Feb. 16, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-0 / 11-0 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-8 / 7-5 ACC)
DATE: Feb. 17, 2014
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 1-0
LAST MTG: ND 76-69 (11/30/96)
TV: ACC-RSN/ESPN3 (live) (Mike Hogewood, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/buytickets
No. 2 Fighting Irish Take On Georgia Tech Monday On Senior Night
Following a rugged 10-game stretch that included seven road games (three at top-10 opponents), No. 2 Notre Dame is back in the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion for three of its next four ACC contests, beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) Monday when Georgia Tech makes its first-ever trip to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish. The game will be televised live on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks (CLICK HERE for the latest affiliate listings) as well as at ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app, while the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast will be available free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
Notre Dame (24-0, 11-0) avoided the pitfalls of the recent East Coast snowstorm and a determined opponent to upend Boston College, 82-61 on Thursday night at Conte Forum. Senior guard Kayla McBride had a game-high 19 points, and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd chipped in 18 points for the Fighting Irish.
The Notre Dame-Georgia Tech Series
Notre Dame and Georgia Tech will meet for just the second time ever on the hardwood, and the first time in more than 17 years, when the Fighting Irish rallied past the Yellow Jackets, 76-69 in the title game of the 1996 Comfort Inn Downtown Classic in Atlanta.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Georgia Tech Met
Beth Morgan scored 14 of her 29 points in the final five minutes to propel No. 9/12 Notre Dame to a 76-69 victory at Georgia Tech in the championship game of the Comfort Inn Downtown Classic on Nov. 30, 1996, at O'Keefe Gymnasium in Atlanta.
Katryna Gaither, who was named the tournament MVP, sparked a 20-2 second-half run with eight points to help the Fighting Irish overcome a 44-28 deficit early in the half. Gaither had scored a (then) school-record 40 points a day earlier in a tourney-opening victory over Ohio.
Carla Munnion, who passed the 1,000-career point mark, led Georgia Tech with 27 points, but had only eight in the second half.
Kisha Ford added 14 points and seven assists for the Yellow Jackets.
Other Notre Dame-Georgia Tech Series Tidbits
Going Out On Top
Prior to Monday's game against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame will take time to honor its five departing seniors (forwards Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker, and guard Kayla McBride, plus student managers Megan Golden and Kelly Harmon) for their contributions to the program.
Notre Dame is 30-6 (.833) all-time on Senior Night, including a 23-3 (.885) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). In fact, the Fighting Irish lost their first Senior Night game under McGraw (69-68 vs. DePaul in 1988), but have proceeded to win on 23 of the past 25 Senior Nights since then. The only setbacks during this current stretch came in 2002, when Villanova edged the Fighting Irish, 48-45, to break Notre Dame's school-record 51-game home winning streak, and in 2007, when Rutgers pulled away late for a 76-60 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 125 wins (125-14, .899), 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/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey.
One Tough Stretch
Notre Dame is in the midst of one of the most challenging schedule stretches in the program's 37-year history, playing eight of its final 13 games against teams that are ranked or receiving votes, all during the closing six weeks of the regular season (five of those eight coming on the road).
With its 88-67 win at third-ranked Duke on Feb. 2, Notre Dame earned its third road win over a top-10 opponent this season, something the Fighting Irish had never done in a single regular season campaign during the program's 37-year history (Notre Dame has numerous postseason road wins over top-10 foes).
What made the Duke win even more remarkable is that it was the third consecutive road game against a top-10 opponent for the Fighting Irish, following ESPN2 Big Monday visits to No. 11/10 Tennessee (86-70 win) and No. 8/6 Maryland (87-83 win) on Jan. 20 and 27, respectively.
Before its recent run, Notre Dame had never even played top-10 teams in three consecutive road games during the same regular season, let alone defeated all three and done so in such a short period of time (13 days).
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) -- and those wins came more than three weeks apart.
Getting The Jump
At 24-0, Notre Dame is off to the best start in the program's 37-year history. This year's start surpasses the debut of the 2000-01 Fighting Irish squad, which reeled off a (then) school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship.
Notre Dame's current 24-game winning streak is the second-longest success string in program history, and it's the second consecutive season the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 24 games or longer, following last year's school-record 30-game run.
