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    Fighting Irish
    #23/22 Irish Back On The Road Saturday At Providence

    FIGHTING IRISH Senior guard Lindsay Schrader needs six points to become the 25th 1,000-point scorer in program history, four games after junior guard Ashley Barlow reached the milestone on Feb. 11 against Louisville.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader needs six points to become the 25th 1,000-point scorer in program history, four games after junior guard Ashley Barlow reached the milestone on Feb. 11 against Louisville.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Feb. 27, 2009

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    2008-09 ND Women's Basketball: Game 27
    #23/22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-7 / 8-6 BIG EAST) vs. Providence Friars (10-17 / 4-10 BIG EAST)

    DATE: February 28, 2009
    TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Providence, R.I. - Alumni Hall (2,620)
    SERIES: ND leads 16-0
    1ST MTG: ND 90-80 (1/14/96)
    LAST MTG: ND 85-54 (1/30/08)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Chris Masters, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TEXT ALERT: UND.com
    TICKETS: (401) 865-4672

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is one victory away from its 15th 20-win season in the past 16 years and the 19th in the 22-year Muffet McGraw era.
  • The Irish also are one victory shy of posting their second consecutive 10-win season on the road, a feat Notre Dame has pulled off only once before (1989-90 and 1990-91).
  • No. 23/22 Irish Back On The Road Saturday At Providence
    For the final time in the 2008-09 regular season, No. 23/22 Notre Dame will pack up and hit the road as it travels to Providence on Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) game against the Friars at Alumni Hall. The Irish come into the contest tied for fifth in the BIG EAST standings, one game back of fourth-place Villanova.

    Notre Dame (19-7, 8-6) turned in a crisp offensive performance on Tuesday night, leading almost the entire way in a 90-79 win over Syracuse at the Joyce Center. The Irish, who shot 48.4 percent from the floor in the victory, used a 24-6 run in the first half to move in front, and then added a 12-4 run early in the second half to seize control for good.

    All five starters scored in double figures for Notre Dame, led by senior guard Lindsay Schrader's 23 points, a career-high-tying 20 points from sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski, and a double-double from junior center Erica Williamson (18 points, 11 rebounds).

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll and is ranked 22nd in this week's ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
  • Providence is not ranked.
  • A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    Notre Dame (19-7, 8-6) is ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll and 22nd in the current ESPN/USA Today poll. The Irish are part of a three-way tie for fifth place (with DePaul and Rutgers) in the BIG EAST standings. The Irish are one game back of fourth-place Villanova (and the final "double bye" for the BIG EAST Championship) with two games left in the regular season.

    Despite losing two key players (sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory) to season-ending knee injuries earlier in the year, Notre Dame consistently has ranked among the top 40 teams in the nation in scoring offense (currently 26th at 73.0 ppg.) and scoring margin (39th at +10.4 ppg.).

    The Irish also feature a balanced offense that sees four players presently scoring in double figures. In addition, nine different players have led the team in scoring at least once during the year, while 10 of the 12 players have scored in double figures at least once to date.

    Junior guard Ashley Barlow leads a tightly-bunched scoring crew for Notre Dame at 12.8 points per game, while tying for second on the team with 4.8 rebounds a night. She also is among the BIG EAST leaders in steals (2.54 spg.) and has knocked down a team-high 32 three-pointers (including a career-high four treys at top-ranked Connecticut).

    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader has posted career-high averages almost across the board this season, placing second on the squad in scoring (12.7 ppg.) and first in rebounding (7.3 rpg.). She also has recorded a team-high five double-doubles this year, and is averaging 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in her last three games.

    The Irish also are paced by two of the BIG EAST's most improved players in junior point guard Melissa Lechlitner and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski. A first-year starter, Lechlitner is tied for third on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.) while setting the pace with 3.54 assists per game, a 1.48 assist/turnover ratio and a .339 three-point percentage (all well above her previous career highs).

    Also in her first year as a starter, Bruszewski has doubled her scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (4.8 rpg.) averages, along with a .502 field goal percentage that is 11th-best in the BIG EAST. What's more, she is in the midst of the most successful run of her young career, averaging 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in her last seven games, including a career-high 20 points twice in the past three games (USF, Syracuse).

