Feb. 7, 2009
#19/16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-5 / 5-4 BIG EAST) vs. #25/25 DePaul Blue Demons (18-5 / 6-3 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 8, 2009
No. 19/16 Irish Face No. 25 DePaul In Sunday "Pink Zone" Matinee
For the first time in five opportunities this season, Notre Dame (16-5, 5-4) fell to a ranked opponent on Tuesday night, dropping an 82-70 decision at No. 22/24 Pittsburgh. The Irish started slowly, falling behind by 11 points and while they clawed back to within one point twice, they couldn't entirely climb out of their early hole.
Two of Notre Dame's young posts -- sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and freshman forward Erica Solomon -- shared team-high scoring honors with 14 points, while Solomon also collected a team-best eight rebounds.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
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 DePaul
DePaul (18-5, 6-3) is coming off a 57-51 win over visiting Georgetown on Wednesday night, thanks to sophomore guard Sam Quigley, who scored the last seven points of the game in the final 64 seconds. Quigley finished with 15 points, while senior forward Natasha Williams had a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Deirdre Naughton is averaging a team-best 16.1 points and 5.0 assists per game, ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in both categories. Williams adds 15.0 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game, while setting the conference pace with a .636 field goal percentage.
DePaul head coach Doug Bruno is 432-247 (.636) in 23 seasons at his alma mater, including an 11-7 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-DePaul Series
The two schools also are tangling as conference foes for the 18th time between their affiliations in the North Star and BIG EAST conferences, with the Irish owning a 9-8 regular-season lead in these matchups (4-3 since DePaul joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06).
The Last Time ND And DePaul Met
Freshman guard Natalie Novosel added a season-high-tying 18 points, junior guard Ashley Barlow had 12 and senior guard Lindsay Schrader chipped in 11 for Notre Dame (13-1, 2-0 BIG EAST), which held DePaul's Deirdre Naughton, who averaged about 18 points, scoreless for the first time in her three-year college career on 0-for-8 shooting.
Notre Dame never trailed after going ahead 11-10 about six minutes into the game and led 44-30 at the half.
DePaul (12-4, 0-2) shot just 36 percent from the field, compared with 49 percent for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame also outmuscled DePaul underneath, with 20 second-chance points compared with 10 for the Blue Demons. The Fighting Irish outrebounded DePaul 50-29.
Felicia Chester led DePaul with a career-high 20 points. Keisha Hampton added 19 points for the Blue Devils, who had been undefeated at home this season.
The Last Time ND And DePaul Met At The Joyce Center
The Irish had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but Holly Medley stole the ball from Charel Allen with two seconds left and dribbled away as the clock ran out.
DePaul shot 72 percent in the first half and beat the Irish for the third straight time.
The Blue Demons, which led by two at halftime, went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to open a 58-49 lead. Allie Quigley ignited the run when she converted on a three-point play, then Naughton did it again 36 seconds later. Missy Mitidiero capped the run with a three-pointer.
The Irish cut the lead to 71-70 when Allen hit a three with 4:37 left. But the Blue Demons stretched the lead to five moments later when Natasha Williams scored inside and Quigley made a pair of free throws.
Brittany Mallory's two foul shots for the Irish cut the lead to 81-80. Quigley caught the inbounds pass and while being covered by Mallory lost her dribble out of bounds to give the Irish a chance with four seconds left. Quigley scored 16 points for DePaul, Williams had 14 and Mitidiero added 12.
Other ND-DePaul Series Tidbits
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
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.
Peaking When It Counts
In the 22-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 125-36 (.776) in the month of February, including a 66-10 (.868) 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 continued its trend of winning records in February under McGraw, going 6-1 with only a 57-51 loss at No. 5/4 Rutgers on Feb. 19, 2008.
Closer Than You Think
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.
On Tuesday at No. 22/24 Pittsburgh, Notre Dame nearly erased a 13-point first-half deficit, trimming the margin to one point twice, and even had a chance to tie, but missed one of two free throws 4:45 into the second half before the Panthers finally drew clear down the stretch.
A Real Smart Al-Lech
Lechlitner has more than doubled her scoring average from last year to 11.0 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 (13th, 3.4 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (ninth, 1.5). Her numbers are even better since BIG EAST play began, ranking 29th in the loop in scoring (11.1 ppg.), eighth in assist/turnover ratio (1.7) and assists (4.1 apg.) and 15th in three-point percentage (.375). Across the board, these averages are career highs, in some cases even doubling her previous bests.
Off the court, Lechlitner was 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
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 12 outings, averaging 9.3 points per game in that stretch. She has been especially solid in BIG EAST play, when she ranks fourth on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg.) and seventh in the conference with a .582 field goal percentage.
A two-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week, Novosel's progress was readily apparent on Jan. 27 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
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 914 career points.
Using Her Charge Card
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
More than half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 222 thefts (10.6 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
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.
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.
New Kids On The Block
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 16-5 record. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least twice (Novosel-7, Solomon-6, Watson-3), 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
The only three players on this year's Irish roster who have not taken a turn leading the team in scoring thus far are injured sophomore forward Devereaux Peters (out for season with torn ACL in her left knee), freshman guard Fraderica Miller and walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19.
The balanced scoring load has reappeared for the Irish in the past seven games, with seven different players leading the team in scoring (including different leaders in the past five contests) -- in order, they have been Williamson (Georgetown), Barlow/Lechlitner (Marquette), Lechlitner (St. John's), Barlow (Villanova), Novosel (Rutgers), Schrader (Cincinnati) and Bruszewski/Solomon (Pittsburgh).
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with Miller and Christiansen aiming to join that club.
More On The Balance Beam
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 27th in the nation in steals (2.8 spg.).
A Start We Can Believe In
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 172 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 33rd consecutive ranking in this week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, dipping three spots to No. 16. 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 164 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 172 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
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 #21 Recap: Pittsburgh
Xenia Stewart and Taneisha Harrison scored 17 points and Shayla Scott added 11 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Panthers (17-4, 7-2 BIG EAST).
Pepper Wilson had 12 rebounds for Pittsburgh. Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and freshman forward Erica Solomon scored 14 points for Notre Dame (16-5, 5-4), which has lost four of its past six games.
Notre Dame, which never led, closed to 49-48 on Erica Williamson's basket five minutes into the second half. Zellous then scored eight points during a 14-6 Pitt run which put the Panthers ahead 63-54. The Irish got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Noting The Pittsburgh Game
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
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
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
This season, Notre Dame is 14-2 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.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame is 8-1 in such games this season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati. The lone loss came Jan. 24 at Villanova (55-48).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
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
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 320-83 (.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.
On Jan. 27, 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 Sunday's 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
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.
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
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 130 televised games, including 80 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
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 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 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.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
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
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: Louisville
The Cardinals (21-2, 8-1) have won 16 of their last 17 games coming into Saturday's home game vs. West Virginia and sit just one-half game behind Connecticut in the BIG EAST standings.