Feb. 25, 2011
#8/7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-5 / 12-2 BIG EAST) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-18 / 1-13 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 26, 2011
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 6-0
1ST MTG: ND 67-58 (2/13/82)
LAST MTG: ND 66-50 (2/9/10)
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No. 8/7 Irish Face Cincinnati Saturday On Senior Day
With the regular season entering its final weekend, No. 8/7 Notre Dame will take time to honor its departing seniors as the Fighting Irish play their final home game of the 2010-11 season Saturday when they welcome Cincinnati to Purcell Pavilion for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee. Notre Dame also is seeking to record 15 home wins for the second consecutive season and just the fifth time in program history.
The Fighting Irish (23-5, 12-2 BIG EAST) returned to the win column on Tuesday with a 72-60 victory at No. 19/18 West Virginia, earning their fourth win over a ranked opponent this season. Notre Dame shot a blistering 57.7 percent from the floor and led by double digits for much of the night, bumping its lead as high as 18 points in the second half.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Cincinnati
Without question, no team in the BIG EAST Conference has been more troubled by the injury bug this season than Cincinnati. The Bearcats have seen their active roster dwindle to eight healthy players, thanks to season-ending injuries to sophomore forwards Daress McClung (ankle) and Elese Daniel (knee), the latter being a South Bend native.
UC (8-18, 1-13) has lost 12 in a row and 18 of its last 21 games, most recently dropping a narrow 55-53 decision at home to Syracuse on Tuesday night. The Bearcats led by as many as 19 points in the first half, before the Orange rallied and held off a potential game-winning shot by Cincinnati late in the contest.
Senior guard Shareese Ulis, who scored a game-high 20 points against Syracuse, leads the Bearcats in scoring (13.7 ppg.), three-point percentage (.353), assists (2.8 apg.) and steals (1.3 spg.). Freshman guard Kayla Cook is second on the team in scoring (8.0 ppg.), while fellow rookie Tiffany Turner nabs a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game.
Former Connecticut player and longtime Huskies' assistant coach Jamelle Elliott is in her second season as the head coach at Cincinnati with a 20-36 (.357) record, including an 0-1 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series
Saturday's matinee will mark the seventh time Notre Dame and Cincinnati have squared off on the basketball hardwood, with the Fighting Irish having won each of the six previous matchups, including all five since the Bearcats joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06. Notre Dame also is 3-0 all-time against UC at Purcell Pavilion.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Cincinnati Met
The crowd was small, the mood was subdued, the snow was falling outside. Fourth-ranked Notre Dame didn't feel a whole lot of energy at the opening tip.
Lindsay Schrader and the Fighting Irish defense eventually provided it.
Schrader scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half, and Notre Dame intensified its full-court pressure, building a 20-point lead and holding on for a 66-50 win over Cincinnati on Feb. 9, 2010, at Fifth Third Arena.
Schrader led the way against Cincinnati, shaking off a 1-for-7 shooting performance in a first half that lacked energy. Only 472 fans showed up for a game played as the city was digging out from another major snowstorm.
The fifth-year senior guard got the Fighting Irish revved by making three consecutive baskets early in the second half, pushing the lead to 20. When Cincinnati got the lead down to nine, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called a timeout and called a play designed to get the ball inside to Schrader.
She caught the pass, made a layup, was fouled and completed a three-point play that ended Cincinnati's comeback.
Becca Bruszewski added 14 points and eight rebounds, helping the Fighting Irish get through a night when they started very slowly.
Kahla Roudebush had 17 points to lead Cincinnati, which couldn't take advantage of Notre Dame's ragged first half. The Fighting Irish led only 19-16 with 7:35 left in the half. That's when Notre Dame's pressure and dominance inside let the Fighting Irish take control.
The Bearcats went 1 of 8 with four turnovers the rest of the half, allowing Notre Dame to pull ahead 32-18. The Fighting Irish had 12 offensive rebounds in the half, setting up 14 points.
