Feb. 21, 2011
#8/8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-5 / 11-2 BIG EAST) vs. #19/20 West Virginia Mountaineers (21-6 / 7-6 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 22, 2011
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Morgantown, W.Va. - WVU Coliseum (14,000)
SERIES: ND leads 17-2
1ST MTG: ND 73-55 (2/26/96)
LAST MTG: ND 74-66 (1/24/10)
TV: CBS College Sports (live) (Dave Ryan, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
No. 8 Irish Face Stern Test Tuesday At No. 19 West Virginia
The rugged closing stretch to the BIG EAST season continues for No. 8 Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish head to Morgantown, W.Va., Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup with No. 19 West Virginia at WVU Coliseum. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by CBS College Sports, the second of three appearances for Notre Dame on that network this season.
The Fighting Irish (22-5, 11-2 BIG EAST) will look to bounce back after seeing its season-long nine-game winning streak snapped on Saturday with a 78-57 loss at No. 2 Connecticut. Notre Dame led by as many as seven points early, and was within striking distance at halftime before the Huskies used a 16-4 run to open the second half and put the game out of reach.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At West Virginia
With all five starters and seven letterwinners back from last year's 29-win club that came within an eyelash of the NCAA Sweet 16, the cupboard is certainly not bare for West Virginia this season. The Mountaineers opened the season with 16 consecutive wins and have risen as high as No. 6 in the polls, as they are poised to return to the NCAA Championship once again.
WVU (21-6, 7-6 BIG EAST) snapped a three-game losing streak this past Saturday, charging to a 90-79 win at rival Pittsburgh, avenging an earlier loss to the Panthers in Morgantown. Redshirt senior forward Madina Ali paced five Mountaineers in double figures with 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while senior guard Sarah Miles packed the stat sheet with 19 points, a game-high nine assists and six rebounds, as West Virginia matched its best offensive output of the season.
Senior guard Liz Repella leads WVU in scoring (13.7 ppg.) and is second in rebounding (5.2 rpg.), steals (2.0 spg.) and blocks (1.1 rpg.). Ali is second in scoring (13.6 ppg.), and tops in both rebounding (7.1 rpg.) and field goal percentage (7.1 rpg.).
Head coach Mike Carey is in his 10th season at West Virginia with a 200-113 (.639) record. He also is the midst of his 23rd year walking the college sidelines, with a 488-215 (.694) record, including a 2-9 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-West Virginia Series
Tuesday will mark the 20th game in the series between Notre Dame and West Virginia, with the Fighting Irish holding a 17-2 edge against the Mountaineers. Notre Dame also is 6-2 all-time at WVU Coliseum, although West Virginia two of the past three times it has played host to the Fighting Irish in Morgantown.
The Last Time Notre Dame And West Virginia Met
Lindsay Schrader went 6 for 8 from the floor in the second half and scored eight of her 16 points during a decisive run as the No. 4/5 Fighting Irish rallied for a 74-66 victory on Jan. 24, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame trailed 44-31 after Madina Ali scored the opening basket of the second half, and trailed 49-39 when Vanessa House hit a 3 for the Mountaineers. But the Fighting Irish responded with a 16-3 run led by Schrader, who repeatedly scored baskets inside. Natalie Novosel capped it with a baseline runner that gave Notre Dame a 55-52 lead.
The Fighting Irish then put the game away with a 10-1 burst late to take a 74-63 lead.
Liz Repella led the Mountaineers with a game-high 24 points.
Skylar Diggins added 15 points for the Fighting Irish, Melissa Lechlitner had 12 and Ashley Barlow had 10 points and a career-high seven assists. Korinne Campbell had 12 points and nine rebounds for West Virginia.
After being outscored 16-10 in the paint in the first half and outrebounded 18-17, Notre Dame had a 20-16 rebounding advantage in the second half and outscored the Mountaineers 20-14 in the paint.
The Fighting Irish also turned the ball over only three times in the second half after having 14 turnovers in the first half.
The Last Time Notre Dame And West Virginia Met At WVU Coliseum
Meg Bulger scored 17 points and Olayinka Sanni added 15 as No. 16 West Virginia held off No. 14 Notre Dame, 56-50, on Jan. 13, 2008, at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.
The Mountaineers led 31-11 at the half, holding the Fighting Irish to a school-record low in first-half scoring. It was West Virginia's second series win over Notre Dame.
West Virginia led by 12 with four minutes left when Notre Dame made its run. Mallory made two three-pointers and Allen added another, and the Fighting Irish made two free throws to trail 46-45 with 1:22 remaining.
