Feb. 22, 2010
#7/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-3 / 10-3 BIG EAST) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (14-12 / 5-8 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 23, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 28-6
1ST MTG: MU 66-41 (2/3/78)
LAST MTG: MU 75-65 (1/13/09)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
#7 Irish Look To Bounce Back Tuesday With Senior Night Matchup Against Marquette
On the night when Notre Dame celebrates its senior class, the No. 7 Irish will look to tap into some of their veteran knowledge as they look to snap a two-game losing streak Tuesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup against Marquette at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
The Irish (23-3, 10-3) are coming off a rough week that saw them lose a pair of road games at ranked opponents, most recently a 76-66 setback at No. 14/12 Georgetown on Saturday. Notre Dame led by as many as seven points early, and got within three points with under 90 seconds to play, but couldn't quite nab the win.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led the Irish with a season-high 21 points and a game-best eight rebounds, including a career-high five three-pointers.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Marquette
It's been an up-and-down season for Marquette, as the Golden Eagles have battled through injuries and growing pains to pick up a pair of wins over ranked opponents (Pittsburgh and Georgetown). However, MU also has had to deal with some frustrating close losses, particularly of late, with the Golden Eagles dropping five of their last six (four by 10 points or fewer).
Most recently, Marquette (14-12, 5-8 BIG EAST) fell to DePaul, 72-63 last Saturday in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but DePaul scorched the nets in the second half (.556 FG%) and pulled away late for the win. Junior guard Angel Robinson and senior guard Lauren Thomas-Johnson led MU with 13 points apiece.
Robinson, a returning second-team all-BIG EAST selection, is one of the top all-around threats in the conference, averaging team highs of 12.3 points, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Sophomore forward Jessica Pachko, a member of last year's BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (6.7 rpg.).
Head coach Terri Mitchell is in her 14th season at Marquette, having compiled a 269-158 (.630) record at the school. She is 2-8 against Notre Dame in her coaching career.
The Notre Dame-Marquette Series
It's the longest running series in Notre Dame women's basketball history, as the Irish and Marquette prepare to meet for the 35th time in a rivalry that extends all the way back to the program's first varsity season in 1977-78.
Notre Dame is 28-6 all-time against the Golden Eagles, with a 17-1 record against MU at Purcell Pavilion. However, Marquette comes into Tuesday's game having won two of the past three matchups after the Irish had won 26 of the previous 27.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Marquette Met
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell has been waiting for a signature win over a top team for her program. She finally got one on Jan. 13, 2009, when Marquette upset No. 10/4 Notre Dame 75-65 in Milwaukee.
The victory was the first over a Top 10 opponent in school history.
Angel Robinson scored 19 and Krystal Ellis added 18 to help Marquette snap the Fighting Irish's seven-game winning streak.
The game was tied at 52 with 10:18 remaining. Marquette closed the game on a 23-13 run. Ellis sparked the surge with two three-pointers and Robinson added seven points for the Golden Eagles (11-5, 2-1 BIG EAST).
The Last Time Notre Dame and Marquette Met At Purcell Pavilion
Tulyah Gaines got Notre Dame's defense going, then she got going offensively.
Gaines stopped Marquette's Krystal Ellis after she burned Notre Dame for 13 points in the first eight minutes. Then Gaines scored a season-high 22 points to pace the Irish offensively in a 99-76 victory on Feb. 13, 2008, at Purcell Pavilion.
Ellis scored 13 points as Marquette jumped to an early 23-17 lead on 10-of-15 shooting. But the Fighting Irish switched to a box-and-one defense, with Gaines guarding Ellis, and went on a 21-1 run. The Golden Eagles went more than nine minutes without a basket. Ellis had just one shot the rest of the half and finished the game with 18 points.
The only other player in double figures for the Golden Eagles was Courtney Weibel, who scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half.
Gaines, who was 10-of-15 shooting, repeatedly drove for layups. Charel Allen added 13 points and the Irish shot a season-high 64 percent. Marquette had not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 49 percent all season.