Brittany Mallory had a career-high eight rebounds in the first half alone. In one sequence during the late first-half run, the Fighting Irish got four offensive rebounds on one possession and finally scored on Devereaux Peters' putback.
Notre Dame opened the second half with an 8-2 run that featured three straight baskets by Schrader and pushed the lead to 40-20.
The Fighting Irish got the Bearcats' offense out of sync and forced sloppy moments that left coach Jamelle Elliott pointing at her head. Cincinnati had an over-and-back violation, a shot clock violation, and threw the ball out of bounds on consecutive possessions.
Cincinnati finished with 23 turnovers, setting up 21 Fighting Irish points.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Cincinnati Met At Purcell Pavilion
Notre Dame had a lot of fun getting serious about defense.
After losing three of their past four games, the No. 17/13 Fighting Irish used 21 steals to bolster Lindsay Schrader's season-high 19 points and career-high 15 rebounds and beat Cincinnati 66-50 on Jan. 31, 2009, at Purcell Pavilion.
The Fighting Irish used a 13-2 run late in the first half and a 7-0 run to start the second half, forcing five straight turnovers, to move ahead 43-26 on a three-pointer by Becca Bruszewski. The Fighting Irish opened a 52-33 lead on a free throw by Kellie Watson with 12:01 left.
The Bearcats, led by Kahla Roudebush with 13 points, closed to 59-50 when Angel Morgan, who scored 10, cut drove the baseline and scored on a layup. They had a chance to cut the lead to six points, but Morgan missed a three.
Then Watson, who earlier ended an 0-for-14 streak over five games from three-point range, made back-to-back threes 40 seconds apart to clinch the victory.
Other Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series Tidbits
Going Out On Top
Prior to Saturday's game against Cincinnati, Notre Dame will take time to honor its four departing seniors (forwards Becca Bruszewski and Mary Forr, plus student managers Stephen Lauria and Brian Monson) for their contributions to the program.
Notre Dame is 27-6 (.818) all-time on Senior Day, including a 20-3 (.870) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). In fact, the Fighting Irish lost their first Senior Day game under McGraw (69-68 vs. DePaul in 1988), but have proceeded to win on 20 of the past 22 Senior Days since then. The only setbacks during this current stretch came in 2002, when Villanova edged the Fighting Irish, 48-45, to break Notre Dame's school-record 51-game home winning streak, and in 2007, when Rutgers pulled away late for a 76-60 win.
Peaking When It Counts
When the regular season enters its stretch run in the month of February, Notre Dame historically seems to raise its level of play. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 92-26 (.780) in February games, including a 52-5 (.912) mark at home.
In the 24-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Fighting Irish are 140-41 (.773) in the month of February, including a 74-11 (.871) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February (including this year's 5-1 record), and only once did the Fighting Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second season in South Bend).
Celebrating The Bicentennial
With a 200-62 (.763) all-time record in BIG EAST Conference regular season play, Notre Dame has become just the third BIG EAST school to record 200 regular season conference wins, joining Connecticut (377) and Villanova (250) in that elite company.
What makes Notre Dame's feat even more impressive is the fact the Fighting Irish have reached their bicentennial in less than 16 seasons (1995-96 to present), while both Connecticut and Villanova were charter members of the BIG EAST when it debuted women's basketball competition in 1982-83 -- 13 seasons before Notre Dame came aboard. Another charter member (Providence) is fourth all-time with 196 BIG EAST victories.
The Fighting Irish also rank second in conference history with a .763 winning percentage, trailing only Connecticut (.818) and joining the Huskies as the only programs in BIG EAST history (current or former) to have won at least 70 percent of their conference games (Rutgers is third at .698).
The current Notre Dame senior class (Becca Bruszewski, Mary Forr, Brittany Mallory, Devereaux Peters) is closing in on a collective career milestone, with the group having led the Fighting Irish to a 99-29 (.772) record since they arrived on campus in 2007-08.
