Feb. 22, 2008
#14/14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (20-6 / 8-4 BIG EAST) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (18-7 / 7-5 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 24, 2008
TIME: 1:00 p.m. CT
AT: Chicago, Ill. - McGrath Arena (3,000)
SERIES: DPU leads 18-11
1ST MTG: 1/30/79 (DPU 82-53)
LAST MTG: 1/22/08 (DPU 81-80)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
TV: ESPNU (live) (John Rooke, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color)
LIVE STATS: depaulbluedemons.com
TICKETS: (773) 325-7526
No. 14 Irish Close Out Three-Game Road Trip Sunday At DePaul
This weekend marks the beginning of the stretch drive in the BIG EAST Conference and No. 14 Notre Dame will have its hands full on Sunday when it travels to DePaul for a 1 p.m. (CT)/2 p.m. (ET) matinee at McGrath Arena. The Irish, who dropped an 81-80 decision to the Blue Demons last month, also will be seeking their first win on the DePaul campus since 1991, having lost their last five visits to Lincoln Park.
Notre Dame (20-6, 8-4 BIG EAST) put together a spirited defensive performance on Tuesday at No. 5/4 Rutgers, but it wasn't quite enough as the Scarlet Knights pulled out a 57-51 win. The Irish held RU without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes crossing over halftime, but Notre Dame's own offensive woes (uncharacteristic .328 shooting) proved to be the difference.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Behind a high-octane offense and an aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been a fixture in the national polls this season. The Irish have been ranked every week (except for the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll) and have appeared in the top 20 for the past 12 weeks, rising as high as 14th on three occasions (including this week).
Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in six NCAA statistical categories, including scoring offense (6th, 78.5 ppg.), scoring margin (10th, +17.3 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (10th, 1.12), with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (17th nationally) in steals (11.96 spg.) and have forced 20 turnovers on 16 occasions.
Senior guard Charel Allen, a first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America pick last year, is setting the pace for a balanced Notre Dame attack, averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game (16th in BIG EAST) and owning the team lead with 53 steals (9th in BIG EAST). She also has scored in double figures 22 times in 26 games, including 13 of her last 15.
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow has built upon last year's BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and standing right behind Allen with 49 steals. She also boasts a team-high .333 three-point percentage and is 38th in the country with an .840 free throw percentage.
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader continues to work her way back to peak form after missing last year with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader is third on the squad in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (5.9 rpg.) as one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame's unique Princeton-based four-guard lineup.
While Schrader is back from her ACL injury, freshman forward Devereaux Peters had her season end early with a torn ACL in her left knee, suffered Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh. Peters provided a strong spark off the bench, averaging 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. She also scored in double figures 14 times, including a season-high 15 points vs. Villanova and her first career double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) against top-ranked Connecticut.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At DePaul
With the regular season coming down to its final days, DePaul appears to be making one of its patent late charges. Following a similar formula to last year, the Blue Demons have won back-to-back games to put themselves back in the conversation for both a BIG EAST Championship bye and an NCAA Tournament berth.
DePaul (18-7, 7-5) earned its second consecutive win with a hard-fought 82-78 conquest at Georgetown on Wednesday night. The Blue Demons shot 56 percent from the field, but it was a defensive stop that was the clincher, as senior guard Allie Quigley converted a steal and score in the closing seconds to seal the win and post the last of her 36 points (15-21 FG).
Quigley ranks second in the BIG EAST in scoring (19.3 ppg), while sophomore guard Deirdre Naughton stands ninth in the conference with 15.9 points per game. Junior forward Natasha Williams is the muscle in the post, tying for 11th in the BIG EAST in rebounding (7.4 rpg) and third in field goal percentage (.592).
Doug Bruno is winding down his 22nd season at his alma mater with a 412-237 (.635) record, including a 11-5 mark vs. Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-DePaul Series
Notre Dame and DePaul will meet for the 30th time in a series that dates back 30 seasons and is the second-longest in Irish history (Marquette - 33 games). The Blue Demons hold a 18-11 series lead on Notre Dame, including a 10-4 edge at McGrath Arena (where the Irish have not won in their last five visits, dating back to 1991). DePaul also has won the past three games in a series, most recently taking an 81-80 decision on Jan. 22 at the Joyce Center.
