Feb. 1, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (20-0 / 7-0 ACC) vs. #3/3 Duke Blue Devils (21-1 / 8-0 ACC)
DATE: Feb. 2, 2014
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314)
SERIES: ND leads 6-1
1ST MTG: ND 74-67 (3/22/86)
LAST MTG: ND 87-76 (4/2/13)
TV: ESPN/WatchESPN (live) (Pam Ward, p-b-p / Carolyn Peck, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: goduke.com
No. 2 Fighting Irish Head To No. 3 Duke For ESPN Sunday Matinee
As it reaches the midpoint of its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), No. 2 Notre Dame encounters its biggest challenge to date, as the Fighting Irish travel to Durham, N.C., on Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against No. 3 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The game will be televised live on ESPN as part of that network's new Sunday women's basketball package.
Notre Dame (20-0, 7-0) is coming off an efficient 74-48 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish led from wire to wire, shooting 51 percent from the floor while limiting the Hokies to an opponent season-low .274 field goal percentage.
Senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride led four Notre Dame players in double figures with 18 points in just 21 minutes, while freshman forward Taya Reimer came off the bench to score 15 points and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd added 14 points, six rebounds and three steals.
The Notre Dame-Duke Series
Notre Dame and Duke will be meeting for the eighth time in their series history, with the Fighting Irish holding a 6-1 edge all-time against the Blue Devils. Sunday will mark the third time the teams have met in Durham (first since Nov. 22, 1997), with the two sides having split their previous two encounters at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Duke Met
Skylar Diggins shook off early foul trouble to score 24 points, and Notre Dame rallied to beat Duke 87-76 on April 2, 2013, in the NCAA Norfolk Regional final at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., earning its third straight trip to the Final Four.
Trailing by six at the half and looking disjointed without Diggins on the court, Notre Dame got back to playing the way it likes after the break and took control with a 15-2 run early in the second half to take a 50-42 lead.
Diggins started the run with her fourth three-pointer of the game and followed quickly with a no-look feed to Achonwa, who also grabbed 13 rebounds, for a layup that had drew an impressed roar from the crowd at Old Dominion's Constant Center. Diggins added a steal and a layup, and McBride finished the burst with another three-pointer.
Duke trailed by as many as 16 before closing the gap only slightly in the desperate final minutes. The Blue Devils, who lost in the regional finals for the fourth straight year, hurt their cause with 21 turnovers.
In the first half, the game developed better than Duke could have hoped.
Diggins was whistled for two fouls in the first 4:10 and went to the bench -- and after McBride hit a pair of jumpers, the Fighting Irish looked out of sorts. They extended their lead to 17-13 on a three-pointer by Kaila Turner and two free throws by Ariel Braker, then went more than seven minutes without a point.
A free throw by Elizabeth Williams for Duke ignited a 13-0 run that took more than six of those minutes. Tricia Liston, who led the Blue Devils with 19 points, scored eight in the burst, and Chloe Wells finished it with a 12-foot jumper.
Diggins returned with about eight minutes to go in the half and while playing passively on defense to avoid a third foul, hit three three-pointers in a span of 2:16, cutting a nine-point deficit to 32-31 with 1:07 left.
A basket by Williams and Wells' three just before the half gave Duke a 37-31 advantage.
Haley Peters added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Duke and Richa Jackson scored 12.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Duke Met At Cameron Indoor Stadium
Nicole Erickson led four Duke starters in double figures to lead 19th-ranked Duke to a 80-62 victory over visiting Notre Dame on Nov. 22, 1997, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Notre Dame, which trailed 38-29 at the half, fought its way back in the second half and cut the deficit to one, 55-54 with 8:13 left to play in the contest on Sheila McMillen's driving layup. Following McMillen's basket, back-to-back layups by Peppi Browne and Naz Medhanie hit a layup to put Duke back up to five. Julie Henderson's eight-foot jumper cut the lead to three, 59-56, with 7:16 to play, but then the Blue Devils used a 18-6 spurt over the next seven minutes to put the game away.
Erickson hit all six of her three-point attempts as she finished with a game-high 18 points. Payton Black had 16 points, Michele VanGorp added 13 and Browne netted 12 points as Duke improved to 2-0 on the season.
Mollie Peirick led Notre Dame with 11 points, while Henderson and Kelley Siemon each added 10 points. Peirick also finished with a game-high nine rebounds.
Notre Dame committed just six turnovers in the second half after having 12 in the first 20 minutes of the contest.