Only five senior classes in program history have registered 100 wins in their four-year tenures, led by the 2000-01 national championship seniors (Imani Dunbar, Meaghan Leahy, Niele Ivey, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon), who amassed 109 victories from 1997-2001 (Ivey was a fifth-year senior in '00-01, following a knee injury five games into her rookie season of '96-97).
The other 100-win Notre Dame classes came in 1998-99 (102 wins), 1999-2000 (106 wins), 2001-02 (107 wins) and 2002-03 (102 wins).
It should be noted that Forr joined the Fighting Irish roster as a walk-on prior to this season, while both Mallory and Peters have the option to return for a fifth year of eligibility next season after both suffered knee injuries early in the 2008-09 campaign.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons with its 76-68 victory at South Florida on Feb. 5. The Fighting Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 21 times in the 24-year Muffet McGraw era and 25 times in the program's 34-year history.
McGraw herself has coached 23 20-win seasons (adding in two during her five-year tenure at Lehigh from 1982-87), tying her for ninth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches.
For the 15th time in its 16-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has posted double-digit league wins. With the exception of 2005-06 (when they went 8-8), the Fighting Irish have never posted fewer than 10 BIG EAST wins in a season, finishing among the top four in the conference 13 times in their 16 seasons in the league, including this year (Notre Dame already has secured a top-four finish and "double bye" for next week's BIG EAST Championship).
Taking it a step further, Notre Dame has registered double-digit conference wins in 21 of head coach Muffet McGraw's 24 seasons under the Golden Dome, with the only other exceptions coming in 1987-88 (her first season when the Fighting Irish went 7-3 in the now-defunct North Star Conference) and 1991-92 (when Notre Dame went 8-4 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League, then won three in a row at the conference tournament to earn the program's first-ever NCAA Championship berth, despite a losing overall record of 14-16, becoming the first school ever to pull off that feat).
The Rare Air Up There
For the fourth consecutive week (and the first time since Dec. 9, 2002), both Notre Dame basketball teams are ranked in the top 10 of their respective Associated Press polls. The Fighting Irish women are ranked eighth this week, while Mike Brey's men check in at No. 9.
Notre Dame is one of only two schools in the country with two top-10 basketball programs, along with Duke (No. 9 women/No. 1 men).
If you want to go one further, this marks the first time in Notre Dame athletics history that both Fighting Irish basketball teams AND the Notre Dame hockey team are ranked in the top 10 at the same time (the Fighting Irish icers currently stand eighth in the nation).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday's game ranked fourth in the nation in steals with 13.6 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 20 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 24 steals at Valparaiso (Dec. 2) and 23 steals against IUPUI (Nov. 26).
Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).
Individually, Notre Dame has 11 different players with double-digit steals this season (four with at least 50 thefts), led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.3 steals per game (sixth in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame also enters Saturday's game ranked sixth in the country in assists (18.3 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 13 games this season.
Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 61.8 percent of its baskets this season, with 512 assists on 829 field goals.
At the head of the Fighting Irish assist company is sophomore Skylar Diggins, who has adapted well to her role as Notre Dame's primary point guard, ranking fifth in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.7 assists per game, and just outside the top 15 in the league with a 1.27 assist/turnover ratio. She also has handed out at least five assists in 18 games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.
Notre Dame also ranks third in the nation with a .491 field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 16 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 23 outings.
Notre Dame also has seen a rise in its three-point shooting numbers following a slow start this season. During the past 19 games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 40.8 percent clip (69-of-169) from beyond the arc. Compare that with the first nine contests of the season, when Notre Dame had a .269 (29-of-108) three-point percentage.
Notre Dame ranks among the top 10 in the nation in seven categories according to last Friday's NCAA statistics report -- third in scoring margin (+25.8) and field goal percentage (.491); fourth in steals (13.6 spg.); fifth in three-point percentage defense (.249); sixth in assists (18.3 apg.); and seventh in scoring offense (79.8 ppg.) and rebounding margin (+10.0).