Marquette, which bounced back from a 19-point deficit against Cincinnati a week earlier, trailed 45-31 at halftime. The Golden Eagles closed to 13 points early in the second half, but the Irish quickly answered with a 7-0 run.
The Irish, who led by as many as 32, didn't make a basket in the final 3:58 as they failed to become the first team in 13 years to break 100 against Marquette.
Other Notre Dame-Marquette Series Tidbits
Going Out On Top
Although it won't be Notre Dame's final regular-season home game, the program will take time to honor its seven departing seniors (five players, plus student managers Tom Bacsik and Bryant Welters) on Tuesday night with a special pre-game ceremony.
Notre Dame is 26-6 (.813) all-time on Senior Night, including a 19-3 (.864) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). In fact, the Irish lost their first Senior Night game under McGraw (69-68 vs. DePaul in 1988), but have proceeded to win on 19 of the past 21 Senior Days since then. The only setbacks during this current stretch came in 2002, when Villanova edged the 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.
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 Irish are 53-14 (.791) in "bounce back" games, including a victory in their only such scenario this season (a 78-60 win at Louisville on Jan. 19).
Overall, Notre Dame is 78-31 (.716) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) when playing its first game following a loss of 10 points or more.
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 85-25 (.773) in February games, including a 48-5 (.906) mark at home.
In the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 133-40 (.769) in the month of February, including a 70-11 (.864) 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).
Junior guard Brittany Mallory has spent much of this season serving as Notre Dame's "sixth man," a role she's filled more than capably, averaging 7.9 points and career highs of 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
However, the Baltimore native also has proven to be a solid starter when necessary. When fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined for two games last week with a sprained ankle, Mallory stepped into the lineup and averaged 13.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on the road at nationally-ranked St. John's and Georgetown.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons with its 75-63 victory at Rutgers on Feb. 1. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 20 times in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era and 24 times in the program's 33-year history.
Notre Dame also hit the 20-win plateau in its 21st game this season, reaching that milestone faster than all but one Irish team -- the 2000-01 squad that opened 23-0 and earned its 20th victory at Providence on Jan. 31, 2001 (one calendar day earlier than this year's club).
Notre Dame already has faced a rigorous schedule through 26 games of the 2009-10 season, taking on eight ranked opponents. The Irish also have risen to that challenge quite well, winning five of those eight contests (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and West Virginia), including three victories away from home (MSU, SDSU and OU).
In addition, two of the three losses to ranked opponents (at St. John's and at Georgetown) came by 10 points or fewer and occurred while fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined with a sprained left ankle (the first two games Schrader missed in her college career).
Four of Notre Dame's five wins over ranked opponents this season came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.
Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to win three times this season. The Irish erased a 10-point first-half margin at Purdue on Jan. 4, followed by a 12-point first-half spread at Louisville on Jan. 19, and most recently, they wiped out a 13-point second-half gap at home against West Virginia on Jan. 24.
The three double-digit comeback victories are the most for Notre Dame in a single season since 2002-03, when it came back to win at West Virginia (trailed by 14), at Providence (trailed by 10) and home vs. Seton Hall (trailed twice by 12).
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen at least seven different players led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists this season.
In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Irish roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including sophomore guard Fraderica Miller, and freshman guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who each topped the 10-point mark for the first time in their careers.
What's more, five different players have scored at least 20 points in a game this year. Diggins has five 20-point games (San Diego State, Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. John's), while senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Georgetown), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (DePaul), senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Purdue) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso) have one apiece.
Stat Sheet Stuffers
Another sign of Notre Dame's versatility is seen in the number of "5-5-5" games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year. In fact, no fewer than six Irish players have pulled off this feat at least once during the current campaign.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Iona, South Florida, DePaul, St. John's), freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB, Charlotte, Syracuse, Pittsburgh) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, DePaul) each have a team-high four 5-5-5 games. Junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Louisville), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) and junior forward Devereaux Peters (St. John's) each have one.
