Feb. 8, 2008
#16/17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-5 / 5-3 BIG EAST) vs. #15/15 Pittsburgh Panthers (18-4 / 8-1 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 10, 2008
No. 16/17 Irish "Think Pink" For Sunday Matinee Against #15 Pittsburgh
Notre Dame (17-5, 5-3 BIG EAST) reached the midpoint of the BIG EAST schedule, and picked up its second consecutive victory in the process, winning 73-41 at Cincinnati on Feb. 2. The Irish scored 21 unanswered points during a stretch of more than 12 minutes crossing over halftime and were never seriously threatened in the second half.
Senior guard Charel Allen stuffed the stat sheet with game highs of 16 points, five assists and four steals, along with six rebounds. Freshman forward Devereaux Peters added muscle off the bench with 12 points for her third consecutive double-figuring scoring game.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Notre Dame also ranks among the top 20 in six NCAA statistical categories, including scoring offense (7th, 78.7 ppg.), scoring margin (9th, +18.5 ppg) and assist/turnover ratio (12th, 1.13), with more than half of its wins by 30 points or more. The Irish also lead the BIG EAST and rank 14th nationally in steals (12.27 spg) and have forced at least 20 turnovers on 15 occasions.
Senior guard Charel Allen, a first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America pick last year, is setting the pace for a balanced Notre Dame attack, averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game (15th in BIG EAST) and sharing the team lead with 45 steals (tied-8th in BIG EAST). She also has scored in double figures 19 times in 22 games, including a current string of 10 in a row.
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow has built upon last year's BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, ranking second on the team in scoring (12.9 ppg.) and tying Allen for the steals lead. She also boasts a team-high .353 three-point percentage and is 15th in the country with an .878 free throw percentage.
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader continues to work her way back to peak form after missing last year with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader is third on the squad in scoring (10.3 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (5.7 rpg.) as one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame's unique Princeton-based four-guard lineup.
Freshman forward Devereaux Peters has provided a strong spark off the bench, averaging 8.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and a BIG EAST-best 2.0 blocks per game (44th in the nation). She also has scored in double figures 13 times this year, including a season-high 15 points vs. Villanova and her first career double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) against top-ranked Connecticut.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Pittsburgh
Pitt (18-4, 8-1) rebounded from its first league loss on Wednesday with a 64-44 home victory over Seton Hall. Freshman forward Chelsea Cole, starting in place of injured all-BIG EAST senior center Marcedes Walker, tossed in a game-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and the Panthers held SHU to just 16 second-half points to lock up the win.
Junior guard Shavonte Zellous has continued the personal offensive surge that began last year, ranking second in the BIG EAST in scoring (20.1 ppg), and tops during conference play (22.7 ppg). Walker is averaging a double-double with 14.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, the latter ranking second in the BIG EAST.
Head coach Agnus Berenato is in her fifth season at Pittsburgh with an 83-59 (.585) record at the school. During her 24-year career, she has amassed a 366-323 (.531) record, with a 1-9 mark all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
The Last Time Notre Dame And Pittsburgh Met
Allen finished with seven rebounds, a career-high six assists and three steals, while Erica Williamson chipped in with 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds off the bench for the Irish.
Shavonte Zellous led three Pittsburgh players in double figures with 17 points, while Marcedes Walker added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Danielle Taylor collected 16 points in a reserve role.
The first half was played virtually even, with Notre Dame using a 10-3 run to go in front, but Pitt answered with a 9-0 spree of its own. Two late buckets by Williamson helping the Irish to a 28-26 halftime lead.
The first nine minutes of the second half were nightmarish for Notre Dame, as the Irish connected on only two field goals and saw the Panthers go on a 15-5 run. Notre Dame trimmed the margin to five points on three occasions, but Pitt then scored six of the next seven points and had a 10-point lead heading into the final media timeout (3:40).
At that point, Notre Dame began chipping away, eventually shrinking the margin to 63-60 on Allen's trey with under a minute to play. Taylor then beat the Irish press for a lay-up, but Lechlitner came back with her own lay-up off an Allen steal with 29.9 seconds left to keep the margin at three points.
Pitt had trouble with the ensuing inbounds under its basket and was whistled for a five-second violation. With a chance to tie, Lechlitner misfired on a 22-footer from the right wing, but Allen corralled the long offensive rebound. However, her heavily contested three-point try also was off-line and the ball went out of bounds back to Pitt, which salted the win away with two free throws and Taylor's midcourt shot as time expired.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Pittsburgh Met At The Joyce Center
Maddy Brown came off the bench to lead Pittsburgh in scoring with 13 points, knocking down 4-of-7 three-pointers in the contest. Danielle Taylor collected 10 points, while center Marcedes Walker tallied a double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds, despite shooting 2-of-12 from the floor.
Notre Dame held the lead for the first six minutes before Pittsburgh came alive, taking its largest lead of the night at 38-23 on Brown's third three-pointer of the period with 2:26 to go. The Irish trimmed the margin with some late buckets, but still found themselves on the short end of a 41-31 score at the intermission.
