Feb. 1, 2008
#20/20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-5 / 4-3 BIG EAST) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (10-10 / 1-7 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 2, 2008
No. 20 Irish Reach BIG EAST Halfway Mark Saturday At Cincinnati
Notre Dame (16-5, 4-3 BIG EAST) snapped a two-game losing streak on Wednesday with an 85-54 win over Providence at the Joyce Center. The Irish overcame a cold shooting start (1of-10) with a tenacious defense that forced 29 turnovers and collected 23 steals, their highest total in more than 13 years and only one shy of the BIG EAST record.
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader led five Notre Dame players in double figures with game highs of 15 points and nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. Senior guard Charel Allen added 12 points and a career-high six steals, and freshman forward Devereaux Peters came off the bench to make 5-of-6 shots and score 12 points.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headlining a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Cincinnati
UC (10-10, 1-7) has lost six consecutive games entering Saturday's contest against Notre Dame. Most recently, the Bearcats fell to Louisville, 79-56 at home on Wednesday night. Redshirt sophomore guard Kahla Roudebush scored a team-high 19 points, but was the only Cincinnati player in double figures.
Roudebush is averaging a team-best 16.1 points per game this season (ninth in the BIG EAST), and is tied for sixth in the league with 2.25 three-pointers per game. Junior forward Jill Stephens is second on the team in scoring (13.5 ppg.; 18th in BIG EAST) and fifth in the conference in rebounding (9.5 rpg.).
Hall has a 96-72 (.571) career record, although Saturday is his first matchup with Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series
The Last Time Notre Dame And Cincinnati Met
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.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Cincinnati Met At Fifth Third Arena
Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere each scored a game-high 17 points. Duffy had 10 of her markers in overtime, including 8-of-8 at the foul line, while LaVere added seven rebounds and a season-high four blocks while making 8-of-11 shots from the floor.
Lindsay Schrader also made big contributions for Notre Dame, scoring five of her 11 points in overtime and coming up with the two biggest assists of the game -- to Gaines for the game-tying layup and then to LaVere for an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:07 left in OT that put the Irish ahead for good.
Treasure Humphries and Karen Twehues scored 14 points each for UC, while Michelle Jones had 11 points and nine rebounds.
The contest was a tight affair throughout, as the teams combined for 13 ties and 15 lead changes. Neither side led by more than six points at any time in regulation, with Notre Dame going on a 6-0 run to take a 28-22 lead on two foul shots by Gaines with 1:24 left in the first half. Despite a layup in the closing minute by Humphries, the Irish still took a four-point lead to the locker room.
Cincinnati scored 10 of the first 14 points in the second half, but Duffy canned a three-pointer with a little more than 12 minutes left, and the Irish were either tied or in front from that point forward until the final minute of play. A jumper by Charel Allen at the 4:06 juncture boosted the Notre Dame lead to 53-47 and forced a UC timeout.
After that break, the Bearcats responded with six consecutive points, the last on a bucket by Jones that tied matters at 53-all with 1:36 to go. The teams traded buckets down the stretch, with Humphries putting the hosts back in front on a tough off-balance jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw then diagrammed the game-tying play -- LaVere whipped a 75-foot baseball pass to Schrader, whose touch pass from the foul line to Gaines on the right wing was perfect, and the speedy guard drove all the way in for the equalizer as the horn sounded.
Other Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series Tidbits
Peaking When It Counts
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 119-34 (.778) in the month of February, including a 63-10 (.863) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February, and only once did the Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second season in South Bend).
Last year, Notre Dame went 6-2 in February, winning its first six before ending with losses to No. 21/22 Rutgers (76-60 at home) and DePaul (87-73 on the road).
Allen Named To Naismith Trophy/Wooden Award Midseason Candidate Lists
The former honor, named for the game's inventor, Dr. James Naismith, selected 31 of the country's top players for its midseason list, including eight BIG EAST Conference players. The second award, named for the legendary UCLA men's basketball coach, had an even more select group on its in-season watch list, with only 20 players chosen, including six BIG EAST selections.
Allen currently leads the team and ranks 15th in the BIG EAST in scoring (14.1 ppg.) and ninth in free throw percentage (.809). During league play, she is 13th in the BIG EAST in scoring (14.9 ppg.) and free throw percentage (.795), as well as sixth in steals (2.29 spg.). Allen also has scored in double figures 18 times in 21 games this season, including 16 of her last 17 contests, and scored a season-high 26 points in Notre Dame's BIG EAST opener at Louisville on Jan. 8 (an 82-74 Irish win). She was named to the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team back in November and earned a place on the Jan. 7 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll.
Allen also remains in contention for a third national-player-of-the-year award -- back in August, she was tabbed as a preseason candidate for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) State Farm Wade Trophy.
A full recap of Notre Dame's positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 11 of this notes package. The latest NCAA statistics report was scheduled to be released late Friday.
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least eight 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only six of those came in the first 21 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and eighth in the nation through Jan. 27) at 79.0 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 12 times this season. What's more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 21 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 84.3 points at this juncture on the way to the single-season school scoring record (81.0).
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points five times this season. That's the most 90-point games for the Irish in one year since 1998-99, when they tied the school record with seven 90-point games. In fact, during the six seasons prior to the current one (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks third in the conference (and 11th in the nation) in scoring margin at +17.9 points per game.
