Feb. 15, 2013
#2/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-1 / 11-0 BIG EAST) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (12-12 / 4-7 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 17, 2013
No. 2/3 Fighting Irish Head To Marquette For Sunday Matinee
Notre Dame (23-1, 11-0) last played on Monday night, leading from the opening tip to the final horn in a 93-64 win over No. 10/11 Louisville at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish posted their best field goal percentage of the conference season (.567) and held a 44-23 rebounding edge to improve to 7-1 against Top 25 teams.
Junior forward Natalie Achonwa chalked up her BIG EAST-leading 13th double-double of the season with game highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds, while senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins added 21 points (on 9-of-13 shooting) and seven assists for the Fighting Irish.
Other Notre Dame Notables
MU is coming off one of those close losses, a last-second 54-52 setback at Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Senior forward Sarina Simmons scored a game-high 19 points and junior forward Katherine Plouffe dodged foul trouble to add eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
Plouffe leads Marquette in scoring (12.9 ppg.) and rebounding (7.5 rpg.), while sophomore guard Arlesia Morse adds 11.7 points per game with a team-high 39 three-pointers this year.
Head coach Terri Mitchell is in her 17th season at Marquette with a 322-200 (.617) record, including a 2-11 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Marquette Series
The Fighting Irish are 31-6 all-time against the Golden Eagles, including an 11-5 record in Milwaukee (2-2 at the Al McGuire Center since it opened in 2004).
And while head coach Muffet McGraw didn't want to reveal what the prize was, she could not have been happier with both players' performance in Notre Dame's 95-42 victory over Marquette on Dec. 7, 2011, at Purcell Pavilion in the BIG EAST opener for both teams.
The No. 3-ranked Fighting Irish beat the Golden Eagles by forcing 37 turnovers, 18 of which were steals. Diggins had six of those steals and Mallory two.
Sarina Simmons led Marquette with 14.
Notre Dame was efficient with its turnovers, scoring 46 points. The Fighting Irish also were able to pass the ball inside at will, scoring 52 points in the paint.
Notre Dame forced four early turnovers and used a 9-0 run to jump out to an early 11-3 edge at the 17:15 mark. The defensive intensity continued to pay dividends in the next six minutes, as the Fighting Irish forced another five turnovers and converted most of them into easy layups for a 29-12 lead.
Notre Dame had 15 points off turnovers in the first nine minutes. Notre Dame set up in the Marquette paint for the rest of the half and went into the intermission with a 51-23 lead.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Marquette Met In Milwaukee
The 6-2 forward came in averaging 9.8 points, but had 12 in the first half for Notre Dame. She made 9 of 12 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, made four steals and blocked two shots for the Fighting Irish.
Peters made four layups and a tip-in in the first half as Notre Dame scored 24 points in the paint to Marquette's eight.
Natalie Novosel added 14 points, including 10 during a decisive second half run for Notre Dame.
Tatiyiana McMorris scored 15 points to lead Marquette, which shot 33.9 percent and had 24 turnovers.
Angel Robinson scored 14 points and her jumper to open the second half pulled Marquette to 40-33, but then Notre Dame's defense took over. After Robinson's shot, the Golden Eagles went 1 for 15 with seven turnovers and let the game slip away.
Novosel's 10 points sparked a 19-3 run capped by Skylar Diggins' two free throws that pushed the lead to 59-36 with 10:44 left to play.
Other Notre Dame-Marquette Series Tidbits
McGraw's Milestone Moment
McGraw also became the eighth-fastest Division I coach to reach the 700-win milestone, hitting the mark in 957 games and quicker than several other notable coaches such as North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell (966 games), Ohio State's Jim Foster (973), former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan (998) and two now-deceased Hall of Fame coaches -- Sue Gunter (1,004, most notably at LSU) and Kay Yow (1,021, primarily at North Carolina State).
Peaking When It Counts
In the 26-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), the Fighting Irish are 151-43 (.778) in the month of February, including an 80-12 (.870) 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 Class Like None Other
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 12-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley and current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey.
Start Me Up
The 2000-01 Fighting Irish national championship squad opened with 23 consecutive wins before losing in game No. 24 (54-53 at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001).
