines to forge a 77-58 lead with 3:57 remaining before UC trimmed down the final margin against the Notre Dame reserves.
Other ND-Cincinnati Series Tidbits
In recent years, Notre Dame has shown exceptional resiliency when it comes to responding to a double-digit loss. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish are 49-13 (.790) in "bounce back" games, including a 1-0 record this season (defeating St. John's, 70-67 on Jan. 17, following a 10-point loss at Marquette four days earlier).
Overall, Notre Dame is 74-30 (.712) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) when playing its first game following a loss of 10 points or more.
Four of Notre Dame's wins this season have come against AP Top 25 opponents, marking the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent nearly half of the BIG EAST's nine Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than two Top 25 non-conference victories this season).
Reversal Of Fortune
Lest anyone think Notre Dame's current "bump in the road" (aka its two-game losing streak) is cause for concern -- the Irish went through a similar hiccup around this same time last year, dropping three out of five games from Jan. 13-27, 2008, including consecutive home games to DePaul (81-80) and Connecticut (81-64) late in the month.
Notre Dame then righted the ship by winning eight of its next nine games, finishing fourth in the BIG EAST and eventually advancing all the way to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the seventh time in program history.
Closer Than You Think
All four of Notre Dame's losses this season have come by 10 points or fewer, and in three of them, the Irish either led in the second half, or had a chance to take the lead down the stretch.
On Dec. 10 at Michigan, Notre Dame led by two with 13 seconds left in regulation, but a turnover allowed the Wolverines to send the game to OT. In the extra session, the Irish had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but came up short, falling 63-59.
On Jan. 13 at Marquette, Notre Dame led by as many as eight points in the second half, and trailed by only two with 4:30 to play before the Golden Eagles pulled away for a 75-65 win.
On Jan. 24 at Villanova, the Irish never led, but also rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to get within one point three times in the second half. Notre Dame had four second-half possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, but could never quite manage to break through, as the Wildcats gamely hung on for a 55-48 win.
A Real Smart Al-Lech
Junior point guard and tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner had started only once in her first two seasons at Notre Dame, but the Mishawaka, Ind., native seems to be making up for lost time this year, while emerging as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference.
Lechlitner has more than doubled her scoring average from last year, tying for 30th in the BIG EAST at 11.4 points per game, with 11 double-figure scoring nights (after 16 in her first two seasons combined). She also tossed in a career-high 19 points on Dec. 7 in a victory over No. 17/20 Purdue at the Joyce Center.
In addition, Lechlitner ranks among the conference pacesetters in assists (tie-14th, 3.2 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (11th, 1.4). Her numbers are even better since BIG EAST play began, tying for 26th in the loop in scoring (12.0 ppg.), ninth in assists (3.7 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (1.4), eighth in three-point percentage (.438) and 12th in free throw percentage (.826). Across the board, these averages are career highs, in some cases even doubling her previous bests.
Off the court, Lechlitner is a prime candidate for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District status, having been nominated for the honor after compiling a 3.357 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) through the fall 2008 semester as she works towards her degree in psychology.
Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Freshman guard Natalie Novosel earned the nickname "nasty" for her gritty and competitive style of play at Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Ky., but it would seem that moniker is becoming approproiate for her budding career at Notre Dame as well.
After scoring in double figures once in her first nine games (when she averaged 5.1 ppg.), Novosel has come alive with six double-digit games in her last 10 outings, averaging 9.8 points per game in that stretch. She has been especially solid in BIG EAST play, when she ranks third on the team in scoring (10.1 ppg.) and fifth in the conference with a .619 field goal percentage.
A two-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week, Novosel's progress was readily apparent on Tuesday night against Rutgers, when she came off the bench to score a season- (and career-) high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while adding four rebounds and three assists (with only one turnover) in 27 minutes of court time.
A Grand Occasion
Junior guard and tri-captain Ashley Barlow is closing in on becoming the 24th player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to score 1,000 career points. Barlow presently has 952 points in her two-plus seasons under the Golden Dome, and at her current season scoring pace of 12.5 ppg., she could reach the milestone on Feb. 11 at home against Louisville.
Barlow would be the first Notre Dame player to score her 1,000th career point since Charel Allen reached the mark on Feb. 26, 2007, at DePaul. Barlow also could be joined in the Irish 1,000-Point Club later this season by senior guard and fellow captain Lindsay Schrader, who presently has 887 career points.