In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 25 in the NCAA in 11 of a possible 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in turnover margin (11th, +5.71), scoring defense (15th, 54.0 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (20th, 1.03) and field goal percentage defense (21st, .352).
Yet for all of these high team statistical marks, no Fighting Irish individual ranks higher than No. 59 in any single category -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is 59th in the nation in assists (4.7 apg.).
High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses (79.8 ppg., seventh as of Friday), Notre Dame is moving into uncharted territory in the school's record books.
The Fighting Irish have scored 90 points in a game in eight contests this season, setting a new school record for 90-point games in a season (the previous mark was seven on three occasions - 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
Notre Dame also has set a new school record with nine wins by at least 35 points, more than doubling the previous program record of four 35-point wins set in 2008-09.
What's more, the Fighting Irish have won 12 games by at least 30 points, topping the school record of 10 30-point victories, which was set during the program's 2000-01 national championship season.
Last year, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in school history, and best since the Fighting Irish logged a school-record 81.0 ppg. mark in 1998-99.
One of Notre Dame's greatest areas of improvement this season has been in the rebounding column, where the Fighting Irish are averaging 41.6 caroms per game, up more than two rebounds from last year's total at this time (39.5 rpg.) and good enough for third in the BIG EAST.
Notre Dame also is giving up just 31.6 rebounds per game, nearly five caroms better than last year at this time (36.1 rpg.) and placing second in the conference.
With a +10.0 rpg. margin this season, the Fighting Irish rank third in the BIG EAST and seventh in the country as of Friday.
What's more, Notre Dame has outrebounded its opponent by double digits in 14 games this season, including eight games in which the Fighting Irish posted rebound margins of +15 or better, topped by a season-high +42 mark (66-24) on Jan. 2 against Southeast Missouri State at Purcell Pavilion.
Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Fighting Irish have spread the wealth so far this season, with six different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game thus far, with four different 20-point scorers along the way.
Notre Dame also has seen no fewer than eight different players claim team-high rebounding and assist honors at some point this year.
Missed It By That Much
Notre Dame may hold a 23-5 record coming into Saturday's game, but the Fighting Irish are oh-so-close to owning a much better mark, with all five losses coming to top-15 opponents by an average margin of just 8.6 points per game (three by single digits and a fourth by 11 points).
What's more, Notre Dame led inside the final 30 seconds of regulation in two of those losses, both at home (No. 15 UCLA, also at the end of the first overtime; No. 2 Connecticut), and the Fighting Irish also had a possession to tie the game in the final 30 seconds at No. 9/10 Kentucky.
The fourth loss (at No. 2/3 Baylor) saw Notre Dame battle to within six points (65-59) with five minutes remaining and have a look at a three-pointer to halve the margin further on their next possession, but the shot rattled out and the Lady Bears managed to put the game away with nine free throws (despite making only one field goal during the final 8:23).
Diggins Named Semifinalist For Nancy Lieberman Award
Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is among a group of 11 players who have been selected as semifinalists for the 2011 Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation's top point guard, it was announced Feb. 19 by the award's organizer, the Rotary Club of Detroit. Diggins is the only underclass player among the 11 remaining nominees, joining eight seniors and two juniors in contention for this year's award.
Diggins is the first Notre Dame player to be chosen as a Nancy Lieberman Award semifinalist since All-American Megan Duffy in 2006, and the third since the award's inception in 2001 (when another Notre Dame All-American and current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey was a finalist). This year's 11 nominees were selected by a panel of sportswriters from around the country, based on the criteria of floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame selection Nancy Lieberman during her career. That same sportswriter panel will choose the three finalists and this year's award recipient during the weekend of the NCAA Women's Final Four (April 3-5), with the recipient to attend an awards luncheon on April 27 at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Diggins is one of three BIG EAST Conference players among the 11 Lieberman Award semifinalists, along with Sarah Miles (West Virginia) and Sam Quigley (DePaul). The other remaining nominees are: Cetera DeGraffenreid (North Carolina), Dawn Evans (James Madison), Melissa Jones (Baylor), Jeanette Pohlen (Stanford), Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State), Danielle Robinson (Oklahoma), Jasmine Thomas (Duke) and Courtney Vandersloot (Gonzaga).
