Feb. 22, 2014
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-0 / 13-0 ACC) vs. #7/7 Duke Blue Devils (24-3 / 11-2 ACC)
DATE: Feb. 23, 2014
TIME: 1:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 7-1
1ST MTG: ND 74-67 (3/22/86)
LAST MTG: ND 88-67 (2/2/14)
TV: ESPN/ESPN3/WatchESPN (live) (Pam Ward, p-b-p / Carolyn Peck, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/buytickets
No. 2 Fighting Irish Host No. 7 Duke In ACC Sunday Matinee
Entering the final week of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular season, few teams in the conference, if not the country, will face a gauntlet like No. 2 Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish take on three consecutive top-20 opponents, beginning at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday when they play host to No. 7 Duke at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised live on ESPN, ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app, while the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast can be heard live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
Notre Dame (26-0, 13-0) remained atop the ACC standings with a wire-to-wire 86-61 win at Wake Forest on Thursday night. Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd paced the Fighting Irish with her third double-double of the season, collecting game highs of 29 points and 10 rebounds, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds.
The Notre Dame-Duke Series
Notre Dame and Duke will be meeting for the second time this season and the ninth time in their series, with the Fighting Irish holding a 7-1 all-time edge against the Blue Devils. Notre Dame also has won its last five games against Duke, including this year's first matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Fighting Irish are 2-0 all-time against the Blue Devils at Purcell Pavilion, where the teams will be squaring off for the first time since 2004.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Duke Met
Kayla McBride had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Jewell Loyd scored 17 points and Lindsay Allen and Natalie Achonwa had 15 apiece, as No. 2 Notre Dame toppled third-ranked Duke, 88-67 on Feb. 2 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Notre Dame never trailed, shot nearly 62 percent and held Duke to a season-worst 39 percent shooting while claiming sole possession of first place by bringing an end to the Blue Devils' 42-game winning streak in home conference games.
Tricia Liston scored 23 points and single-handedly prevented Duke from being blown out by halftime. Notre Dame became the first ACC team to beat the Blue Devils at Cameron since Maryland did it in seventh-year coach Joanne P. McCallie's first season.
The Blue Devils threatened to get back in the game early in the second half, pulling to 49-44 on Richa Jackson's putback with 15 1/2 minutes left.
That's when Notre Dame got hot, scoring on six straight trips downcourt.
With Loyd hitting twice from close range and Michaela Mabrey making two outside jumpers, the Fighting Irish reeled off nine straight points during a 13-2 run.
Achonwa's free throw with 12:18 left gave Notre Dame a 62-46 lead, and the Blue Devils never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way, as the Fighting Irish expanded their lead to 23 points in the closing minutes.
Jackson and Alexis Jones added 16 points each for Duke.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Duke Met At Purcell Pavilion
Jacqueline Batteast scored 17 points, including 10 during a decisive three-minute run in the second half, to lead No. 11/10 Notre Dame to a 76-65 victory over No. 6 Duke in the semifinals of the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT on Nov. 17, 2004, at Purcell Pavilion.
Batteast, who got into early foul trouble and had just four points in the first half, was 6-of-12 shooting in the second half. With Duke ahead 56-55, Batteast made two free throws, then hit four straight shots and assisted on Charel Allen's basket in a 12-2 run that put the Fighting Irish ahead 67-58.
Allen added 16 points, and junior guard Megan Duffy had 15 for Notre Dame, which would defeat No. 10/9 Ohio State three days later to win the program's first Preseason WNIT title.
Monique Currie led Duke with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but made just 2-of-9 shots for seven points in the second half. Alison Bales had 11 points and seven blocked shots, and Mistie Williams added 10 points.
Other Notre Dame-Duke Series Tidbits
One Tough Stretch
Notre Dame is in the midst of one of the most challenging schedule stretches in the program's 37-year history, playing eight of its final 13 games against teams that are ranked or receiving votes, all during the closing six weeks of the regular season (five of those eight coming on the road).
With its 88-67 win at third-ranked Duke on Feb. 2, Notre Dame earned its third road win over a top-10 opponent this season, something the Fighting Irish had never done in a single regular season campaign during the program's 37-year history (Notre Dame has numerous postseason road wins over top-10 foes).
What made the Duke win even more remarkable is that it was the third consecutive road game against a top-10 opponent for the Fighting Irish, following ESPN2 Big Monday visits to No. 11/10 Tennessee (86-70 win) and No. 8/6 Maryland (87-83 win) on Jan. 20 and 27, respectively.