But in the final 80 seconds, Bulger started a scoring spree with two free throws. The Fighting Irish never got any closer than two points.
West Virginia's defense helped force 18 turnovers, 11 in the first eight minutes, for an early 17-4 lead.
Notre Dame missed 23 of its first 29 shots, often attempting off-balance and fadeaway shots as the clock ran down. That changed in the second half, when they began to drive to the basket.
Notre Dame finished 13 of 53 from the field (24.5 percent), its worst shooting performance of the season.
Other Notre Dame-West Virginia Series Tidbits
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 joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 91-26 (.778) in February games, including a 52-5 (.912) mark at home.
In the 24-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Fighting Irish are 139-41 (.772) in the month of February, including a 74-11 (.871) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February, and only once did the Fighting Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second season in South Bend).
Celebrating The Bicentennial
With a 199-62 (.762) all-time record in BIG EAST Conference regular season play, Notre Dame is poised to become just the third BIG EAST school to record 200 regular season conference wins, joining Connecticut (376) and Villanova (250) in that elite company.
What makes Notre Dame's upcoming feat even more impressive is the fact the Fighting Irish have reached their bicentennial in less than 16 seasons (1995-96 to present), while both Connecticut and Villanova were charter members of the BIG EAST when it debuted women's basketball competition in 1982-83 -- 13 seasons before Notre Dame came aboard. Another charter member (Providence) is fourth all-time with 196 BIG EAST victories.
The Fighting Irish also rank second in conference history with a .762 winning percentage, trailing only Connecticut (.817) and joining the Huskies and Rutgers as the only programs in BIG EAST history (current or former) to have won at least 70 percent of their conference games (Rutgers is third at .707).
The current Notre Dame senior class (Becca Bruszewski, Brittany Mallory, Devereaux Peters) is closing in on a collective career milestone, with the trio having led the Fighting Irish to a 98-29 (.772) record since they arrived on campus in 2007-08.
Only five senior classes in program history have registered 100 wins in their four-year tenures, led by the 2000-01 national championship seniors (Imani Dunbar, Meaghan Leahy, Niele Ivey, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon), who amassed 109 victories from 1997-2001 (Ivey was a fifth-year senior in '00-01, following a knee injury five games into her rookie season of '96-97).
The other 100-win Notre Dame classes came in 1998-99 (102 wins), 1999-2000 (106 wins), 2001-02 (107 wins) and 2002-03 (102 wins).
It should be noted that both Mallory and Peters have the option to return for a fifth year of eligibility next season, after both suffered knee injuries early in the 2008-09 campaign.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons with its 76-68 victory at South Florida on Feb. 5. The Fighting Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 21 times in the 24-year Muffet McGraw era and 25 times in the program's 34-year history.
McGraw herself has coached 23 20-win seasons (adding in two during her five-year tenure at Lehigh from 1982-87), tying her for ninth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches.
For the 15th time in its 16-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has posted double-digit league wins. With the exception of 2005-06 (when they went 8-8), the Fighting Irish have never posted fewer than 10 BIG EAST wins in a season, finishing among the top four in the conference 12 times in their first 15 seasons in the league.
Taking it a step further, Notre Dame has registered double-digit conference wins in 21 of head coach Muffet McGraw's 24 seasons under the Golden Dome, with the only other exceptions coming in 1987-88 (her first season when the Fighting Irish went 7-3 in the now-defunct North Star Conference) and 1991-92 (when Notre Dame went 8-4 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League, then won three in a row at the conference tournament to earn the program's first-ever NCAA Championship berth, despite a losing overall record of 14-16, becoming the first school ever to pull off that feat).
In recent years, Notre Dame has shown exceptional resiliency when it comes to responding to a double-digit loss. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 57-14 (.803) in "bounce back" games, including a victory in their only such scenario this year (72-51 vs. Purdue on Dec. 5 at Purcell Pavilion), and their last five overall, dating back to the start of last season.
Overall, Notre Dame is 82-31 (.726) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) when playing its first game following a loss of 10 points or more.
The Rare Air Up There
For the fourth consecutive week (and the first time since Dec. 9, 2002), both Notre Dame basketball teams are ranked in the top 10 of their respective Associated Press polls. The Fighting Irish women are ranked eighth this week, while Mike Brey's men check in at No. 9.
Notre Dame is one of only two schools in the country with matching top-10 basketball programs, along with Duke (No. 9 women/No. 1 men).