Diggins Makes Naismith Midseason List
On Feb. 14, sophomore guard Skylar Diggins earned a place on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 List, according to an announcement by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The Naismith Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation's top player, compiled its midseason candidates based upon individual performance and team results during the 2010-11 season to date.
It's the second midseason national award candidate list that Diggins has made, following her place on the John R. Wooden Award chart last month, and like that rundown, she is one of only three sophomores to be tapped for the designation along with Baylor's Brittney Griner and Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers.
Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Nicknamed "Nasty" for her playmaking abilities, junior guard Natalie Novosel is rapidly making a strong case as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference, if not the entire country.
The Lexington, Ky., native currently leads the Fighting Irish (and ranks seventh in the league) in scoring at 15.0 points per game, tripling her offensive output from a season ago. She also has scored at least 20 points in a game five times this year (after coming into the campaign with a career single-game high of 19 points) and has scored in double figures a team-high 24 times after doing so a total of 14 times in her first two seasons combined at Notre Dame.
In addition, Novosel added some hardware to her personal trophy case as well, taking home Most Valuable Player honors at the WBCA Classic, earning a spot on the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team and also garnering a place on the Nov. 29 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll.
Thus, it's no surprise that ESPN.com's Graham Hays tweeted the following comment after Novosel's career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) vs. Gonzaga in a 70-61 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 29 in Seattle:
"Is Natalie Novosel the most improved player in the nation? Gotta be on the short list."
Peters Showing Her Own Dev-elopment
If Novosel is among the nation's most improved players, senior forward Devereaux Peters can't be far behind. The veteran frontliner is playing some of the best basketball of her career this season, putting a pair of knee injuries and three surgeries well in the rearview mirror.
A three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection, Peters currently is averaging career highs of 11.4 points per game (28th in the BIG EAST) and 7.0 rebounds per game (10th), along with a .590 field goal percentage (third), 1.5 blocks per game (sixth), 1.8 steals per game (15th) and a career-high .762 free throw percentage.
Peters' numbers in BIG EAST play are even more eye-popping, as she ranks among the top five in the league in field goal percentage (second - .620), rebounding (second - 7.7 rpg.) and blocks (tied-fourth - 1.7 bpg.), while ranking 16th in scoring (12.8 ppg.). She also is tied for second in the BIG EAST with four double-doubles during conference action.
Like Novosel, Peters regularly has been pulling in accolades this season, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team and garnering MVP honors at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. During the latter tournament on Dec. 29-30, she averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game with a .684 field goal percentage (13-of-19) in wins over Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.
That tournament effort has been the cornerstone of Peters' post-Christmas surge. In the past 16 games, the Chicago native is averaging 13.0 points and 8.4 rebounds with six double-doubles and a .621 field goal percentage (90-of-145).
Peters Is Secretary Of Defense
One of the key factors in Notre Dame's defensive resurgence this season, senior forward Devereaux Peters is one of only two players in the BIG EAST to rank among the top 15 in the conference in its three major defensive categories (rebounds, blocks, steals).
Peters currently is 10th in the league in rebounding (7.0 rpg.), while ranking sixth in blocks (1.5 bpg.) and 15th in steals (1.8 spg.).
The only other player in the BIG EAST that has shown similar defensive prowess this season is Connecticut's Maya Moore.
Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.
At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner's shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes left.
It's believed to be the first time in Griner's two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters' block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball YouTube channel (search for "notredameirishhoops" or click the link through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at www.UND.com).
Bruszewski Joins 1,000-Point Club
With 12 points vs. Syracuse on Feb. 1, senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski became the 27th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 points in her career. She currently ranked 24th on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,057 points.