Before its recent run, Notre Dame had never even played top-10 teams in three consecutive road games during the same regular season, let alone defeated all three and done so in such a short period of time (13 days).
In fact, prior to last year, the Fighting Irish had not defeated two top-10 teams on the road in the same regular season before they earned victories at No. 1 Connecticut (73-72) and No. 9 Tennessee (77-67) -- and those wins came more than three weeks apart.
Getting The Jump
At 26-0, Notre Dame is off to the best start in the program's 37-year history. This year's start surpasses the debut of the 2000-01 Fighting Irish squad, which reeled off a (then) school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship.
Notre Dame's current 26-game winning streak is the second-longest success string in program history, and it's the third consecutive season the Fighting Irish have posted a winning streak of 20 games or longer, including last year's school-record 30-game run.
Notre Dame also has strung together 14 double-digit winning streaks in the program's 37-year history, with 12 of those coming during the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-88 to present).
Dating back to the start of last season, the Fighting Irish are 61-2 (.968) and have won 49 consecutive regular season games. In that span, their lone losses have come against a pair of third-ranked teams -- Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion) and Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.).
In addition, Notre Dame currently owns the nation's longest winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), having earned 48 consecutive victories since a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012 (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 24 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion. As of Friday, the Fighting Irish are tied with Dayton for the nation's third-longest active home winning streak, with this run also the third-longest in school history (longest since a 25-game stretch from Feb. 1, 2003-Nov. 22, 2004).
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 16 conference home games since a 65-63 loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 34 consecutive regular season road games (and 41 of its last 46, and 25 in a row overall), including the Feb. 13 victory at Boston College. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
Notre Dame's current 25-game road winning streak also is the longest active run in the nation, more than doubling the next-closest pursuer (11 by Chattanooga, as of Friday), as well as the fifth-longest in NCAA Division I history.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 23 consecutive conference road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
Peaking When It Counts
When the regular season enters its stretch run in the month of February, Notre Dame historically seems to raise its level of play. Since 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 112-28 (.800) in February games (including an active 17-game winning streak), as well as a 61-6 (.910) mark at home.
In the 27-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), the Fighting Irish are 160-43 (.788) in the month of February, including an 83-12 (.874) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has never posted a losing record in February, and only once did the Fighting Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second year in South Bend).
That's Some Sharp Shooting
Notre Dame currently is setting the pace nationally with a .519 field goal percentage, highlighted by 17 games this season in which the Fighting Irish have shot better than 50 percent, including six games where they topped 60 percent from the field.
In addition, Notre Dame had a remarkable three-game stretch from Dec. 7-22 when it connected at better than a 55-percent clip in each contest. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 55-percent outings since Nov. 20-29, 1997, when they did so in victories over North Carolina State (.565), Bowling Green (.558) and Ohio University (.567).
Notre Dame's sharpshooting brigade has been led by senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa, who is second in the ACC (fifth in the nation) with a .594 field goal percentage, along with a .612 mark in conference play (also second in the ACC).
Achonwa has been very efficient from the field in her last eight games, connecting at a .652 clip (43-of-66), including a 10-of-12 effort on Feb. 6 at Florida State, en route to a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.538) has moved into 10th in the ACC in field goal percentage (fourth in conference play at .565), thanks in part to her own recent hot streak that has seen Loyd shoot .600 (84-of-140) during her last 10 outings, notably going 9-of-11 for a game-high 23 points in the Feb. 9 win over Syracuse.
Seven other Notre Dame players are shooting better than 50 percent from the field this season, led by freshman forward Kristina Nelson (.568), junior forward Markisha Wright (.563) and freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.534), but none has made the minimum number of shots (three per game) to qualify for ACC ranking.
Life In The 60s
Not only has Notre Dame shot better than 60 percent from the field in six games this season, but the Fighting Irish have put up similar sizzling shooting numbers in single halves this year.
In fact, Notre Dame has posted a field goal percentage of .600 or better in 16 of its 52 halves, equating to a 60-percent performance approximately one out of every three periods of basketball it plays, with the distribution almost even (seven times in the first half, nine times in the second half).
The Fighting Irish also have shot better than 60 percent in both halves of a game twice this season (UNC Wilmington and Pittsburgh), along with a season-high single-half percentage of .710 in the second period against Central Michigan, a rate that just missed the top 10 on the school's all-time chart.