In 2009-10, Notre Dame won 15 in a row to start the season, then put together an eight-game winning streak after its first loss.
Last season, Notre Dame was in the midst of a 21-game winning streak that helped boost the Fighting Irish to that 23-1 record.
Beyond The Halfway Mark
The past two times Notre Dame has started 11-0 in the BIG EAST, it has gone on to win the conference regular season title (shared in 2000-01, outright in 2011-12).
The school record for the best start to a BIG EAST season is 15-0, set back in 1999-2000.
Streak Stats, Part I
Notre Dame also has strung together 13 double-digit winning streaks in the program's 36-year history, with 11 of those coming during the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-88 to present).
Streak Stats, Part II
Notre Dame's current streak is its longest in the BIG EAST since a school-record 18-game run from Feb. 17, 1999-Feb. 22, 2000 -- that streak included wins in the final three conference games of the 1998-99 season, plus 15 in a row to start the 1999-2000 league slate (the latter run matching this year's streak for the longest in a single BIG EAST season in program history).
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.
Prior to the past two years, the school record for consecutive regular season road wins was held by Notre Dame's 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 13 consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The previous school record for consecutive BIG EAST regular season road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.
The Notre Dame record for consecutive regular season road victories in any conference is 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).
The Fighting Irish have registered 20-or-more wins 23 times in the 26-year Muffet McGraw era and 27 times in the program's 36-year history.
McGraw herself has coached 25 20-win seasons (adding in two during her five-year tenure at Lehigh from 1982-87), placing her ninth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches, and seventh among active coaches.
Spreading The Wealth
Everyone Pitches In
Thus far in 2012-13, it would appear the Fighting Irish are making this mission truly a team effort. On the scoring side, 10 of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including junior forward Ariel Braker (eight times, after having two double-figure games in her first two seasons combined), sophomore guards Madison Cable (three times) and Whitney Holloway (once - the first double-digit games of Cable and Holloway's careers) and freshman guards Jewell Loyd (16 times) and Michaela Mabrey (three times).
On the backboards, junior forward Natalie Achonwa is second in the BIG EAST at 9.2 rebounds per game and has piled up 13 of her 15 career double-digit rebounding games this year. The Guelph, Ontario, native, and 2012 Canadian Olympic Team member also has a BIG EAST-leading 13 double-doubles (six against ranked opponents, six in conference play) after logging one double-double in her career prior to this season.
The Best Things In Life Are Free
Through 24 games, the Fighting Irish lead the nation in free throw percentage, shooting a remarkable .797 (429-of-538) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .941 (16-of-17) on Jan. 23 in a victory at Pittsburgh.
On average, Notre Dame is getting to the line better than 22 times per game, converting nearly 18 free throws a night. At the same time, the Fighting Irish have made more than 36 percent more foul shots than their opponents have attempted (429 made, 314 opponent attempts).
Last year, Notre Dame set a school record by connecting at a .763 clip from the foul line, leading the BIG EAST with a stellar .807 percentage during conference play.
Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making 56 of 60 free throws (.933) to lead the conference. She also would rank fourth in the nation, but she is four made free throws shy of the minimum for qualification (2.5 FTM/game).
McBride is one of four Notre Dame players who appear among the top 10 in the current BIG EAST free throw rankings, with senior guard Skylar Diggins ranking fourth (.820), freshman guard Jewell Loyd standing eighth (.797) and junior forward Natalie Achonwa ranking ninth (.794).
For her career, McBride has logged an .891 free throw percentage, putting her ahead of Alicia Ratay's school-record mark (.872) from 1999-2003.
Diggins joins Riley (2,072 points from 1997-2001), Katryna Gaither (2,126 points from 1993-97) and current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham (2,322 points from 1993-97) as the only players to reach the 2,000-point milestone in a Fighting Irish uniform.
Two other interesting side notes -- Diggins is the first Fighting Irish women's basketball player to score her 2,000th point at home, and she is the third Indiana native among Notre Dame's four 2,000-point scorers (Cunningham hails from Bloomington, Ind.; Riley comes from Macy, Ind.; Gaither grew up in Mt. Vernon, N.Y.).