For the second straight game, the Fighting Irish struggled from the free throw line hitting just 13 of its 26 attempts. Duke also was inconsistent from the line hitting only 54.3 percent (19 of 35). The two teams were whistled for 52 fouls, with Siemon and fellow Notre Dame freshman Ruth Riley both fouling out in the game.
Other Notre Dame-Duke Series Tidbits
One Tough Stretch
Notre Dame is in the midst of one of the most challenging schedule stretches in the program's 37-year history. Sunday's game at No. 3 Duke will mark the third consecutive road game against a top-10 opponent for the Fighting Irish (following ESPN2 Big Monday visits to No. 11/10 Tennessee and No. 8/6 Maryland on Jan. 20 and 27, respectively), something they have never faced in the regular season since becoming a varsity program in 1977-78.
Notre Dame has never defeated three top-10 opponents on the road in the same regular season (the program has numerous postseason road wins over top-10 foes).
In fact, prior to last year, the Fighting Irish had not defeated two top-10 teams on the road in the same regular season before they earned victories at No. 1 Connecticut (73-72) and No. 9 Tennessee (77-67).
Notre Dame last played three regular season road games at top-10 opponents in the same campaign in 2010-11, losing at No. 9/10 Kentucky (81-76), No. 2/3 Baylor (76-65) and No. 2 Connecticut (78-57).
Getting The Jump
At 20-0, 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 20-game winning streak is tied for the fourth-longest success string in program history, and it's the third consecutive season the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 20 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 55-2 (.965) and have won 43 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.).
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).
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 22 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion. As of Friday, the Fighting Irish hold 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 14 conference home games since that loss to WVU in 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
Peaking When It Counts
When the regular season enters its stretch run in the month of February, Notre Dame historically seems to raise its level of play. Since 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 106-28 (.791) in February games, including a 59-6 (.908) mark at home.
In the 27-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), the Fighting Irish are 154-43 (.782) in the month of February, including an 81-12 (.871) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has never posted a losing record in February, and only once did the Fighting Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second year in South Bend).
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish entered this week's action in a virtual tie for the national lead in assists at 22.0 per game (Connecticut is at 22.0 even, Notre Dame at 21.95).
Notre Dame also 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 65.6 percent of their made field goals this year (439 of 669).
Notre Dame also ranks fifth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.49), led by three players who rank among the top 10 in the ACC in that category -- freshman guard Lindsay Allen (4th - 2.17), sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (5th - 2.14) and senior guard Kayla McBride (9th - 1.67).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .514 field goal percentage, highlighted by 12 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 fourth in the ACC with a .579 field goal percentage, along with a .586 mark in conference play (fifth in the ACC).
Freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.571), freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.567), junior forward Markisha Wright (.552) and junior guard Madison Cable (.549) aren't far behind Achonwa's pace, 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 .439 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 .478 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 .429 three-point rate.
In addition, Mabrey is 10th in the ACC with 2.0 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 six 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 (.486) would be second 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 (.500) 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 121 wins (121-14, .896), 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 15 games this year, going 15-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 90-5 (.947) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 60 of their last 61 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 11th in the ACC in scoring (17.5 ppg.) and 14th in steals (1.7 spg.), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.2 rpg.), assists (2.6 apg.), steals and field goal percentage (.510). 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.
What's more, 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 1,543 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 1,285 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 (851) 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 .548 career field goal percentage, presently ranking 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 3.8 assists per game (the latter ranking 11th in the ACC). She also is fourth in the ACC with a team-best 2.17 assist/turnover ratio, and is second on the team with 1.2 steals per game.
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 47-1 in her last 48 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 more than 28 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by close to a 2-to-1 margin (28.3 ppg. to 16.6 ppg.).
The Fighting Irish second unit has outscored its opposite number in 14 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 (9.5 ppg.), freshman forward Taya Reimer (8.6 ppg.) and junior guard Madison Cable (6.1 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen at least one reserve score in double figures in 16 games this season (total of 19 double-figure outings).
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 9.5 points and 3.0 assists per game, while ranking fifth in the ACC with a 2.14 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 with a .439 three-point percentage and placing 10th in the conference with 2.0 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: Florida State
Notre Dame plays the last of five first-time opponents on its regular season schedule (and second in ACC play) when it travels to Tallahassee, Fla., on Thursday for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup with No. 23/25 Florida State at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The inaugural meeting between the Fighting Irish and Seminoles will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director