If you want to go one further, this marks the first time in Notre Dame athletics history that both Fighting Irish basketball teams AND the Notre Dame hockey team are ranked in the top 10 at the same time (the Fighting Irish icers currently stand eighth in the nation).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Tuesday's game ranked third in the nation in steals with 13.9 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 20 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 24 steals at Valparaiso (Dec. 2) and 23 steals against IUPUI (Nov. 26).
Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).
Individually, Notre Dame has 11 different players with double-digit steals this season (four with at least 50 thefts), led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.3 steals per game (sixth in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame also enters Tuesday's game ranked sixth in the country in assists (18.4 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 13 games this season.
Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 62.2 percent of its baskets this season, with 497 assists on 799 field goals.
At the head of the Fighting Irish assist company is sophomore Skylar Diggins, who has adapted well to her role as Notre Dame's primary point guard, ranking fifth in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.6 assists per game, and 13th in the league with a 1.33 assist/turnover ratio. She also has handed out at least five assists in 17 games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the nation with a .488 field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 15 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 22 outings.
Notre Dame also has seen a rise in its three-point shooting numbers following a slow start this season. During the past 18 games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 40.4 percent clip (67-of-166) from beyond the arc. Compare that with the first nine contests of the season, when Notre Dame had a .269 (29-of-108) three-point percentage.
Notre Dame ranks among the top 10 in the nation in eight categories according to last Friday's NCAA statistics report -- tied for first in three-point field goal percentage defense (now .249); second in field goal percentage (.488); third in scoring margin (+26.3 ppg.) and steals (13.9 spg.); fifth in scoring offense (80.1 ppg.); sixth in assists (18.4 apg.) and turnover margin (+6.18); and seventh in rebounding margin (+10.0 rpg.).
In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 20 in the NCAA in 11 of a possible 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in scoring defense (11th, 53.8 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (13th, .352) and assist/turnover ratio (16th, 1.07).
Yet for all of these high team statistical marks, no Fighting Irish individual ranks higher than No. 56 in any single category -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins was 56th in the nation in assists (4.6 apg.) as of Friday.
High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses (80.1 ppg., fifth as of last Friday), Notre Dame is moving into uncharted territory in the school's record books.
The Fighting Irish have scored 90 points in a game in eight contests this season, setting a new school record for 90-point games in a season (the previous mark was seven on three occasions - 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
Notre Dame also has set a new school record with nine wins by at least 35 points, more than doubling the previous program record of four 35-point wins set in 2008-09.
What's more, the Fighting Irish have won 12 games by at least 30 points, topping the school record of 10 30-point victories, which was set during the program's 2000-01 national championship season.
Last year, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in school history, and best since the Fighting Irish logged a school-record 81.0 ppg. mark in 1998-99.
One of Notre Dame's greatest areas of improvement this season has been in the rebounding column, where the Fighting Irish are averaging 41.7 caroms per game, up two rebounds from last year's total at this time (39.7 rpg.) and good enough for third in the BIG EAST.
Notre Dame also is giving up just 31.7 rebounds per game, nearly five caroms better than last year at this time (36.4 rpg.) and placing third in the conference.
With a +10.0 rpg. margin this season, the Fighting Irish rank third in the BIG EAST and seventh in the country as of last Friday.
What's more, Notre Dame has outrebounded its opponent by double digits in 14 games this season, including eight games in which the Fighting Irish posted rebound margins of +15 or better, topped by a season-high +42 mark (66-24) on Jan. 2 against Southeast Missouri State at Purcell Pavilion.
Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Fighting Irish have spread the wealth so far this season, with six different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game thus far, with four different 20-point scorers along the way.
Notre Dame also has seen no fewer than eight different players claim team-high rebounding and assist honors at some point this year.
Missed It By That Much
Notre Dame may hold a 22-5 record coming into Tuesday's game, but the Fighting Irish are oh-so-close to owning a much better mark, with all five losses coming to top-15 opponents by an average margin of just 8.6 points per game (three by single digits and a fourth by 11 points).
What's more, Notre Dame led inside the final 30 seconds of regulation in two of those losses, both at home (No. 15 UCLA, also at the end of the first overtime; No. 2 Connecticut), and the Fighting Irish also had a possession to tie the game in the final 30 seconds at No. 9/10 Kentucky.
The fourth loss (at No. 2/3 Baylor) saw Notre Dame battle to within six points (65-59) with five minutes remaining and have a look at a three-pointer to halve the margin further on their next possession, but the shot rattled out and the Lady Bears managed to put the game away with nine free throws (despite making only one field goal during the final 8:23).