A pair of marks that did make it into one of the program's top 10 lists were Notre Dame's first-half shooting percentages at Michigan (.688) and Maryland (.667), which now rank as the sixth- and eighth-best figures during the opening 20 minutes in school history.
Dialing Long Distance
Although not usually a primary part of the Notre Dame arsenal, the Fighting Irish have found the three-point shot much to their liking this season. Notre Dame ranks second in the nation with a .414 three-point percentage, with four different players connecting at 40 percent or better from beyond the arc (and a fifth at .391).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey leads the way for the Fighting Irish with a .412 three-point percentage that ranks fifth in the ACC.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (.415) would rank just ahead of Mabrey on the ACC overall chart, while senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (.391) would be eighth, but both players are just short of meeting the minimum qualification standard (1.0 3FG/game).
During ACC play, Loyd (.517) is second in the conference, while Mabrey not far behind her in the fourth position (.448).
In addition, Mabrey is ninth in the ACC with 2.1 three-pointers per game, a mark she bolstered on Feb. 9 against Syracuse with a career-high (and Purcell Pavilion record-tying) six triples. It was one of seven times this season Mabrey has canned at least three treys in a game, and the third time this year a Notre Dame player has made five three-pointers in a contest (Mabrey went 5-for-6 against Boston College on Jan. 9, while junior guard Madison Cable posted a 5-for-6 effort against UCLA on Dec. 7).
In fact, Cable (.429) and freshman guard Lindsay Allen (.448) would rank among the top five in the ACC as well, but like Loyd and McBride, they don't quite meet the minimum standard for the overall ACC rankings despite their efficiency from distance.
As a team, the Fighting Irish have connected on 10 three-pointers in a game three times this season (UCLA, Tennessee and Syracuse), their highest production outside the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.
What's more, Notre Dame's .750 three-point mark (9-of-12) on Jan. 16 at Pittsburgh was its best performance from long range (with a minimum of five attempts) in more than five years, stretching back to Nov. 23, 2008, against Boston College at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., when the Fighting Irish made 7-of-8 three-pointers (.875) in a 102-54 win.
A Helping Hand
As of Friday, the Fighting Irish rank second in assists at 21.2 per game (Connecticut is first at 22.3).
Notre Dame also has dished out at least 20 helpers in 16 games thus far, plus 19 assists in four other outings (along with a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 64.0 percent of their made field goals this year (552 of 862).
Notre Dame also ranks sixth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) in assist/turnover ratio (1.43), led by two players who rank among the top 10 in the ACC in that category -- freshman guard Lindsay Allen (4th - 1.94) and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (8th - 1.79).
What's more, McBride (100 assists) and Allen (99) are on the verge of becoming the fourth set of Notre Dame teammates in the past decade to register 100 assists in the same season, and the first since 2010-11, when Skylar Diggins (186) and Brittany Mallory (101) pulled off the feat.
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points in a school-record four games this season (with three other games of 95-99 points), topping last year's mark of three triple-digit outings.
The Fighting Irish have piled up nine 100-point games in the past three seasons (and eight other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program's existence (and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run).
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 19 games this year, going 19-0 in those contests. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 94-5 (.949) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including wins in 64 of their last 65 such outings (the lone loss coming in last year's NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinal against Connecticut).
Nearly In A Class By Themselves
For the third consecutive season, a Notre Dame senior class is threatening to re-set the bar in terms of career wins by one group. The current class of tri-captains Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride is second all-time with 127 wins (127-14, .901), behind only the seniors from 2012-13.
Last year, led by its two-player senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, Notre Dame posted the best four-year record (130-20, .867) in school history, topping the win total (117) compiled by the previous year's seniors (Brittany Mallory, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters).
Prior to the 2011-12 season, the highest four-year win total by a senior class was 109, set by the Class of 2001 that included (among others) consensus national player of the year and 13-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley and current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey.
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program's all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.
McBride currently is seventh in program history with 1,648 career points, passing both Trena Keys (1,589 from 1982-86) and Karen Robinson (1,590 from 1987-91) with her 18 points against Syracuse on Feb. 9. McBride also is one of just seven players ever to score 1,600 points under the Golden Dome.
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 17th in Notre Dame history with 1,379 points, moving up another rung on the ladder past Shari Matvey (1,373 from 1979-83) with her seven points at Wake Forest on Feb. 20.