Barlow took it to another level in the Feb. 14 DePaul win with her first "5-5-5-5" game, piling up nine points, a career-high eight assists, six rebounds and five steals. Mallory nearly duplicated that trick in that same game, finishing with six points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Taking What We Can Get
Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 20 of 26 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 23.4 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +6.62 turnover margin that is eighth-best in the nation (as of Monday).
In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 36 at UCF on Dec. 29).
Charlotte's 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary's (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program's second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.
The Irish also are making even the most disciplined teams fall victim to their aggressive defensive style. Villanova came into its Jan. 9 game with Notre Dame ranked second in the nation with just 12.6 turnovers per game, but the Irish dogged the Wildcats into 34 turnovers (17 in each half).
Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents in 13 home games this season, forcing 26.1 turnovers per game and collecting at least 25 in eight Purcell Pavilion contests thus far.
The Five-Finger Discount
According to Monday's NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks fourth in the nation in steals (13.1 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 18 of their 26 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.
Individually, Notre Dame has five players with at least 30 steals this year, led by senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow with 65 steals (also good for 58th in the nation at 2.5 spg.). In fact, Barlow now has topped the 60-steal mark in each of her four seasons under the Golden Dome, making her just the third Irish player ever to accomplish that feat, along with Coquese Washington (1989-93) and current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (1997-2001).
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins is second on the squad with 59 thefts, making her the seventh Irish rookie to record at least 50 steals in her freshman season, and the first to do so since 2006-07, when (ironically enough) Barlow registered 63 steals.
Notre Dame is 27-12 (.692) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 7-3 record this year.
In addition, nine of the past 10 road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.2 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including two of three road setbacks this season (average margin of 7.5 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Notre Dame and Connecticut are the only two BIG EAST teams with at least three current players having 500+ career rebounds. Irish fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader is seventh all-time at Notre Dame with 776 boards, while senior guard tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 612 caroms and senior center Erica Williamson has 510 career rebounds.
Notre Dame is ranked seventh in this week's Associated Press poll, ending a run of 15 consecutive weeks in the top five -- it was the second-longest run in the AP Top 5 in program history, and the longest for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
However, with their current poll appearance run of 54 consecutive weeks (the second-longest in school history behind a 56-week stretch from 1998-2002), the Irish spent a total of seven weeks this year at a season-high No. 3 ranking. That was Notre Dame's highest poll position since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With this week's poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 194 weeks during the program's 33-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 Irish was tied for third in last week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. It was the eighth time in nine weeks Notre Dame reached its season high in the ESPN/USA Today poll, while also being the highest it has been ranked in the coaches' survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year.
What's more, it was the first time Notre Dame was in the top three in consecutive weeks since the final 14 weeks of the 2000-01 season (capped by a No. 1 ranking in the final poll after winning the national championship).
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 3 ranking last week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 185 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 28 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 194 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 28 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former 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 third season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the Jan. 25 AP poll at No. 23.
Game #26 Recap: Georgetown
It's been a season of firsts for the Georgetown Hoyas. A record 16-game winning streak, and at No. 14, their highest ranking ever. Now, there's a new superlative: Biggest win in school history.
On Saturday, the Hoyas (22-4, 11-2 BIG EAST) knocked off No. 4 Notre Dame 76-66 before a record crowd of 2,417 at McDonough Arena. The win might have been a stunner nationally, but there was no enormous celebration. No rushing the court, no players jumping up and down.
Freshman Sugar Rodgers had 24 points, while Adria Crawford added 18 points and Latia Magee had 17 for the Hoyas.
Georgetown took a 45-42 lead with 14:51 remaining on a 3-pointer by Rodgers and built a 58-47 lead with 8:17 remaining. They withstood a late rally by the Irish (23-3, 10-3), who closed to 62-60 on Natalie Novosel's two free throws with 5:21 to play. Georgetown scored the game's last seven points to secure the win.
Rodgers didn't start for the first time because it was senior day, and GU head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy started seldom-used senior captain Kenya Kirkland instead. By the time Rodgers reported in, Notre Dame was leading 9-2, and then she got to work, quickly scoring 13 points and giving the Hoyas a 22-17 lead with 9:54 to play in the half.