Diggins Named Semifinalist For Nancy Lieberman Award
Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is among a group of 11 players who have been selected as semifinalists for the 2011 Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation's top point guard, it was announced Saturday by the award's organizer, the Rotary Club of Detroit. Diggins is the only underclass player among the 11 remaining nominees, joining eight seniors and two juniors in contention for this year's award.
Diggins is the first Notre Dame player to be chosen as a Nancy Lieberman Award semifinalist since All-American Megan Duffy in 2006, and the third since the award's inception in 2001 (when another Notre Dame All-American and current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey was a finalist). This year's 11 nominees were selected by a panel of sportswriters from around the country, based on the criteria of floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame selection Nancy Lieberman during her career. That same sportswriter panel will choose the three finalists and this year's award recipient during the weekend of the NCAA Women's Final Four (April 3-5), with the recipient to attend an awards luncheon on April 27 at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Diggins is one of three BIG EAST Conference players among the 11 Lieberman Award semifinalists, along with Sarah Miles (West Virginia) and Sam Quigley (DePaul). The other remaining nominees are: Cetera DeGraffenreid (North Carolina), Dawn Evans (James Madison), Melissa Jones (Baylor), Jeanette Pohlen (Stanford), Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State), Danielle Robinson (Oklahoma), Jasmine Thomas (Duke) and Courtney Vandersloot (Gonzaga).
Diggins Makes Naismith Midseason List
On Feb. 14, sophomore guard Skylar Diggins earned a place on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 List, according to an announcement by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The Naismith Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation's top player, compiled its midseason candidates based upon individual performance and team results during the 2010-11 season to date.
It's the second midseason national award candidate list that Diggins has made, following her place on the John R. Wooden Award chart last month, and like that rundown, she is one of only three sophomores to be tapped for the designation along with Baylor's Brittney Griner and Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers.
Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Nicknamed "Nasty" for her playmaking abilities, junior guard Natalie Novosel is rapidly making a strong case as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference, if not the entire country.
The Lexington, Ky., native currently leads the Fighting Irish (and ranks eighth in the league) in scoring at 14.8 points per game, nearly tripling her offensive output from a season ago. She also has scored at least 20 points in a game four times this year (after coming into the campaign with a career single-game high of 19 points) and has scored in double figures 23 times after doing so a total of 14 times in her first two seasons combined at Notre Dame.
In addition, Novosel added some hardware to her personal trophy case as well, taking home Most Valuable Player honors at the WBCA Classic, earning a spot on the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team and also garnering a place on the Nov. 29 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll.
Thus, it's no surprise that ESPN.com's Graham Hays tweeted the following comment after Novosel's career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) vs. Gonzaga in a 70-61 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 29 in Seattle:
"Is Natalie Novosel the most improved player in the nation? Gotta be on the short list."
Peters Showing Her Own Dev-elopment
If Novosel is among the nation's most improved players, senior forward Devereaux Peters can't be far behind. The veteran frontliner is playing some of the best basketball of her career this season, putting a pair of knee injuries and three surgeries well in the rearview mirror.
A three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection, Peters currently is averaging career highs of 11.2 points per game (29th in the BIG EAST) and 7.1 rebounds per game (tied-10th), along with a .580 field goal percentage (third), 1.5 blocks per game (seventh), 1.9 steals per game (15th) and a career-high .762 free throw percentage.
Peters' numbers in BIG EAST play are even more eye-popping, as she ranks among the top five in the league in field goal percentage (second - .604), rebounding (second - 7.9 rpg.) and blocks (tied-fifth - 1.6 bpg.), while ranking 18th in scoring (12.5 ppg.). She also is tied for second in the BIG EAST with four double-doubles during conference action.
Like Novosel, Peters regularly has been pulling in accolades this season, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team and garnering MVP honors at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. During the latter tournament on Dec. 29-30, she averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game with a .684 field goal percentage (13-of-19) in wins over Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.
That tournament effort has been the cornerstone of Peters' post-Christmas surge. In the past 15 games, the Chicago native is averaging 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds with six double-doubles and a .607 field goal percentage (82-of-135).
Peters Is Secretary Of Defense
One of the key factors in Notre Dame's defensive resurgence this season, senior forward Devereaux Peters is one of only two players in the BIG EAST to rank among the top 15 in the conference in its three major defensive categories (rebounds, blocks, steals).