McGraw's Shock Troops
While Irish women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw may not quite be following Rockne's philosophy to the letter, she could easily rotate in much of her second unit and not see much decline in productivity. In fact, Notre Dame's bench is averaging 30.9 points per game (compared to 48.1 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored all 21 opponent benches this season by an average of +15.9 points per night.
Leading the way for this year's Irish "shock troops" is freshman forward Devereaux Peters, who is averaging 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game (second in the BIG EAST and 38th in the nation) with a .518 field goal percentage (11th-best in the conference). Peters has come off the bench in 19 of 21 games this year, dropping in a season-high 15 points and seven steals vs. Villanova before collecting her first career double-double (10 points, season-high 12 rebounds) on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut.
All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 16-5 record, with each one averaging at least 11 minutes and having scored in double figures at least three times. Peters is fourth on the team in scoring (8.7 ppg.) and has scored in double digits 12 times, while also placing second in the BIG EAST Conference and 38th in the nation in blocked shots (2.0 bpg.). Mallory is averaging 6.7 points per game, is second on the team with 20 three-pointers and chalked up a season-high 15 points on Jan. 19 at Georgetown. Bruszewski is logging 4.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, carding her third double-digit scoring game of the year with 10 points at Georgetown.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but three games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia) this year, with a season-high seven in double digits at Georgetown (the most in one game for the Irish since Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse).
What's more, the Irish fielded five double-figure scorers in three consecutive games from Nov. 20-27. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Notre Dame has made even the strongest ball-handling teams struggle this season. In fact, Villanova came into its Jan. 16 game at the Joyce Center leading the nation with only 11.2 turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats left town with 24 turnovers, their highest single-game giveaway mark in more than six years (Dec. 1, 2001 at Temple).
The Five-Finger Discount
Individually, the Irish have four players with at least 30 steals this season (and another with 29). Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow leads the way with 43 steals, ranking 10th in the BIG EAST in that category (2.05 spg). Senior guard Charel Allen is next with 41 steals (1.95 spg.), including a career-high six thefts against Providence.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Off And Running
Even in its defeat at third-ranked Maryland on Nov. 16, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
What's more, Allen is just 80 points away from moving into the top 10 on the Irish career scoring charts. The person currently holding down that 10th position? First-year assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had 1,430 points from 1996-2001.
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 152 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw currently ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also are in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 12th consecutive week, dropping four places to 20th in this week's balloting. Notre Dame's No. 14 rankings on Jan. 2-8 were the highest poll position for Notre Dame in two years, when the Irish were tabbed 12th by the coaches prior to the aforementioned losses to St. John's and Seton Hall.
More Polling Data
Of the 23 people on this elite list, 12 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.
Clutch When It Counts
In addition, the Jan. 27 audience marked the first time the Irish have attracted three crowds of 10,000 fans in the same season, as 10,825 fans took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan.
Start Me Up
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 13-2 start was the 2004-05 season, when the Irish won their first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. Notre Dame (which rose as high as third in the national polls that season) then reeled off six more wins before suffering consecutive loss at Villanova (59-54) and home vs. No. 16 Connecticut (67-50). However, the Irish rebounded with a 10-game win streak, finishing the year at 27-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame posted a 13-2 record on three other occasions, also doing so in 1999-2000 (27-5, NCAA Sweet 16), 1998-99 (26-5, NCAA second round) and 1977-78 (13-4, program's first varsity season when playing at AIAW Division III level).
We're Going Streaking!
Notre Dame also won six consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 20-Jan. 2). That was the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since a 10-game run from Nov. 17, 2000 to Feb. 14, 2001, a streak that ended with a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers (one of only two defeats for the Irish on their run to the NCAA title).
No Easy Road
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (75-59 loss on Nov. 16), the Irish now will face four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 5), Notre Dame also has or will play No. 1 Connecticut (lost 81-64 on Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center), No. 2 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center) and No. 4 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top five teams in the poll have combined to win five of the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
This season's burger watch is at six, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in both exhibition wins, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius and Valparaiso.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times, including each of the past three games that the Irish have scored 88 points at home.
Friends In Need
A loyal supporter of the Irish for many years, Patricia has assisted Notre Dame's coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio with numerous marketing and promotional activities, and also coordinated regular bus trips for fans to see the Irish on the road.
Patricia's OIT colleagues have created a web page to update supporters on her progress: http://oit.nd.edu/patricia.
Notre Dame also lost a treasured friend on Jan. 22, when longtime Joyce Center clock operator Mark Tulchinsky passed away. Mark was a dedicated educator in the South Bend Community School Corporation, most recently serving as principal at Tarkington Traditional School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark, his wife, Nan (the official scorer for Notre Dame basketball), and the Tulchinsky family.
Next Game: Pittsburgh
The Feb. 10 game also has been designated as the WBCA's "Think Pink" contest, as Notre Dame joins with more than 600 schools nationwide to help raise awareness for breast cancer (see sidebar at right for more details).
Pittsburgh (17-3, 7-0) currently holds its highest-ever ranking and joins Connecticut as the lone unbeaten squads in BIG EAST play this season. The Panthers will be tested Saturday when they play host to No. 4 Rutgers, with another home game vs. Seton Hall (Feb. 6) slated before next weekend's trip to South Bend.