Bruszewski also became the fifth player from Notre Dame's 2007-08 NCAA Sweet 16 team to hit the 1,000-point mark, joining Charel Allen (1,566 from 2004-08), Ashley Barlow (1,492 from 2006-10), Lindsay Schrader (1,429 from 2005-10) and Melissa Lechlitner (1,005 from 2006-10) in that group.
Five other teams in Fighting Irish women's basketball history have featured at least five current or future 1,000-point scorers on the same roster -- from 1995-96 through 1999-2000, every Notre Dame squad had five or more players who had reached or would reach the 1,000-point plateau during their careers (including a school-record six on the 1996-97 and 1997-98 squads).
Aside from head coach Muffet McGraw and current associate coach Carol Owens, the one common link between those teams was guard Danielle Green, who scored 1,106 points from 1995-2000, missing the 1996-97 Final Four season with a preseason Achilles injury and coming back for a fifth year of eligibility in 1999-2000.
Game #28 Recap: West Virginia
Natalie Novosel scored 22 points and the No. 8/7 Fighting Irish overcame 30 turnovers to beat the No. 19/18 Mountaineers 72-60 Tuesday night at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.
The Fighting Irish (23-5, 12-2 BIG EAST) saw their nine-game winning streak end in a 78-57 loss at No. 2 Connecticut on Feb. 19 in which they shot just 36 percent from the floor. Notre Dame bounced back against West Virginia, hitting 58 percent of its field goals to make those turnovers seem less painful.
Twenty-two of Notre Dame's 30 baskets came on layups and the nation's sixth-best offense more than handled the fifth-best scoring defense.
Sarah Miles scored 16 points and Madina Ali added 12 for West Virginia (21-7, 7-7). The Mountaineers trailed by double digits for most of the second half and fell for the fourth time in five games.
The Fighting Irish didn't need any help from their bench. The starters scored all but five points and Notre Dame outrebounded West Virginia, 40-31.
WVU had 16 steals but committed 23 turnovers, shot just 35 percent (24 of 68) from the floor and made only 10 of 18 free throws.
Notre Dame kept its attack-the-basket mantra going after building a 13-point halftime lead.
Ali, who's been bothered by a stress fracture in her lower leg most of the season, played just 4 minutes in the first half but answered after the break with hit a three-pointer and a layup 27 seconds apart to bring West Virginia within 53-44 with 11 minutes left.
Peters then made a layup, Brittany Mallory followed with a three-pointer and Notre Dame kept its lead in double digits the rest of the game.
Peters scored the final six points of a 13-1 run that put the Fighting Irish ahead 28-14 with 5:54 left in the half. West Virginia went 6 minutes between field goals before Miles hit the Mountaineers' final three baskets and they trailed 38-25 at halftime.
Notre Dame shot 65 percent (15 of 23) from the floor in the first half and beat West Virginia for the 18th time in 20 all-time meetings.
Noting The West Virginia Game
For the fourth consecutive week, Notre Dame is ranked a season-high No. 8 in the Feb. 21 Associated Press poll. That marked the 74th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001).
With its current poll position, Notre Dame now has appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll in each of the past four seasons and 11 of the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), as well as 100 weeks overall since the Fighting Irish earned their initial AP top-10 ranking (No. 9 on Nov. 24, 1996).
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 213 weeks during the program's 34-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish rose to a season-best No. 7 in the Feb. 22 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 74 of the past 75 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 205 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the third consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as nine of the past 13 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 213 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 30 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart on previous page), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll for two weeks in mid-February.
Six of the 16 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 210-17 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 138 of their last 149 such contests, and 47 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).
The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in 22 games this year, including their Feb. 22 win at West Virginia when they led 38-25 through the first 20 minutes.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 16 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame's first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 226-15 (.938) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 18 contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, Southeast Missouri State, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Rutgers).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 153-5 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in 14 games this year (13-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 203 of their last 230 games (.883) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 112-19 (.862) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 93 of their last 101 non-BIG EAST contests (.921) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 352-88 (.800) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.