Using Her Charge Card
Junior center Erica Williamson has developed an uncanny knack for drawing charges despite her 6-foot-4 frame. The Charlotte, N.C., product has taken a team-high seven charges this season, nearly half of Notre Dame's team total of 16 to date.
This is the first season the Irish have tracked charges taken (which are an unofficial stat not recognized by the NCAA), although it is believed Williamson drew at least a dozen offensive fouls last year.
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again this year, causing 387 turnovers (20.4 per game) through 19 games.
Almost half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 194 thefts (10.2 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons -- the first time the Irish won their league's steal title since 1990-91, when they took top honors in the old Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League) with a school-record 397 steals (12.4 spg.), while their 237 steals (14.8 spg.) in conference play remain a Horizon League standard to this day.
Born To Run
Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned nine game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.
Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That marked the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame is 18-7 (.720) in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past six road losses for the Irish have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including all three setbacks this season (63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13, and 55-48 at Villanova on Jan. 24).
From Dec. 28-Jan. 6, the Irish embarked on a four-game road swing, their longest regular-season trip since early in the 2002-03 season, sweeping games at Charlotte (68-61), No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (59-57), Seton Hall (66-60) and DePaul (86-62). It's the first time Notre Dame won four consecutive games, all on the road (opponent's home floor) since Jan. 7-19, 1991, when the Irish won at Butler (80-64), DePaul (81-66), Loyola-Chicago (66-55) and Marquette (91-73) in succession during Notre Dame's first full week as a ranked team in program history.
Wearing The Collar
Notre Dame held DePaul's leading scorer, Deirdre Naughton, scoreless in its victory on Jan. 6, marking the first time in Naughton's three-year career she had been shut out (she came into the game averaging 18.3 ppg.).
The last time the Irish blanked the opponent's leading scorer was Dec. 22, 2001, when Notre Dame kept Marquette's Rachel Klug out of the scorebook in a 60-33 win at the Joyce Center (Klug was averaging 13.7 ppg. at tipoff).
New Kids On The Block
It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame's freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.
With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class -- forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.
Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame's 15-4 record. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least twice (Novosel-7, Solomon-5, Watson-2), with both Watson and Novosel also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Watson - Dec. 1 & 8; Novosel - Dec. 29 & Jan. 12).
What's more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 16 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame's go-to defensive stopper, averaging one steal per game in her 13 appearances this season.
Notre Dame's knack for quick player development should come as no surprise -- the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen eight different players lead the team in scoring this season, with six of the Irish leading scorers registering a career-scoring high -- Becca Bruszewski at Boston College (18), Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19), Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown (21) and Natalie Novosel vs. Rutgers (19). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish six times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted three team-high scoring games.
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club (along with walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19).
More On The Balance Beam
Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in seven NCAA team statistical categories (as of Friday). Included in that count are a No. 10 rank in field goal percentage (.456) and a No. 23 rank in scoring offense (73.3 ppg.).
At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings -- junior guard Ashley Barlow currently stands 46th in the nation in steals (2.59 spg.).
A Start We Can Believe In
Notre Dame's 14-1 start was the second-best 15-game debut in school history. The only time an Irish squad started better than this year's club was 2000-01, when Notre Dame opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program's first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.
Notre Dame is ranked 17th in this week's Associated Press poll, dropping four spots from the last week's rank. Still, it is the 32nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 171 weeks during the program's 32-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 stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 32nd consecutive ranking in Tuesday's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, placing 13th after spending the previous week at No. 9. Notre Dame's season-high poll position of fourth on Jan. 6 and 13 was the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 5, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 3. Notre Dame has appeared in the coaches' poll for 163 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 171 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 24 people on this list, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Nostradamus In High Heels
With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program's first national championship.
Game #19 Recap: Rutgers
Brittany Ray scored a career-high 26 points, Epiphanny Prince added 24 and Rutgers beat No. 17/13 Notre Dame 78-68 Tuesday night.
Rutgers (12-6, 4-3 BIG EAST), which on Monday fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since Dec. 3, 2007, rebounded with just its third win in eight road games this season.
The Irish (15-4, 4-3) lost for the third time in four games.
Both teams struggled to get going. Rutgers missed its first seven shots, made five straight, then missed 11 in a row.