Coming Up Aces
Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed "Ace") also is making her way up Notre Dame's career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She currently ranks sixth on the rebounding list (893) and is tied for sixth on the double-doubles chart (26), moving up one spot on the latter rundown with her 21 points and 10 boards against Georgia Tech on Feb. 17.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .553 career field goal percentage (tied for sixth in program annals) and 135 games played (fifth all-time at Notre Dame; tied for third among active NCAA players).
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has continued her development as one of the top young talents in the country this season, building on last year's selection as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year.
The Lincolnwood, Ill., product currently ranks sixth in the ACC in scoring (18.6 ppg.), ninth in free throw percentage (.795), and 10th in field goal percentage (.538) and steals (1.8 spg.), while sporting career-high marks in scoring, rebounding (6.2 rpg.), assists (2.6 apg.), steals and field goal percentage. She also has nine 20-point games thus far (including a career-high 31 points at No. 8/6 Maryland on Jan. 27) after scoring 20 points twice during her rookie campaign.
What's more, Loyd has two 30-point games to her credit this season, having also dropped in an even 30 against Central Michigan on Dec. 22 at Purcell Pavilion. Loyd is the first Fighting Irish player to have two 30-point games in the same season since 1999-2000, when Ruth Riley did so against Liberty (32) and Miami (36).
Perhaps giving a preview of things to come, Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame's first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).
Loyd's opening-week point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the first three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
The Model Of Consistency
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd has scored in double figures in 31 consecutive games, dating back to March 11, 2013, when she had eight points in Notre Dame's 83-59 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 16/15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Loyd's 31-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, surpassing Natalie Novosel's 27-game run from March 8, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012. In fact, Loyd has scored in double figures in 49 of her 61 career games (and 10 of those 12 single-digit games saw her within one basket of double figures).
Katryna Gaither has staked an ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame's season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team's first five points of the season.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 assists per game (the latter ranking 10th in the ACC). She also is fourth in the ACC with a 1.94 assist/turnover ratio, and is third on the team with 1.23 steals per game.
Allen (99 assists) also is poised to become only the fifth Notre Dame freshman to dish out 100 assists in her rookie season, and just the second in the past 20 years (Skylar Diggins had 112 assists in 2009-10). Mary Gavin holds the Fighting Irish freshman assist record with 116 in 1984-85.
What's more, Allen's 3.8 apg. average is the best for a Notre Dame freshman since 1994-95 (Peirick - 3.9 apg.) and makes Allen a candidate to be just the second Notre Dame freshman ever to average 4.0 apg. as a rookie (Gavin logged 4.5 apg. in that 1984-85 season).
Leading a winning lineup is not an unfamiliar feeling for Allen, who is a combined 53-1 in her last 54 games as a starting point guard. Last year as a senior at St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., she guided her squad to a 27-1 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) title -- the highest level of play in the District of Columbia, which does not have a state tournament.
The Second Platoon
Another reason for Notre Dame's success this season has been the performance of its reserves, who are averaging more than 27 points per game and have outscored the opponent's bench by close to a 2-to-1 margin (27.3 ppg. to 15.8 ppg.).
The Fighting Irish second unit has outscored its opposite number in 19 games this season, including a season-high 55 points on Jan. 9 against Boston College, outscoring the entire BC roster by two points (not to mention the Notre Dame starters by 15).
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey (9.6 ppg.), freshman forward Taya Reimer (8.5 ppg.) and junior guard Madison Cable (5.5 ppg.) head up the strong Fighting Irish bench contingent, which has seen at least one reserve score in double figures in 20 games this season (total of 21 double-figure outings).
Call Her Mabrey
Certainly a leading candidate as one of the nation's most improved players would have to be Notre Dame sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 9.6 points and 2.5 assists per game along with a very solid 1.76 assist/turnover ratio, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.
Mabrey also has proven to be a dynamic three-point threat for Notre Dame, ranking fifth in the ACC with a .412 three-point percentage (fourth in the league with a .448 mark in ACC play) and placing ninth in the conference with 2.1 three-pointers made per game (thanks in part to making at least three triples in seven games this year, including a career-high 6-of-14 vs. Syracuse on Feb. 9).
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures 13 times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
Next Game: North Carolina
Notre Dame steps on the Purcell Pavilion hardwood for the final time in the 2013-14 regular season at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday when it welcomes No. 11/8 North Carolina to town. The first-ever meeting between the Fighting Irish and Tar Heels in South Bend will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director