The series has been largely dominated by the home team of late, with the hosts winning nine of the past 10 regular-season meetings. Last month's Blue Demon win was the first road victory in the rivalry since Feb. 11, 1992 (a 62-49 DePaul win at the Joyce Center).
The Blue Demons also have won three of the five matchups since they joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06. This year marks the third in a row that Notre Dame and DePaul have been paired as "repeat opponents" in the conference's 16-game scheduling format.
The Last Time Notre Dame And DePaul Met
Deirdre Naughton scored 20 points and No. rv/25 DePaul shot a season-high 60 percent to beat No. 16 Notre Dame 81-80 back on Jan. 22 at the Joyce Center.
The Fighting Irish (15-4, 3-2 BIG EAST) had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but Holly Medley stole the ball from Charel Allen with two seconds left and dribbled the clock out.
DePaul (14-4, 3-2) shot 72 percent in the first half and beat the Irish for the third straight time.
The Blue Demons, which led by two at halftime, went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to open a 58-49 lead. Allie Quigley ignited the run when she converted on a three-point play, then Naughton did it again 36 seconds later. Missy Mitidiero capped the run with a three-pointer.
The Irish cut the lead to 71-70 when Allen hit a 3 with 4:37 left. But the Blue Demons stretched the lead to five moments later when Natasha Williams scored inside and Quigley made a pair of free throws.
Brittany Mallory's two foul shots for the Irish cut the lead to 81-80 with seven seconds left. Quigley then caught the inbounds pass and, while being covered by Mallory, lost her dribble out of bounds to give the Irish a chance with four seconds left.
Quigley scored 16 points for DePaul, Williams had 14 and Mitidiero added 12.
The Last Time Notre Dame And DePaul Met In Chicago
Ashley Barlow matched her (then) career high with 21 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, but Notre Dame ran into a hot-shooting DePaul squad and dropped an 87-73 decision to the Blue Demons on Feb. 26, 2007, at McGrath Arena in Chicago.
Breona Gray scored 15 points, while Tulyah Gaines added 14 points and five assists. Charel Allen had 10 points in a foul-plagued 25 minutes, but did score her 1,000th career point in the second half, becoming the 23rd Irish player to reach that milestone.
As a team, Notre Dame shot 43.9 percent from the field, including 50 percent (6-of-12) from three-point range. However, the Irish also allowed 11 three-pointers and 87 points, with both marks tying for opponent season highs. Caprice Smith led four Blue Demons in double figures with a game-best 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
The Irish came out strong in the first half, jumping to an 8-3 lead behind two early buckets from Gaines. DePaul then responded with a 12-4 run of its own, capped by Erin Cattell's baseline jumper at the 12:48 mark. Notre Dame steadied itself with eight of the next nine points, and rode that momentum out to a 30-23 lead when Gaines canned her own jumper on the baseline with 5:52 remaining in the half. The Irish then went cold, making only two baskets the rest of the period, while the Blue Demons continued to stroke from the perimeter, as Jenna Rubino punctuated a three-point flurry by putting the hosts back in front with 3:02 to go. The teams then traded markers in the waning moments, leaving DePaul in front, 36-35 at halftime.
The lead changed hands four times in the opening minute of the second half, with Barlow giving Notre Dame its last lead at 39-38 on a driving layup at the 19:17 mark. That lasted all of six seconds, before Allie Quigley converted an old-fashioned three-point play in transition, kicking off a 10-0 DePaul run over the next two minutes. The Irish battled back and got as close as 53-48 when Allen drilled a long jumper with 12:57 to play. But, Erin Carney hit a three-pointer from the top of the key 30 seconds later and Notre Dame couldn't trim the margin below seven points thereafter.
Other Notre Dame-DePaul Series Tidbits
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons with a 79-67 victory at Syracuse on Feb. 16. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 18 times in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era and the 22nd time in the program's 31-year history.
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 Irish are 75-20 (.789) in February games, including a 43-4 (.915) mark at home.
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 123-35 (.778) in the month of February, including a 65-10 (.867) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February, and only once did the Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second season in South Bend).
This year, Notre Dame is 4-1 in February, winning its first four outings before dropping a 57-51 decision at No. 5/4 Rutgers on Tuesday.
Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of Friday). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in six categories, led by a No. 6 ranking for scoring offense (78.5) and No. 10 rankings for scoring margin (+17.3) and assist/turnover ratio (1.12). Notre Dame also is 16th in field goal percentage (.460), 17th in steals per game (12.0) and 20th in fewest turnovers per game (14.4).
A full recap of Notre Dame's positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 11 of this notes package.
Nearly half (9) of Notre Dame's 20 wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish have held 30-point leads late in the second half against Western Kentucky, Richmond and Marquette. This marks the first time in school history that Notre Dame has fashioned nine 30-point wins in its first 26 games.
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least nine 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only seven of those came in the first 26 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Less than two seasons after posting the program's lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.
The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and sixth in the nation) at 78.5 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 14 times this season. What's more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 26 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 83.1 points at this juncture on the way to the single-season school scoring record (81.0).
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points six times this season. That's the most 90-point games for the Irish in one year since 1998-99, when they tied the school record with seven 90-point games. In fact, during the six seasons prior to the current one (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference (and ninth in the nation) in scoring margin at +18.3 points per game.
McGraw's Shock Troops
During his coaching tenure with the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s, Knute Rockne was at the forefront of the two-platoon system, using his "shock troops" -- a full team of second stringers -- at the start of most games.
While Irish women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw may not quite be following Rockne's philosophy to the letter, she could easily rotate in much of her second unit and not see much decline in productivity. In fact, Notre Dame's bench is averaging 29.6 points per game (compared to 48.9 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored all 26 opponent benches this season by an average of +15.1 points per night.
Prior to her season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, freshman forward Devereaux Peters was leading the way for this year's Irish "shock troops". The Chicago native averaged 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.96 blocks per game (fourth in BIG EAST and 44th in the nation) with a .522 field goal percentage (eighth in the conference). Peters came off the bench in 21 of 23 games this year, piling up a season-high 15 points and seven steals vs. Villanova before collecting her first career double-double (10 points, season-high 12 rebounds) on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut.
Last year's Irish rookie class (aka the "BMW" trio of guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson) became the first threesome from one school ever to be named to the BIG EAST Conference All-Freshman Team in the same season. Following on the heels of that success, Notre Dame has a new freshman trio that is aiming to make an early splash at the college level -- the "BBD" lineup of guard Brittany Mallory and forwards Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters.
All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 20-6 record, with each one averaging at least 12 minutes and having scored in double figures at least four times. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, Peters was fourth on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) and scored in double digits 14 times, while also ranking fourth in the BIG EAST (44th in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.6 points per game, leads the team with 26 three-pointers and chalked up a season-high 15 points on Jan. 19 at Georgetown. Bruszewski is logging 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, collecting her fourth double-figure scoring performance of the season with 10 points and six rebounds on Feb. 10 vs. 15th-ranked Pittsburgh.
Spreading The Wealth
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's squad this season is its balance and depth. That's been particularly evident, as six different players from all five floor positions and all four classes have led the team in scoring at least once. Senior point guard Tulyah Gaines became the latest new scoring leader for the Irish with 13 points vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh (Feb. 10) and a season-high 22 points vs. Marquette (Feb. 13).
Notre Dame's balance this season can best be seen in its point distribution. No fewer than 10 of the 11 Irish players on this year's roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, with only senior guard Amanda Tsipis yet to crack the 10-point mark.
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but four games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 5/4 Rutgers) this year, with a season-high seven in double digits at Georgetown (the most in one game for the Irish since Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse).
What's more, the Irish fielded five double-figure scorers in three consecutive games from Nov. 20-27. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
Notre Dame has been sharp at the offensive end this season, thanks in large part to its ability to take care of the basketball. The Irish rank 20th in the nation with just 14.4 turnovers per game and have been charged with 20 or more turnovers just twice in the past 42 games (20 at Louisville on Jan. 8; 23 vs. Marquette on Feb. 13).
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Notre Dame is forcing 22.1 turnovers per night and currently leads the BIG EAST with a +7.69 turnover margin, more than three takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 16 games this season, including a season-high 33 takeaways against Boston College on Nov. 24.