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 59-2 (.967) and have won 47 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.).
In addition, Notre Dame currently owns the nation's longest winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), having earned 46 consecutive victories since a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012 (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 23 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 are tied with Dayton for 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 15 conference home games since a 65-63 loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 33 consecutive regular season road games (and 40 of its last 45, and 24 in a row overall), including the Feb. 13 victory at Boston College. 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.
Notre Dame's current 24-game road winning streak also is the longest active run in the nation, more than doubling the next-closest pursuer (10 by Duke, as of Friday), as well as the fifth-longest in NCAA Division I 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.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 22 consecutive conference 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).
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 110-28 (.797) in February games (including an active 15-game winning streak), as well as a 60-6 (.909) mark at home.
In the 27-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), the Fighting Irish are 158-43 (.786) in the month of February, including an 82-12 (.872) 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).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .519 field goal percentage, highlighted by 16 games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent, including six 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 second in the ACC (fifth in the nation) with a .598 field goal percentage, along with a .622 mark in conference play (also second in the ACC).
Achonwa has been very efficient from the field in her last six games, connecting at a .688 clip (33-of-48), including a 10-of-12 effort on Feb. 6 at Florida State, en route to a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.532) has moved into 12th in the ACC in field goal percentage, thanks in part to her own recent hot streak that has seen Loyd shoot .604 (64-of-106) during her last eight outings, notably going 9-of-11 for a game-high 23 points in the Feb. 9 win over Syracuse.
Seven other Notre Dame players are shooting better than 50 percent from the field this season, led by freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.568), junior forward Markisha Wright (.563) and freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.546), but none has made the minimum number of shots (three per game) to qualify for ACC ranking.
Life In The 60s
Not only has Notre Dame shot better than 60 percent from the field in six games this season, but the Fighting Irish have put up similar sizzling shooting numbers in single halves this year.
In fact, Notre Dame has posted a field goal percentage of .600 or better in 15 of its 48 halves, equating to a 60-percent performance approximately one out of every three periods of basketball it plays, with the distribution almost even (seven times in the first half, eight times in the second half).
The Fighting Irish also have shot better than 60 percent in both halves of a game twice this season (UNC Wilmington and Pittsburgh), along with a season-high single-half percentage of .710 in the second period against Central Michigan, a rate just missed the top 10 on the school's all-time chart.
A pair of marks that did make it into one of the program's top 10 lists were Notre Dame's first-half shooting percentages at Michigan (.688) and Maryland (.667), which now rank as the sixth- and eighth-best figures during the opening 20 minutes in school history.
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 .431 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc (and a fifth at .388).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey leads the way for the Fighting Irish with a .436 three-point percentage that ranks third in the ACC, while senior guard Kayla McBride also stands among the top five in the conference, ranking fourth at a .431 three-point rate.
During ACC play, Mabrey leads the conference with a .509 three-point percentage, while sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.480) has come on lately to rank third in the loop, and McBride also is appearing in the top 15 (tied-13th - .367).
In addition, Mabrey is eighth in the ACC with 2.1 three-pointers per game, a mark she bolstered on Feb. 9 against Syracuse with a career-high (and Purcell Pavilion record-tying) six triples. It was one of seven times this season Mabrey has canned at least three treys in a game, and the third time this year a Notre Dame player has made five three-pointers in a contest (Mabrey went 5-for-6 against Boston College on Jan. 9, while junior guard Madison Cable posted a 5-for-6 effort against UCLA on Dec. 7).
In fact, Cable (.439) would be third in the ACC in three-point percentage, but she is shy of the minimum 1.0 3FG/game to qualify for ranking. Freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.481) and Loyd (.388) also don't meet the minimum standard for the overall ACC rankings despite their efficiency from distance (Loyd is just four made 3FG shy of qualification).
As a team, the Fighting Irish have connected on 10 three-pointers in a game three times this season (UCLA, Tennessee and Syracuse), 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.
A Helping Hand
As of last Friday, the Fighting Irish ranked second in assists at 21.6 per game (Connecticut is first at 22.5).
Notre Dame also has dished out at least 20 helpers in 15 games thus far, plus 19 assists in four other outings (along with a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 64.7 percent of their made field goals this year (519 of 802).