Diggins Challenging School Records
The Diggins Factor
Upon closer examination, Notre Dame's 19 losses in Diggins' career primarily have been ones that could have gone either way, with 11 decided by single digits (six were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.
With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10. Notre Dame is on pace to mirror those figures this season, currently averaging 80.4 ppg. (which ranks third nationally as of Friday).
In addition, thanks to Diggins' penchant for steals (she has a 2.45 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10. And again, Notre Dame is in position to challenge those totals this season, currently averaging 11.3 spg. (which would put the Fighting Irish around 350 steals by the end of the regular season).
The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11. The Fighting Irish aren't far off those marks so far this year, presently allowing 56.1 points per game.
During the summer of 2012, Achonwa was a key contributor on Canada's Senior National Team, helping leading her country to its first Olympic appearance in 12 years. Not content to merely qualify, Canada then earned two hard-fought wins in the group stage to reach the Olympic quarterfinals (medal round) for the first time since 1984.
As the second-youngest player in the London Olympic Basketball Tournament at the tender age of 19, Achonwa averaged 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, highlighted by a 14-point, eight-rebound effort against eventual Olympic silver medalist France during the preliminary round.
Parlaying her Olympic experience, Achonwa has moved seamlessly into Notre Dame's starting lineup this season after spending her first two years as an important reserve. The Guelph, Ontario, native was expected to take on a larger role this year with the graduation of two-time All-American Devereaux Peters, but Achonwa has taken that growth to a whole new level, nearly doubling her averages in scoring (7.6 to 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding (4.4 to 9.2 rpg.), while scoring in double figures 19 times and grabbing double-digit rebounds on 13 occasions (including a career-best 17 rebounds on Dec. 29 against No. 11 Purdue).
What's more, Achonwa came into this season with one career double-double and a career scoring high of 20 points. This year, she leads the BIG EAST in double-doubles (13, including six against ranked teams and six against conference foes) and has five 20-point games to her credit (career-high 23 vs. Utah State on Dec. 8). She also ranks among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in scoring (18th - 13.8 ppg.), rebounding (2nd - 9.2 rpg.), field goal percentage (6th - .539; also 17th nationally) and free throw percentage (9th - .794).
Achonwa's development has not gone entirely unnoticed, as she was named to the World Vision Classic All-Tournament Team, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to the title with 22 points and a (then) career-high 14 rebounds in the championship game win over No. 22 Texas A&M. Achonwa also is one of three Notre Dame players (along with senior guard Skylar Diggins and junior guard Kayla McBride) to make the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll at least three times this season, earning a spot on the Dec. 10, Jan. 14 and Feb. 11 rundowns.
The Erie Warrior
McBride currently ranks 14th in the BIG EAST in scoring (14.2 ppg.) and leads the conference in free throw percentage (.933), and she would rank fourth in the nation in the latter category, but she is four made free throws shy of the minimum for qualification (2.5 FTM/game). In both scoring and foul shooting, she is posting career-high marks, including an improvement of better than 22 percent in her scoring average from last year (11.6 ppg.).
McBride also is among the team leaders this season with 19 double-figure scoring games, including at least 15 points in seven of Notre Dame's eight games against ranked opponents to date (16.8 ppg.) and a career-high 21 points at No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 5.
In fact, in her last 23 games against Top 25 opponents, McBride is averaging 14.3 points per game, scoring in double figures 20 times and posting both of her career double-doubles (10 points, career-high 12 rebounds vs. No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 7, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion; 13 points, 10 rebounds at No. 13/14 Rutgers on Jan. 31, 2012).
The Lincolnwood, Ill., native has appeared in all 24 games for the Fighting Irish this season (starting 23 times), scoring in double figures 16 times, earning her first career double-double (18 points/13 rebounds at South Florida on Jan. 8) and posting three "5-5-5" games.
Loyd currently ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (25th - 12.0 ppg.) and free throw percentage (8th - .797), and would be third in the conference in three-point percentage (.417), but she is four made three-pointers shy of the minimum (1.0 3FGM/game).
She also is a three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week selection, first earning that honor on Nov. 26 after averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists with a .727 field goal percentage in wins over Mercer (19 points/six rebounds/five assists) and at No. 19/22 UCLA (19 points/seven rebounds/five assists).