Georgetown surrendered the lead late in the half, but Magee's layup with 1:26 to go in the half gave them a 31-30 lead, and they were ahead 33-30 at the break.
The Irish were playing their second straight game without Lindsay Schrader, the team's third leading scorer and leading rebounder, who is out because of a sprained left ankle. Without Schrader, they lost 76-71 at No. 25 St. John's on Tuesday.
Noting The Georgetown Game
Getting The Jump
At 15-0, Notre Dame got off to the second-best start in the program's 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was in 2000-01, when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship.
Notre Dame's season-opening 15-game winning streak tied for the third-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it was the longest since the school-record 23-game run to begin the 2000-01 season.
McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached her second important career milestone of the season on Jan. 19, as she became the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins when the Irish posted a 78-60 victory at Louisville.
McGraw earned the milestone win in her 839th career game (she now has a 28-year mark of 607-241, .716), tying her with former Saint Peter's coach Mike Granelli as the 10th-fastest to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.
In honor of the historic 600th victory, Notre Dame fans at Purcell Pavilion held up signs with the number "600" on them when McGraw and her staff took the floor prior to the Jan. 24 win over No. 16/11 West Virginia. The visibly-moved Irish coach later called the scene "one of the top five moments" of her Notre Dame career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 519-200 (.722) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 607-241 (.716) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.
Keeping It Close To Home
Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 13 players on this year's Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while five others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).
What's more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana -- senior guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and the all-South Bend backcourt of senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman guard Skylar Diggins -- while the fifth starter (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.
As if that weren't enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 318 career starts between them.
Schrader reached a personal milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now is tied for sixth in school history with 115 career starts, and had a streak of 73 in a row from Jan. 16, 2008-Feb. 14, 2010 (also sixth-best in school history) before missing the Feb. 16 game at St. John's with an ankle injury.
For the first time in Notre Dame women's basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001, while the current Irish senior quartet is closing in on 10th place (127) in that category (Lechlitner at 122, Barlow and Williamson at 121, Schrader at 119).
Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.
Barlow currently ranks 12th in school history with 1,412 career points, while Schrader is 14th with 1,329 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 912 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Schrader Added To State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List
Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader was one of seven players added to the 2009-10 State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List, it was announced Jan. 28 by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Schrader and her fellow mid-season additions earned their spots on this year's Wade Watch List by virtue of their on-court performances to date during the '09-10 campaign, and they expand the player pool for this season's national player-of-the-year award to 32, as selected by the State Farm Wade Trophy Committee.
Schrader, a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection and three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll choice this year, becomes the fifth Notre Dame player named to the Wade Watch List in the past seven seasons, and the first since Charel Allen in 2007-08.
In addition, Schrader is the third Notre Dame player this season to earn a place on a national player-of-the-year award watch list. Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow was both a preseason Naismith Trophy candidate and a midseason John R. Wooden Award Top 20 choice, while freshman guard Skylar Diggins joined Barlow on this year's preseason Naismith Trophy candidate slate.
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Lechlitner Named Second-Team Academic All-District
Senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner has been named to the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Second Team, it was announced Feb. 4 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
It's the first time Lechlitner has earned the award, and she is the first Fighting Irish player to garner academic all-district status since 2006, when former Notre Dame point guard Megan Duffy received her second consecutive district award and parlayed that into first-team Academic All-America honors. What's more, Lechlitner becomes the eighth Fighting Irish women's basketball player in the past 12 seasons to be an academic all-district selection.
Lechlitner currently maintains a 3.377 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in the College of Arts and Letters, where she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in psychology. She earned dean's list honors in the spring of 2007 with a 3.75 semester GPA, and is coming off a stellar fall 2009 term that saw her post a 3.583 GPA. In addition, she is a three-time BIG EAST Conference All-Academic Team selection and is a prime candidate to make that squad once again this year.
Pomp And Circumstance
On Jan. 3, senior center Erica Williamson received her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and has begun graduate studies this spring.