    Potent Notables About The Irish

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 311 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 7,356 fans for its 12 home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 122 of their last 124 home games, including six Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past eight seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Allen, Megan Duffy (New York) and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) all were active in the league during the '08 season, with all three teams making the playoffs (San Antonio made the WNBA Finals, while New York was the Eastern Conference runner-up). Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. Notre Dame also was one of only four teams with a perfect '07 GSR to advance to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 (joining Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate).
  • A Quick Look At Providence
    The growth and progress of the Providence women's basketball program continues this season, as the Friars bring a 10-17 record (4-10 BIG EAST) into Saturday's game against Notre Dame. PC's conference win total is its best in seven years, while the Friars already have a win over a ranked opponent for the third consecutive season (77-69 over No. 19/20 Pittsburgh on Jan. 7 at Alumni Hall).

    Providence snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 51-49 victory over Marquette at Alumni Hall. Senior guard Chelsea Marandola scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Friars, who shot 45.7 percent from the field and held the Golden Eagles to a .269 field goal percentage.

    Marandola, who missed all of last season with an injury, leads PC in scoring (11.5 ppg.) and steals (1.2 spg.), while ranking third in rebounding (4.9 rpg.) and three-point percentage (.321). Senior forward Shantee Darrian is grabbing a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game, while junior forward Emily Cournoyer owns a team-high .456 field goal percentage and team-best 43 blocks.

    Head coach Phil Seymore is in his fourth season at Providence with a 43-69 (.384) record. He is 0-3 all-time against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Providence Series
    Notre Dame and Providence will square off for the 17th time on Saturday, with the Irish having won each of the 16 prior matchups in the series, which began when Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96. The Irish also are 8-0 all-time against the Friars at Alumni Hall.

    The Last Time ND And Providence Met
    The first time Notre Dame pressed full-court, Providence guard Kendria Holmes threw a long pass to Mi-Khida Hankins for an easy layup.

    It was the only basket for the Friars in a span of nearly seven minutes as the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish used a 20-2 run to take control en route to an 85-54 victory on Jan. 30, 2008, at the Joyce Center.

    Notre Dame forced Providence into a season-high 29 turnovers, including 23 steals -- the most by the Irish in 13 years and one shy of the BIG EAST Conference record.

    Lindsay Schrader had game highs of 15 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame. Charel Allen had 12 points and Devereaux Peters provided the Irish with a spark off the bench, also scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Point guards Tulyah Gaines and Melissa Lechlitner added 10 points apiece, while Allen also had a career-high six steals, and Gaines and Ashley Barlow picked up four each.

    The Irish scored 34 points off Providence turnovers, outrebounded the Friars, 45-32, and outscored them inside, 38-28.

    Notre Dame started slowly, making just one of its first 10 shots to fall behind, 9-3. But Gaines got the Irish going with a steal, behind-the-back dribble and layup to ignite the 20-2 run and Notre Dame never saw its lead dip below 10 points the rest of the way.

    Hankins led Providence with 15 points and Shantee Darrian had 10.

    The Last Time ND And Providence Met At Alumni Hall
    Charel Allen scored eight of her game-high 26 points in Notre Dame's 21-0 second-half run as the Irish pulled away from Providence after the break and posted an 82-65 BIG EAST Conference victory on Feb. 17, 2007, at Alumni Hall in Providence, R.I.

    Allen made a bit of history, becoming the first Notre Dame player in nearly 10 years to score 25-or-more points in three consecutive games. However, Allen was just part of a balanced scoring effort for Notre Dame, which got a particularly strong performance from its freshmen. Melissa Lechlitner scored 16 points and delivered a team-high four assists in a reserve role, while Erica Williamson chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds and Ashley Barlow carded eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.

    Chelsea Marandola paced Providence with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Shauna Snyder added 11 markers. However, Notre Dame held the Friars to a .324 field goal percentage and owned a sizeable 45-36 edge on the glass. In addition, the Irish were sharp at the foul line, connecting at a 77.8 percent clip (28-of-36) on the day.

    Alumni Hall has been a difficult place for Notre Dame to play in recent years, and it appeared that trend would continue, as the Irish battled through turnover problems in the opening 20 minutes and never led by more than two points, while the Friars controlled much of the early tempo. However, in a sign of things to come, Notre Dame closed the first half on a 10-3 run, getting six points from Allen in the spurt to take a 39-36 halftime lead.