Notre Dame has wasted little time in tackling that challenge, averaging 8,516 fans for its 16 home games this season (fifth in the country according to this week's NCAA attendance report), including sellout crowds of 9,149 for its games against games against Purdue (Dec. 5), Connecticut (Jan. 8), St. John's (Jan. 23) and Rutgers (Feb. 12).
Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.
McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.
McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.
The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game. The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women's basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 26 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Feb. 22 West Virginia contest (televised live on College Sports), Notre Dame has played in 189 televised games, including 134 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Sets Pace For Pink Zone
Following last year's wildly-successful fundraising efforts for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone breast cancer initiative, Notre Dame reached even higher this season, as the Fighting Irish already have raised a program-record $116,405 for the initiative, easily the most by any Division I school in the country this year. That also lifts Notre Dame's combined Pink Zone fundraising total in the last three years to more than a quarter of a million dollars (approximately $260,000).
In 2009-10, the Fighting Irish collected nearly $104,000 for the global unified effort by the WBCA's membership to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
Notre Dame's local Pink Zone drive is led by primary sponsor Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, with donations divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Women's Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
This year, Notre Dame brought back some of its more popular fundraising activities, including the Fighting Irish Three-Point Pledge (fans donate a certain amount for every three-pointer made by Notre Dame this season) and the Notre Dame Pink Zone Store (sales of various Pink Zone items, including t-shirts, buttons, tote bags, etc., in the Joyce Center's Heritage Hall at all Fighting Irish home games). The Notre Dame Gameday Silent Auction also was a huge hit again in 2010-11, with more than 100 items generating $13,000 in bids for this year's effort.
Some new events added for this year included the Pink Zone Treadmill Campaign (celebrities walked on a courtside treadmill during the Jan. 23, Feb. 1, 8 and 12 games) and the Notre Dame Women's Basketball SPIN-A-THON (a 24-hour event to ride stationary bikes on Jan. 22-23 at South Bend's Knollwood Country Club, which raised $30,000 for the cause).
In addition, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson (a Notre Dame alumna and breast cancer survivor) was the keynote speaker at the inaugural "Docs in Pink" luncheon at Club Naimoli in Purcell Pavilion, an event that generated more than $20,000.
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Notre Dame Pink Zone web page at www.UND.com/pinkzone.
Nice Threads, Coach
While Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and assistant coach Niele Ivey are well-known for their fashion sense on the sidelines, another Fighting Irish assistant stole the spotlight at Notre Dame's Pink Zone game on Feb. 12 against Rutgers.
Associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis took the floor wearing a snappy pink blazer, courtesy of none other than former Villanova men's basketball coach and 1985 NCAA national champion Rollie Massimino.
For the past few years, Tsipis has visited Massimino's current home at NAIA Division II member Northwood University (West Palm Beach, Fla.) to observe the legendary coach's practices. Last summer, the Notre Dame coach noticed Massimino wearing a pink sportcoat in one of his school's media guides and asked where he could obtain one of his own. Massimino quickly offered to loan his jacket to Tsipis, and the rest is "Pink Zone" history.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year four of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 26 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State and Seton Hall.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 15 different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 26 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, nine on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
Next Game: DePaul
The Fighting Irish will wrap up the regular season Monday night when they travel to Chicago for a 9 p.m. (ET)/8 p.m. (CT) BIG EAST Conference matchup with No. 7/11 DePaul at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Regardless of Saturday's outcomes, Monday's game will decide the No. 2 seed for next week's BIG EAST Championship in Hartford, Conn.
The Blue Demons (25-4, 12-2) had their four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday with a 68-55 loss at Louisville. DePaul heads north to No. 24/22 Marquette on Saturday night before returning home to face Notre Dame two nights later.