Peters currently is 10th in the league in rebounding (7.1 rpg.), while ranking seventh in blocks (1.5 bpg.) and 15th in steals (1.9 spg.).
The only other player in the BIG EAST that has shown similar defensive prowess this season is Connecticut's Maya Moore.
Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.
At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner's shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes left.
It's believed to be the first time in Griner's two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters' block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball YouTube channel (search for "notredameirishhoops" or click the link through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at www.UND.com).
Bruszewski Joins 1,000-Point Club
With 12 points vs. Syracuse on Feb. 1, senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski became the 27th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 points in her career. She currently ranked 24th on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,047 points.
Bruszewski also became the fifth player from Notre Dame's 2007-08 NCAA Sweet 16 team to hit the 1,000-point mark, joining Charel Allen (1,566 from 2004-08), Ashley Barlow (1,492 from 2006-10), Lindsay Schrader (1,429 from 2005-10) and Melissa Lechlitner (1,005 from 2006-10) in that group.
Five other teams in Fighting Irish women's basketball history have featured at least five current or future 1,000-point scorers on the same roster -- from 1995-96 through 1999-2000, every Notre Dame squad had five or more players who had reached or would reach the 1,000-point plateau during their careers (including a school-record six on the 1996-97 and 1997-98 squads).
Aside from head coach Muffet McGraw and current associate coach Carol Owens, the one common link between those teams was guard Danielle Green, who scored 1,106 points from 1995-2000, missing the 1996-97 Final Four season with a preseason Achilles injury and coming back for a fifth year of eligibility in 1999-2000.
Game #27 Recap: Connecticut
Freshman Bria Hartley had been struggling on offense so she changed her approach and just took what she was given.
The move worked as she scored a career-high 29 points to help No. 2 Connecticut to a 78-57 win over eighth-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
Maya Moore added 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Huskies (26-1, 13-0 BIG EAST), who have won 14 straight since their 90-game winning streak ended at Stanford on Dec. 30.
On Jan. 8, UConn rallied for a 79-76 victory over the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame had won every game since by at least 15 points and had a week to prepare for this game.
One thing that Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw might have noticed during the week was that so many teams get blown out at UConn before the first media timeout. Duke and Oklahoma were already out of their games by the 16-minute mark.
McGraw decided to take her team off the court while the Huskies were being introduced. The move paid off as the Fighting Irish scored the first seven points before freshman center Stefanie Dolson got the Huskies on the board nearly 2 1/2 minutes in with a hook shot.
Notre Dame -- wearing its alternate road green uniforms for the first time this season -- couldn't sustain the early wave of momentum as UConn rallied behind the freshmen. Dolson and Hartley combined for 18 of the team's first 24 points. Dolson finished with 15.
Hartley's three-pointer gave UConn its first lead at 17-16. That started a 10-1 spurt in which Hartley scored the first eight points. Dolson capped it with another hook shot.
Hartley, whose previous career high was 24 points against Louisville, had struggled the previous six games. She had reached double figures only once in that span. On Saturday, she achieved double digits midway through the first half.
Moore, who passed Crystal Kelly of Western Kentucky to move into 14th on the career scoring list, got off to a slow start. She missed her first three shots and didn't have her first points until making a tough runner in the lane with 5:29 left in the half.
That seemed to get her going a little bit as she hit a three-pointer from the wing after Notre Dame cut its deficit to 30-25.
The Huskies led 37-29 at the half as Diggins kept the Fighting Irish in the game with 17 points by the break. That's the most an opposing player has scored in the first half against the Huskies this season -- and more than Providence (12) and Duke (15) put up as a team.
Tiffany Hayes and Moore hit back-to-back threes to start the second half and UConn extended its lead to 23. The Fighting Irish couldn't get within 14 the rest of the game.
Devereaux Peters, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the earlier meeting, was held scoreless. She picked up two quick fouls and sat out the final 14-plus minutes of the first half.
Noting The Connecticut Game
For the fourth consecutive week, Notre Dame is ranked a season-high No. 8 in the Feb. 21 Associated Press poll. That marked the 74th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001).
With its current poll position, Notre Dame now has appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll in each of the past four seasons and 11 of the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), as well as 100 weeks overall since the Fighting Irish earned their initial AP top-10 ranking (No. 9 on Nov. 24, 1996).
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 213 weeks during the program's 34-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 is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish remained at a season-best No. 8 in the Feb. 15 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 73 of the past 74 weeks, 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 204 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the third consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as nine of the past 13 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 213 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 30 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart on previous page), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions back into the AP poll for two weeks earlier this month at No. 23.