Loyd then became the first repeat honoree of the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week award this season when she was tapped for the designation on Dec. 10 after averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals with a .481 field goal percentage (.556 three-point percentage) against No. 3 Baylor and Utah State.
Loyd made it three rookie honors this year with her Jan. 14 award, averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in wins over USF and Rutgers.
Loyd opened eyes on the national scene with a season- (and game-) high 24 points and team-best seven rebounds in the 73-61 loss to Baylor on Dec. 5 at Purcell Pavilion. The 5-foot-10 guard connected on her first four three-point attempts of the evening (finishing 4-of-5 from beyond the arc) on the way to notching the most points by a Fighting Irish rookie against a ranked opponent since Jan. 26, 2002, when Jacqueline Batteast scored 26 points in Notre Dame's 64-57 win over No. 16/17 Virginia Tech at Purcell Pavilion.
What's more, Loyd also scored the most points by a Notre Dame freshman against an opponent ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since Feb. 19, 2000, when Alicia Ratay netted 26 points (including a school-record 7-for-7 three-pointers) in a 78-74 overtime win at No. 8/11 Rutgers.
Game #24 Recap: Louisville
The Fighting Irish outrebounded the Cardinals 26-8 in the second half and outscored them 26-10 in the paint in the final 20 minutes en route to a 93-64 victory Monday night, the 18th straight win for Notre Dame. Natalie Achonwa led the Irish with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Louisville managed to cut Notre Dame's lead to seven points early in the second half, but the Fighting Irish quickly responded with a 10-0 run and the Cardinals didn't threaten again.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for Louisville (20-5, 8-3), its second longest BIG EAST winning streak since joining the league in 2005-06. Bria Smith led the Cardinals with 18 points.
Beyond The Box Score: Louisville
The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26 with their No. 5 ranking, which was their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It not only extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), but it made the Fighting Irish are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What's more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (72 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (61) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).
Notre Dame started the year at No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 13th time in the past 14 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only seven schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 14 during that span, while Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 13 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 250 weeks during the program's 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish held steady at a season-best No. 3 for the sixth consecutive week in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, after spending the previous seven weeks in the No. 5 spot.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 111 of the past 112 weeks (and 75 in a row), falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 244 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the fifth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 11 of the past 15 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Besides her 250 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 to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart in PDF version of this notes package), with McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).
The Benefits Of Leadership
Collectively, the Notre Dame staff has 45 seasons of head coaching experience, which ranks fifth among Division I schools behind only Stanford (52), Villanova (50), Ohio State (48) and Rutgers (46).
Half And Half
What's more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 106-2 (.981) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
In the past four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 54-2 (.964) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level nine times this season.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 59-5 (.922) -- including wins in 35 of its last 37 home games -- and three of the five Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
Notre Dame also has a 126-20 (.863) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 108 of their last 117 non-BIG EAST contests (.923) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the nine losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT) and Baylor in 2012 (73-61). 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 382-90 (.809) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
For the fourth consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish produce two advanced sellouts (Dec. 5 vs. Baylor; March 4 vs. Connecticut).
Notre Dame is setting records at the box office again this season with nine sellouts in 11 home games (including seven of the past eight contests), topping last year's record of eight sellouts. In addition, the Nov. 18 game against Massachusetts marking the first home-opening sellout in school history. All told, the Fighting Irish have welcomed 34 sellout crowds in the program's 36-year tenure, including 28 in the past four years alone (2009-10 to present).
The Fighting Irish currently rank fifth in the nation in average attendance, drawing 8,950 fans per game, which is nearly 400 fans better than last year's school record and factors to nearly 98 percent of Purcell Pavilion's listed capacity of 9,149.
Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
The change in conference affiliation (for which a timetable has not yet been established) will be the first for Notre Dame since 1995, when the Fighting Irish moved from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) to the BIG EAST Conference.
In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women's basketball program has been the one of the conference's best, winning two BIG EAST regular season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 227-64 (.780) record in league play that remains the second-best regular season winning percentage in BIG EAST women's basketball history.
Next Game: DePaul