Cheron Taylor's layup and Brown's free throw, offsetting a jumper by Schrader, boosted Pitt's lead to 44-33 a minute into the second half. From there, Notre Dame put together a 13-1 run covering the next six minutes, taking their first lead since the opening minutes on Courtney LaVere's putback with 13:49 to go. Conversely, the Panthers went without a basket for 7:28 before Stewart tied the game at 48-all with 11:57 left.
The lead changed hands seven times during the ensuing three-plus minutes before Schrader put her team in front to stay on an old-fashioned three-point play at the 8:47 mark. The Notre Dame defense then rose up, holding the Panthers to one field goal down the stretch and canning 7-of-10 free throws to preserve the victory.
Other Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series Tidbits
Irish Thinking Pink This Weekend
As part of this initiative, Notre Dame players will wear special pink t-shirts during warmups and pink shoelaces during the game. In addition, the Joyce Center scorer's table crew will wear pink polo shirts, while the first 750 fans in attendance will receive "Think Pink" t-shirts, and numerous cancer survivors from around Michiana will join the Notre Dame players and coaches on the floor during starting lineups.
What's more, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw has pledged $10 for every rebound her team grabs in Sunday's game. The money collected will be split evenly between the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund and the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation.
Peaking When It Counts
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 120-34 (.779) 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).
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.
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least nine 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 22 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 seventh in the nation) at 78.7 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 22 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 83.8 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 ninth in the nation) in scoring margin at +18.5 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 30.5 points per game (compared to 48.2 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored all 22 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 8.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game (tied for BIG EAST Conference lead and 44th in the nation) with a .523 field goal percentage (ninth in the conference). Peters has come off the bench in 20 of 22 games this year, piling up 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 17-5 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 (8.9 ppg.) and has scored in double digits 13 times, while also sharing the BIG EAST Conference lead and ranking 44th in the nation in blocked shots (2.0 bpg.). Mallory is averaging 6.7 points per game, is second on the team with 21 three-pointers and chalked up a season-high 15 points on Jan. 19 at Georgetown. Bruszewski is logging 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, carding her third double-digit scoring game of the year with 10 points at Georgetown.
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 five players with at least 30 steals this season (and another with 28). Senior guard Charel Allen and sophomore guard Ashley Barlow lead the way with 45 steals apiece, tying for eighth in the BIG EAST in that category (2.05 spg). Allen has been especially potent of late with 10 steals in the past two games, including a career-high six in the win over Providence.
Notre Dame also tied Connecticut for the BIG EAST title in steals last season (9.69 spg. in league play; 10.47 overall), the first time the Irish won a conference steals crown since 1989-90, when they led the Horizon League with 10.93 steals per game.
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 64 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 153 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 13th consecutive week, moving up four places to 16th 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 seven teams in the latest Associated Press poll. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 4), 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. 7 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Four of the top five teams in the poll have combined to win the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
Game #22 Recap: Cincinnati
Freshman forward Devereaux Peters scored 12 points as a reserve, and senior guard Tulyah Gaines and sophomore guard Ashley Barlow each added 11 to help Notre Dame (17-5, 5-3 BIG EAST) get back-to-back wins after consecutive losses.
Jill Stephens scored 14 points, and Kahla Roudebush had 11 for Cincinnati (10-11, 1-8).
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 UC 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.
Noting The Cincinnati Game
Irish Picked Fifth In BIG EAST Poll
Senior guard Charel Allen was one of 11 players selected to this year's Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Allen averaged a team-high 17.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season and ranked second in the BIG EAST with 19.3 points per game in league play. She went on to earn first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America laurels. while helping the Irish go 20-12 and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Half And Half
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame is 14-1 this year when holding opponents below 60 points, with No. 16 West Virginia the lone exception (56-50 on Jan. 13).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame has won 11 of 12 games this season when it reaches 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 71 of their last 77 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) 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 (62-51 in 2005; 87-63 in 2008). 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 308-82 (.790) 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. For the third time in four years, and the second consecutive season, Notre Dame will equal the most regular-season home games (16) in school history. However, in 2004-05, the Irish played host to all four rounds of the Preseason WNIT before its regular 12-game home slate began. Notre Dame also played two Preseason WNIT games at home this year, in addition to its previously-scheduled 14-game Joyce Center docket.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame has expanded its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish home games (11 regular-season, two exhibition) that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Since the start of its 2000-01 NCAA championship season (and including this year's broadcasts to date), Notre Dame now has played in 107 televised games, including 58 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
The first phase of the project, to begin in September, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new two-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 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 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 men's and women's basketball seasons and the end of the women's volleyball season.
The University announced last October that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III. A month later, another major gift of $5 million from Notre Dame graduate Vincent J. Naimoli was announced.
The arena will be named Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center -- and the new club/hospitality area and two outdoor patios will be named for the Naimoli family.
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: Marquette
Despite losing four key starters off last year's NCAA second-round squad, Marquette (13-9, 5-4) has battled its way up the BIG EAST standings, and currently is among a logjam of five teams separated by a game and a half in the middle of the league table. The Golden Eagles will visit No. 23/24 Syracuse Sunday afternoon before heading to South Bend next week.