Notre Dame has made even the strongest ball-handling teams struggle this season. In fact, Villanova came into its Jan. 16 game at the Joyce Center leading the nation with only 11.2 turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats left town with 24 turnovers, their highest single-game giveaway mark in more than six years (Dec. 1, 2001 at Temple).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference and 17th nationally in steals, averaging 11.96 thefts per game (11.08 in conference play), including eight games this season where the Irish had at least 15 steals. What's more, Notre Dame's season-high 23 steals vs. Providence on Jan. 30 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Jan. 28, 1995 (23 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Joyce Center), and only one off the BIG EAST record.
Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 25 steals this season. Senior guard Charel Allen leads the way with 53, ranking ninth in the BIG EAST in that category (2.04 spg). Allen has been especially potent of late with 18 steals in the past six games (3.0 spg), including a career-high six in the win over Providence.
Notre Dame tied Connecticut for the BIG EAST title in steals last season (9.69 spg. in league play; 10.47 overall), the first time the Irish won a conference steals crown since 1989-90, when they led the Horizon League with 10.93 steals per game.
Off And Running
Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In eight of their 20 wins, the Irish have opened up a double-digit lead less than 12 minutes into the game, while other first-half runs against Central Michigan (20-0), Bowling Green (18-3), Villanova (16-6), Georgetown (15-3) and Marquette (21-1) aided those wins.
Even in its defeat at third-ranked Maryland on Nov. 16, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 15 games this season and ranks fourth in the BIG EAST (10th nationally) with a 1.12 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 55.2 percent of its field goals this year (420 assists on 761 baskets), ranking fifth in the conference and 25th in the country with 16.15 assists per game.
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
Senior guard Charel Allen continues to make her way up Notre Dame's all-time scoring list, currently standing 11th with 1,425 points and just five points away from moving into the top 10 on the Irish career scoring charts. The person currently holding down that 10th position? First-year assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had 1,430 points from 1996-2001.
Peters To Miss Rest Of 2007-08 Season
Freshman forward Devereaux Peters will miss the remainder of the 2007-08 women's basketball season after injuring her left knee in the second half of Notre Dame's 81-66 win over No. 15 Pittsburgh on Feb. 10 at the Joyce Center. Peters suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), an injury that was confirmed by team orthopedist Dr. Fred Ferlic after Peters underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam on Feb. 11. Peters will undergo surgery to repair the injury at a later date, and her rehabilitation timetable has not yet been established.
At the time of her injury, Peters ranked fourth on the team in scoring at 9.0 points per game, second in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and third in steals (1.7 spg). She also ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in blocked shots (3rd - 1.96 bpg.) and field goal percentage (10th - .522), and she scored in double figures 14 times this season, including the final four games of her rookie campaign. In addition, she logged her first career double-double on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
What's more, her total blocks (45) and blocks-per-game average rank third all-time among Irish freshmen, trailing only Shari Matvey (94 blocks, 3.1 bpg. in 1979-80) and Ruth Riley (71 blocks, 2.2 bpg. in 1997-98).
Notre Dame is ranked 14th in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, rising two places from last week's survey. This week's ranking matches the best of the season for the Irish, and their highest in the media poll since the week of Jan. 2, 2006, when they were ranked 12th prior to losses at St. John's (66-63) and home vs. Seton Hall (74-61).
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 155 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw currently ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also were in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 14th consecutive time last week, moving up one spot to 16th in the previous week's balloting. Notre Dame's No. 14 rankings on Jan. 2-8 were the highest poll position for Notre Dame in two years, when the Irish were tabbed 12th by the coaches prior to the aforementioned losses to St. John's and Seton Hall. The new coaches' poll will be released Tuesday afternoon.
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 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 155 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 23 people on this elite list, 12 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.
The Jan. 27 game vs. Connecticut was the fifth women's basketball sellout (11,418) in school history and second this season (also Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee). It also is the second time in school history Notre Dame has posted multiple sellouts in one season, having also done so in 2000-01 (Connecticut and Georgetown).
In addition, the Jan. 27 audience marked the first time the Irish have attracted three crowds of 10,000 fans in the same season, as 10,825 fans took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan.
Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is 79-of-98 (.806) from the free throw line in the final two minutes (plus overtime) this season, including an impressive 14-of-16 (.875) display in the Feb. 10 win over No. 15 Pittsburgh.
Among those with a minimum of 10 attempts, senior guard Tulyah Gaines leads the way with an .824 free throw percentage (14-of-17) in crunch time. Also worth noting -- even after missing two free throws at Syracuse on Feb. 16, sophomore guard Ashley Barlow is 21-of-26 (.808) in her career when toeing the line down the stretch.
Start Me Up
Notre Dame's 13-2 start matched the second-best 15-game mark in the program's 31-year history. In 2000-01, the Irish opened with 23 consecutive victories, en route to their first-ever No. 1 ranking and eventually, the program's first national championship.
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 13-2 start was the 2004-05 season, when the Irish won their first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. Notre Dame (which rose as high as third in the national polls that season) then reeled off six more wins before suffering consecutive loss at Villanova (59-54) and home vs. No. 16 Connecticut (67-50). However, the Irish rebounded with a 10-game win streak, finishing the year at 27-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame posted a 13-2 record on three other occasions, also doing so in 1999-2000 (27-5, NCAA Sweet 16), 1998-99 (26-5, NCAA second round) and 1977-78 (13-4, program's first varsity season when playing at AIAW Division III level).
We're Going Streaking!
Notre Dame's 10-game win streak from Nov. 20-Jan. 2 was its longest since a similar 10-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 2005. The Irish now have amassed 10 double-digit win streaks in program history (eight in the Muffet McGraw era), led by the school-record 23-game success string to open the 2000-01 national championship season.
Notre Dame also won six consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 20-Jan. 2). That was the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since a 10-game run from Nov. 17, 2000 to Feb. 14, 2001, a streak that ended with a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers (one of only two defeats for the Irish on their run to the NCAA title).
No Easy Road
Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule, using it as a means of preparation for future tests in both the BIG EAST Conference and the postseason. However, this year's slate could be one of the more rugged ones in recent memory.
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (75-59 loss on Nov. 16), the Irish now will face four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 4), Notre Dame also has or will play No. 1 Connecticut (lost 81-64 on Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center), No. 3 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), and No. 5 Rutgers (lost 57-51 on Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top four teams in the poll have combined to win five of the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
Game #26 Recap: Rutgers
Epiphanny Prince scored 18 points, Matee Ajavon added 15 and No. 5/4 Rutgers overcame an eight-minute scoreless drought to beat No. 14 Notre Dame 57-51 on Tuesday night in Piscataway, N.J.
Notre Dame (20-6, 8-4 BIG EAST), which is known for its potent offense that averages nearly 80 points, played stellar defense. The Irish held Rutgers without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes spanning halftime as the Scarlet Knights (21-4, 11-1) were stymied by Notre Dame's zone defense.
Kia Vaughn, who finished with 14 points, finally broke the offensive drought with a putback 4 1/2 minutes into the second half that cut Rutgers' deficit to 28-26. That basket started a 17-5 run over the next seven minutes for the Scarlet Knights. Prince capped the spurt with a three-point play that gave Rutgers a 41-33 lead with 8:49 left. Notre Dame would get no closer than four points the rest of the game.
It was a sloppy first half with the teams combining for 19 turnovers and missing shot after shot. After a forgettable first 12 minutes, Rutgers used a 9-0 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 22-14 lead with 6:21 left. Those were the last points the Scarlet Knights' would score in the half.
Notre Dame scored the last eight points of the half, including a jumper by Allen at the buzzer to tie the game at 22.
Prince had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first half and Ajavon added seven points. The rest of the Scarlet Knights were a combined 2-for-16 from the field.
Noting The Rutgers Game
Irish Picked Fifth In BIG EAST Poll
Notre Dame was projected to finish fifth in the BIG EAST Conference this season, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches that was announced Oct. 25 during BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the ESPNZone in New York City. The Irish collected 165 points, with Connecticut (15 first-place votes, 225 points), Rutgers (one first-place vote, 211 points), West Virginia (186 points) and Pittsburgh (169 points) joining Notre Dame in the top five.