The Irish started even worse, missing their first 12 shots as they fell behind 17-4 before finally making their first basket, a layup by freshman guard Natalie Novosel nearly 10 minutes into the game.
Novosel led the Irish with 19 points and junior guard Ashley Barlow scored 18.
Noting The Rutgers Game
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters' injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame's win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Mallory underwent successful corrective surgery on Jan. 6, while Peters is expected to do the same in the coming weeks before both players begin their respective rehabilitation programs.
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA's hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a "medical redshirt") that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team's scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
With the injuries to Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame added junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen to its roster on Dec. 19. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has appeared in three games, averaging 1.0 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.3 minutes per contest.
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 159-16 (.909) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 87 of their last 97 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 13-2 when it is ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, and 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13.
Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 191-13 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame is 7-1 in such games this season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt. The lone loss came Jan. 24 at Villanova (55-48).
...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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 121-4 (.968) 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 has scored at least 80 points in seven games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
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 169 of their last 191 games (.885) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 95-16 (.856) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the 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 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- 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 Joyce Center, posting a 319-83 (.794) 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.
The Dec. 7 home game vs. No. 17/20 Purdue was sold out, representing the sixth women's basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game sold out.
On Tuesday, Notre Dame drew 10,082 fans for its game against Rutgers, marking the largest weeknight crowd in school history and the eighth largest overall audience in the program's 32-year annals.
In addition, approximately 1,000 tickets remain for the Feb. 8 WBCA Pink Zone game vs. DePaul.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version of this notes package.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including five games on the ESPN family of networks (including the Feb. 8 Pink Zone home game against DePaul which will air on ESPNU) and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 129 televised games, including 79 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame's Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year's NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Notre Dame Welcomes NCAA Pinnacle Of Fitness Challenge Program
The NCAA announced the details for the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge program which will energize middle school age children in nine cities across the United States and allow them to compete for a chance to win the national title in St. Louis during the week of the 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four.
The Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame is one of the nine sites for the competition and will host its first Middle School Challenge at halftime of the first-round game of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship that will be played on March 22. An additional Middle School Challenge will take place on March 24 during halftime of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship second-round game at the Joyce Center. For tickets call (574) 631-7356 or go online to www.UND.com.
The Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is an NCAA Division I women's basketball initiative of healthy living and education that will challenge and improve individuals and their communities. The 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is expected to involve 100 middle schools in nine selected cities, with 74,000 middle school students participating.
"The Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is an important and fun initiative that will connect the great game of basketball with youth in communities across the country to help in the promotion of improved physical fitness," said Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president of Division I Women's Basketball. "We have enjoyed the challenge of beginning the program in nine markets in 2009 and hope to expand the reach of the program in the future."
The cornerstone of the program is the Middle School Challenge, which will educate and challenge students to improve their level of physical fitness through leading active lives, goal setting and developing life skills. The program will reward youth for improving their health and wellness and will be conducted at sites that will host a first- and second-round or regional round of competition during the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.
The Middle School Challenge will begin with each of the competing middle schools conducting in-school physical fitness assessment and testing. The top-10 students from the competing middle schools will compete in progressive on-court competitions at the sites during the regular season and again during the championship.
Competing middle schools and individual students will be recognized through school rewards that include fitness support funding for equipment, special events and awards. The winning middle school from each region will be awarded the opportunity to compete in the NCAA National Pinnacle of Fitness challenge on center court at NCAA Hoop City Refreshed by Coca-Cola® during the 2009 Women's Final Four. There, one middle school will be named the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge champion.
For more information in regard to the Pinnacle of Fitness challenge, go online to www.ncaa.com/champ/wbasket-div1-champ.html or contact Denee Barracato at (317) 917-6643 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its "Big Mac" promotion for 2008-09, 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.
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark three times -- in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19) and Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
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 -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: Pittsburgh
Notre Dame tips off the final month of the regular season on Tuesday, when it travels to Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup with the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center. It will be the first visit to the Steel City for the Irish since the 2007 NCAA Tournament, when they defeated California, 62-59 in the first round and took North Carolina to the limit before falling, 60-51 in round two.
No. 21/24 Pittsburgh (15-4, 5-2) was riding a four-game winning streak entering its home game with Marquette on Friday evening.