With Williamson collecting her diploma, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 183-17 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 111 of their last 122 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in 20 games this season and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 15 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 an amazing 205-14 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added 10 more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Charlotte, UCF, Villanova, Providence and Cincinnati.
...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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 136-4 (.971) 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 an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame already has added 13 more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, No. 23/24 San Diego State, No. 20/17 Oklahoma, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte, UCF, Villanova, South Florida, Providence, Pittsburgh and DePaul.
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 186 of their last 210 games (.886) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 105-17 (.861) 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 Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven 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 two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). 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 336-85 (.798) 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.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through 13 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,604 fans per game, putting the Irish nearly 800 fans ahead of their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted 10 sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Feb. 14, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their win over DePaul -- it also was the fourth women's basketball sellout since the renovated arena opened this fall (the other capacity crowds coming on Dec. 31 vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt, Jan. 24 vs. No. 16/11 West Virginia and Feb. 6 vs. Pittsburgh), setting a new school record for sellouts in one season (Notre Dame had two each in 2000-01 and 2007-08).
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the third annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.
Last year, the Irish raised more than $48,000 through the Pink Zone program, earning the first WBCA Pink Zone Challenge award for the most money raised among the nation's top 25 attendance leaders. This season, Notre Dame elevated its Pink Zone fund-raising goal to $55,000 and has far exceeded that total, generating more than $70,000 to date ($40,000 in advance of the Feb. 14 Pink Zone game vs. DePaul, and another $30,000 on game day).
Throughout the 2009-10 season, the Irish have taken part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season are divided equally between the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and three local charities associated with the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
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. 89 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 second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) 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. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 159 televised games, including 106 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and 2010 McDonald's All-American Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Signee Kayla McBride Named McDonald's All-American
Notre Dame incoming freshman guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) is one of 24 student-athletes who have been named to the 2010 McDonald's Girls' High School All-America Team, it was announced Feb. 11. With the selection, McBride will compete for the East team in the McDonald's High School All-America Game, which is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on March 31 and will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU from Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
"This is an incredible honor and we are so proud of Kayla," Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "She put in so much time and effort during the off-season to improve her game, and it's such a thrill to see that kind of hard work and dedication pay off. We're looking forward to following Kayla throughout the rest of her high school career, and excited to have her joining us next season."
The 5-foot-11 McBride is the sixth future Notre Dame women's basketball player, and third in four seasons, to earn McDonald's High School All-America recognition since the girls' team was first created in 2002. Other incoming Fighting Irish cagers who played in the McDonald's game have included Courtney LaVere (2002), Crystal Erwin (2003), and a trio of current Notre Dame players -- Lindsay Schrader (2005), Devereaux Peters (2007) and Skylar Diggins (2009). Diggins shared Most Valuable Player honors at last year's McDonald's game in Coral Gables, Fla., after collecting a game-high 18 points, five rebounds and three steals for the East team in a 69-68 loss to the West squad.
McBride, who also earned a spot on the ESPN Hoopgurlz All-Star Team that likewise was released Feb. 11, has been ranked as one of the top 25 players in the nation in the Class of 2010 by both ESPN Hoopgurlz (20th) and All-Star Girls Report (22nd). She recently became the all-time scoring leader in Villa Maria Academy history and has helped VMA -- the defending Pennsylvania Class AA state champion -- to a No. 1 ranking in the state in Class AA. The Victors also have been ranked among the top 15 teams in the East Region by several national media outlets this year.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year three 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 Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 18 times, including wins this year over Indianapolis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte and DePaul.
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 -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has too much time on his hands"), 10 different players have converted the "burger ball", including nine current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 18 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, six on free throws, and three on three-pointers.
Next Game: Seton Hall
The Irish will play their final road game of the 2009-10 regular season Saturday when they travel to South Orange, N.J., for a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST contest at Seton Hall. It will be the second visit to Walsh Gymnasium in as many years for Notre Dame, with the Irish earning a hard-fought 66-60 win last season.
Seton Hall (9-17, 1-12) has lost four in a row, most recently dropping a 78-57 decision at Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Pirates will play host to Louisville on Wednesday night before turning their attention to Notre Dame this weekend.