Senior guard Charel Allen was one of 11 players selected to this year's Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Allen averaged a team-high 17.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season and ranked second in the BIG EAST with 19.3 points per game in league play. She went on to earn first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America laurels. while helping the Irish go 20-12 and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Half And Half
During the past eight seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 141-12 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 69 of their last 75 such contests. Notre Dame has earned 17 victories in as many games after taking the lead to the locker room.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 13 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 Irish have a 182-12 (.938) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame is 14-2 this year when holding opponents below 60 points, with losses at No. 16 West Virginia (56-50 on Jan. 13) and No. 5/4 Rutgers (57-51 on Feb. 19) the exceptions.
...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 13 seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 113-4 (.966) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and a 81-80 loss to DePaul earlier this year (Jan. 22). Notre Dame has won 13 of 14 games this season when it reaches the 80-point mark.
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 Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 160 of their last 181 games (.884) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 91-15 (.858) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the 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 Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 71 of their last 77 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73, ot) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee (62-51 in 2005; 87-63 in 2008). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 310-82 (.791) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. For the third time in four years, and the second consecutive season, Notre Dame will equal the most regular-season home games (16) in school history. However, in 2004-05, the Irish played host to all four rounds of the Preseason WNIT before its regular 12-game home slate began. Notre Dame also played two Preseason WNIT games at home this year, in addition to its previously-scheduled 14-game Joyce Center docket.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have a school-record 22 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2007-08 season. Highlighting this year's television schedule are nine nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including one appearance on CBS (Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee), four games on the ESPN family of networks, and another four contests on CSTV.
In addition, Notre Dame has expanded its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish home games (11 regular-season, two exhibition) that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Since the start of its 2000-01 NCAA championship season (and including this year's broadcasts to date), Notre Dame now has played in 109 televised games, including 60 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guards Charel Allen, Tulyah Gaines and Amanda Tsipis are team captains for the 2007-08 season. Gaines is in her second year as a captain for the Irish, while Allen and Tsipis are first-time captains. All three players received the captain's honor through a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
On Oct. 3, 2007, Notre Dame announced that construction on the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation will begin in September 2008. The University has selected the architects for the project, and they currently are in the process of completing final design plans.
The first phase of the project, to begin this September, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new two-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the men's and women's basketball seasons and the end of the women's volleyball season.
The University announced last October that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III. A month later, another major gift of $5 million from Notre Dame graduate Vincent J. Naimoli was announced.
The arena will be named Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center -- and the new club/hospitality area and two outdoor patios will be named for the Naimoli family.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Notre Dame has introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game. The coupons are issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans leave the arena following the game.
This season's burger watch is at seven, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in both exhibition wins, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso and Marquette.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
Friends In Need
Longtime Irish women's basketball fan and Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies employee Patricia McAdams continues to recuperate at the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend after a Jan. 13 auto accident. While returning from Notre Dame's game at West Virginia earlier in the day, Patricia was severely injured when she stopped on a highway outside Fort Wayne, Ind., to help a fellow motorist and was then struck by a car.
A loyal supporter of the Irish for many years, Patricia has assisted Notre Dame's coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio with numerous marketing and promotional activities, and also coordinated regular bus trips for fans to see the Irish on the road.
Patricia's OIT colleagues have created a web page to update supporters on her progress: http://oit.nd.edu/patricia.
Notre Dame also lost a treasured friend on Jan. 22, when longtime Joyce Center clock operator Mark Tulchinsky passed away. Mark was a dedicated educator in the South Bend Community School Corporation, most recently serving as principal at Tarkington Traditional School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark, his wife, Nan (the official scorer for Notre Dame basketball), and the Tulchinsky family.
Here's a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women's basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet on the tickets page at Notre Dame's official athletics web site. Please note -- additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site for the latest information:
Next Game: South Florida
The Irish tip off "Senior Week" on Wednesday when they play host to South Florida in a 7 p.m. (ET) contest at the Joyce Center. It's the first of back-to-back games this week for Notre Dame to close out the 2007-08 home schedule and the final run at the Joyce Center for the Irish senior class.
USF (13-12, 3-9) is battling for a spot in the upcoming BIG EAST Championship, currently among a group of three teams tied for the 12th and final tournament berth. The Bulls were slated to visit Georgetown (one of the other teams in that three-way logjam) on Saturday before heading on to South Bend next week.