Six of the 16 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while 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).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 209-17 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 137 of their last 148 such contests, and 46 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).
The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in 21 games this year, including their Feb. 12 win over Rutgers when they led 29-25 through the first 20 minutes.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 16 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame's first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 226-15 (.938) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 18 contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, Southeast Missouri State, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Rutgers).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 153-5 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in 14 games this year (13-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 203 of their last 230 games (.883) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 112-19 (.862) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 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 93 of their last 101 non-BIG EAST contests (.921) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight 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), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). 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 352-88 (.800) 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 last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.
Notre Dame has wasted little time in tackling that challenge, averaging 8,516 fans for its 16 home games this season (fifth in the country according to this week's NCAA attendance report), including sellout crowds of 9,149 for its games against games against Purdue (Dec. 5), Connecticut (Jan. 8), St. John's (Jan. 23) and Rutgers (Feb. 12).
Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.
McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.
McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.
The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game. The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women's basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 91 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 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 (www.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 for his third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 26 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Feb. 19 Connecticut contest (which was televised live on the BIG EAST Network syndicated package), Notre Dame has played in 188 televised games, including 133 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Sets Pace For Pink Zone
Following last year's wildly-successful fundraising efforts for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone breast cancer initiative, Notre Dame reached even higher this season, as the Fighting Irish already have raised a program-record $116,405 for the initiative, easily the most by any Division I school in the country this year. That also lifts Notre Dame's combined Pink Zone fundraising total in the last three years to more than a quarter of a million dollars (approximately $260,000).
In 2009-10, the Fighting Irish collected nearly $104,000 for the global unified effort by the WBCA's membership to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
Notre Dame's local Pink Zone drive is led by primary sponsor Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, with donations divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Women's Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
This year, Notre Dame brought back some of its more popular fundraising activities, including the Fighting Irish Three-Point Pledge (fans donate a certain amount for every three-pointer made by Notre Dame this season) and the Notre Dame Pink Zone Store (sales of various Pink Zone items, including t-shirts, buttons, tote bags, etc., in the Joyce Center's Heritage Hall at all Fighting Irish home games). The Notre Dame Gameday Silent Auction also was a huge hit again in 2010-11, with more than 100 items generating $13,000 in bids for this year's effort.
Some new events added for this year included the Pink Zone Treadmill Campaign (celebrities walked on a courtside treadmill during the Jan. 23, Feb. 1, 8 and 12 games) and the Notre Dame Women's Basketball SPIN-A-THON (a 24-hour event to ride stationary bikes on Jan. 22-23 at South Bend's Knollwood Country Club, which raised $30,000 for the cause).
In addition, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson (a Notre Dame alumna and breast cancer survivor) was the keynote speaker at the inaugural "Docs in Pink" luncheon at Club Naimoli in Purcell Pavilion, an event that generated more than $20,000.
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Notre Dame Pink Zone web page at www.UND.com/pinkzone.
Nice Threads, Coach
While Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and assistant coach Niele Ivey are well-known for their fashion sense on the sidelines, another Fighting Irish assistant stole the spotlight at Notre Dame's Pink Zone game on Feb. 12 against Rutgers.
Associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis took the floor wearing a snappy pink blazer, courtesy of none other than former Villanova men's basketball coach and 1985 NCAA national champion Rollie Massimino.
For the past few years, Tsipis has visited Massimino's current home at NAIA Division II member Northwood University (West Palm Beach, Fla.) to observe the legendary coach's practices. Last summer, the Notre Dame coach noticed Massimino wearing a pink sportcoat in one of his school's media guides and asked where he could obtain one of his own. Massimino quickly offered to loan his jacket to Tsipis, and the rest is "Pink Zone" history.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year four of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 26 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State and Seton Hall.
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 -- senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 15 different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 26 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, nine on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
Next Game: Cincinnati
Notre Dame returns home for its final regular-season game of 2010-11 at Purcell Pavilion when it plays host to Cincinnati at 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday. Prior to the game, the Fighting Irish will honor their departing senior class, which includes forwards Becca Bruszewski and Mary Forr, as well as student managers Stephen Lauria and Brian Monson.
Cincinnati (8-17, 1-12 BIG EAST) has lost 11 consecutive games and 17 of its last 20 after opening the season on a five-game winning streak. The Bearcats are slated to welcome Syracuse to town Tuesday night before heading up to South Bend this weekend.