Notre Dame also ranks sixth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.43), led by two players who rank among the top 10 in the ACC in that category -- freshman guard Lindsay Allen (3rd - 2.00) and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (8th - 1.76).
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points in a school-record four games this season (with three other games of 95-99 points), topping last year's mark of three triple-digit outings.
The Fighting Irish have piled up nine 100-point games in the past three seasons (and eight other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program's existence (and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run).
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 18 games this year, going 18-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 93-5 (.949) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 63 of their last 64 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
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 is seventh in program history with 1,617 career points, passing both Trena Keys (1,589 from 1982-86) and Karen Robinson (1,590 from 1987-91) with her 18 points against Syracuse on Feb. 9. McBride also is one of just seven players ever to score 1,600 points under the Golden Dome.
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 18th in Notre Dame history with 1,351 points, moving two steps up the ladder with 24 points at Florida State on Feb. 6, passing both Margaret Nowlin (1,312 from 1988-92) and former All-America teammate/current WNBA champion Devereaux Peters (1,319 from 2007-12).
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 sixth on the rebounding list (875) and is tied for seventh on the double-doubles chart (25), moving up one spot on the rebounding rundown with her nine boards at No. 3 Duke on Feb. 2.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .553 career field goal percentage (tied for sixth in program annals) and 133 games played (fifth all-time at Notre Dame; tied for third among active NCAA players).
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 ninth in the ACC in scoring (17.7 ppg.), 11th in steals (1.8 spg.) and 12th in field goal percentage (.532), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.0 rpg.), assists (2.6 apg.), steals and field goal percentage. She also has seven 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 four ACC players this season (along with Wake Forest's Chelsea Douglas and Dearica Hamby, and Georgia Tech's Tyaunna Marshall) 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).
The Model Of Consistency
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has scored in double figures in 29 consecutive games, dating back to March 11, 2013, when she had eight points in Notre Dame's 83-59 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 16/15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Loyd's 29-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, surpassing Natalie Novosel's 27-game run from March 8, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012. In fact, Loyd has scored in double figures in 47 of her 59 career games (and 10 of those 12 single-digit games saw her within one basket of double figures).
Katryna Gaither has staked an ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.
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 7.2 points and 3.8 assists per game (the latter tying for eighth in the ACC). She also is third in the ACC with a team-best 2.00 assist/turnover ratio, and is second on the team with 1.21 steals per game.
At her current pace, Allen (92 assists) is in position to become only the fifth Notre Dame freshman to dish out 100 assists in her rookie season, and just the second in the past 20 years (Skylar Diggins had 112 assists in 2009-10). Mary Gavin holds the Fighting Irish freshman assist record with 116 in 1984-85.
What's more, Allen's 3.8 apg. average is the best for a Notre Dame freshman since 1994-95 (Peirick - 3.9 apg.) and makes Allen a candidate to be just the second Notre Dame freshman ever to average 4.0 apg. as a rookie (Gavin logged 4.5 apg. in that 1984-85 season).
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 51-1 in her last 52 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 28 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by close to a 2-to-1 margin (28.0 ppg. to 15.8 ppg.).
The Fighting Irish second unit has outscored its opposite number in 18 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 (9.6 ppg.), freshman forward Taya Reimer (8.5 ppg.) and junior guard Madison Cable (5.8 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen at least one reserve score in double figures in 18 games this season (total of 21 double-figure outings).
Call Her Mabrey
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 9.6 points and 2.6 assists per game along with a very solid 1.75 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 third in the ACC with a .436 three-point percentage (tops in the league with a .509 mark in ACC play) and placing eighth in the conference with 2.1 three-pointers made per game (thanks in part to making at least three triples in seven games this year, including a career-high 6-of-14 vs. Syracuse on Feb. 9).
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures 12 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: Wake Forest
Notre Dame will play its penultimate ACC regular season road game of 2013-14 on Thursday night, when it travels to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a 7 p.m. (ET) conference clash with Wake Forest. The Fighting Irish will be making their first-ever visit to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, with Thursday's contest not slated for television (fans can tune into the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast via South Bend's Pulse FM 96.9/92.1 and online through the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND).
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director