    The Irish then came charging from the gate in the second half, ripping off 21 unanswered points in the first 7:58 and not allowing Providence to score a single point until Brittany Dorsey made two foul shots with 11:03 remaining in the second half. The Friars also misfired on their first 12 field goal attempts of the period, while the Irish made seven of its first 10 shots in that same span. Snyder finally broke the PC shooting drought with a foul-line jumper at the 10:37 mark, but by then, Notre Dame was in complete control, leading 61-40. The Irish got the lead as high as 67-42 before a late three-pointer by Ashley Etheridge helped the hosts close the final margin to 17 points.

    Other ND-Providence Series Tidbits

  • Providence is one of two BIG EAST opponents against whom Notre Dame has lost (minimum of five games played), with Cincinnati (5-0) being the other.
  • Notre Dame's 16-game winning streak vs. Providence is its longest active string against a BIG EAST opponent.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in in more than half (nine) of the series games against PC, including each of the past two meetings.
  • Providence has reached the 70-point level three times against Notre Dame (all coming in the first three series games), and the Friars have scored more than 60 points three times in the past 13 games vs. the Irish.
  • Notre Dame has won 14 of the 16 series games against Providence by double-digit margins, with the exceptions coming on Jan. 5, 2002 (72-66 in South Bend) and Feb. 16, 2003 (67-61 at PC).
  • The Irish have averaged 83.3 points in their eight prior matchups with Providence at Alumni Hall, topping the 90-point mark in their first four visits and winning all eight by an average of 21.3 points per game.
  • Between the two teams, there are three former winners of the Gatorade High School Player of the Year award in their respective states -- Notre Dame senior guard Lindsay Schrader (Illinois - 2005) and freshman forward Kellie Watson (Michigan - 2008) and Providence senior guard Chelsea Marandola (Rhode Island - 2004-05).
  • Notre Dame sophomore guard Brittany Mallory and Providence sophomore guard/forward Mi-Khida Hankins dueled regularly during their prep days in Baltimore -- Mallory at McDonogh School and Hankins at St. Frances Academy. The schools are in the same conference and played a minimum of twice per year, including the 2008 IAAM A Conference title clash, won by St. Frances, 68-63. Both players also were first-team All-Metro selections by the Baltimore Sun in 2006 and 2007.
  • Several members of the Notre Dame athletics department have ties to Providence, including hockey associate head coach Paul Pooley (PC head coach from 1994-2005), director of athletics marketing Beth Hunter ('98 PC grad and graduate assistant in PC athletics marketing office from 1998-2000), assistant athletics director/sports information director Bernadette Cafarelli (PC assistant director of athletics marketing, promotions and media relations from 1987-94) and assistant sports information director Tim Connor (member of PC athletics marketing, promotions and media relations staff from 1987-2000, spending the final six years as PC's director of athletic media relations).
  • 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 80-23 (.777) in February games, including a 46-5 (.902) mark at home.

    In the 22-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 128-38 (.771) in the month of February, including a 68-11 (.861) 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).

    Serving Notice
    Notre Dame is 5-3 against Associated Press Top 25 opponents this season, with four of those victories coming against non-conference opponents. That marks the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent nearly half of the BIG EAST's nine Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than two Top 25 non-conference victories this season).

    Two of Notre Dame's three losses to ranked opponents have come against AP top-10 foes by an average of 7.5 points. The Irish dropped a 71-66 decision at home to No. 10/12 Louisville on Feb. 11, and bowed at top-ranked Connecticut, 76-66, on Feb. 22 (the closest any team has come to taking down the Huskies this season).

    Closer Than You Think
    Notre Dame's seven losses this season have come by an average of 8.3 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), and in six of them, the Irish either led in the second half, or had a chance to take the lead down the stretch.

    On Dec. 10 at Michigan, Notre Dame led by two with 13 seconds left in regulation, but a turnover allowed the Wolverines to send the game to OT. In the extra session, the Irish had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but came up short, falling 63-59.

    On Jan. 13 at Marquette, Notre Dame led by as many as eight points in the second half, and trailed by only two with 4:30 to play before the Golden Eagles pulled away for a 75-65 win.

    On Jan. 24 at Villanova, the Irish never led, but also rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to get within one point three times in the second half. Notre Dame had four second-half possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, but could never quite manage to break through, as the Wildcats gamely hung on for a 55-48 win.

    On Feb. 3 at No. 22/24 Pittsburgh, Notre Dame nearly erased a 13-point first-half deficit, trimming the margin to one point twice, and even had a chance to tie, but missed one of two free throws 4:45 into the second half before the Panthers finally drew clear down the stretch.

    On Feb. 11 vs. No. 10/12 Louisville, the Irish used a 12-2 second-half run to virtually wipe out a 14-point Cardinal lead, getting within 63-61 with 1:49 left before Louisville earned a three-shot foul with one second on the shot clock on the ensuing possession (and hit all three free throws). Notre Dame got back within three twice more in the final minute, but the Cardinals made a basket and three free throws to keep the Irish at bay.

    On Feb. 22 at No. 1 Connecticut, Notre Dame took a 43-41 lead with 16:11 to play, becoming the first team to own a second-half lead on the Huskies this season. However, Connecticut responded with a 22-1 run during the next 6:39 to wrest control away from the Irish, who rallied back within eight points twice in the final 1:13.

    A Real Smart Al-Lech
    Junior point guard and tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner had started only once in her first two seasons at Notre Dame, but the Mishawaka, Ind., native seems to be making up for lost time this year, while emerging as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference.

    Lechlitner has nearly doubled her scoring average from last year to 10.7 points per game, with 14 double-figure scoring nights (after 16 in her first two seasons combined). She also tossed in a career-high 19 points on Dec. 7 in a victory over No. 17/20 Purdue at the Joyce Center.

    In addition, Lechlitner ranks among the conference pacesetters in assists (11th, 3.5 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (eighth, 1.48). Her numbers are even better since BIG EAST play began, ranking sixth in assist/turnover ratio (1.61) and seventh in assists (4.14). Across the board, these averages are career highs, in some cases even doubling her previous bests.

    Off the court, Lechlitner was a prime candidate for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District status, having been nominated for the honor after compiling a 3.357 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) through the fall 2008 semester as she works towards her degree in psychology.

    One Killer B
    Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski is making the most of her first season as a starter for the Irish, tying for third on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.), second in rebounding (4.8 rpg.) and first in field goal percentage (.502, 11th in the BIG EAST Conference). The Valparaiso, Ind., native has doubled last year's scoring (5.0 ppg.) and rebounding (2.5 rpg.) averages, while adding a reliable three-point shot to her arsenal (.381, 16-of-42) after making 1-of-2 from beyond the arc last season.

    Bruszewski has been especially sharp in the past seven games, averaging 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game with a .512 field goal percentage (42-of-82). She has scored in double figures in six of those seven games, with her first career double-double (14 points, career-high 12 rebounds) on Feb. 8 in a win over No. 25 DePaul. She also has either tied or set a new career scoring high in three of the past four games, including a pair of career-best 20-point outings a week apart at South Florida (Feb. 17) and at home vs. Syracuse (Feb. 24).

    Make Mine A Grand(e)
    With 16 points against No. 10/12 Louisville on Feb. 11, junior guard and tri-captain Ashley Barlow became the 24th player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to score 1,000 career points. Barlow hit the milestone on the nose by making two free throws with 37 seconds left.

    Now ranking 22nd on the Irish all-time scoring list (1,047), Barlow is the first Notre Dame player to score her 1,000th career point since Charel Allen reached the mark on Feb. 26, 2007, at DePaul. Barlow also could be joined in the Irish 1,000-Point Club later this season by senior guard and fellow captain Lindsay Schrader, who presently has 994 career points.

    Using Her Charge Card
    Junior center Erica Williamson has developed an uncanny knack for drawing charges despite her 6-foot-4 frame. The Charlotte, N.C., product has taken a team-high 12 charges this season, nearly half of Notre Dame's team total of 26 to date.

    This is the first season the Irish have tracked charges taken (which are an unofficial statistic and not recognized by the NCAA), although it is believed Williamson drew at least a dozen offensive fouls last year.

    Piping Hot Turnovers
    After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is on a similar pace again this year, causing 511 turnovers (19.7 per game) through 26 games.

    More than half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 262 thefts (10.1 per game, third in the BIG EAST) after leading the conference in that category each of the past two seasons -- the first time the Irish won their league's steal title since 1990-91, when they took top honors in the old Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League) with a school-record 397 steals (12.4 spg.), while their 237 steals (14.8 spg.) in conference play remain a Horizon League standard to this day.

    Born To Run
    Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned 10 game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.

    Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That was the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.

    Road Warriors
    Notre Dame is 19-9 (.679) in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks this season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).

    From Dec. 28-Jan. 6, the Irish embarked on a four-game road swing, their longest regular-season trip since early in the 2002-03 season, sweeping games at Charlotte (68-61), No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (59-57), Seton Hall (66-60) and DePaul (86-62).

    It was the first time Notre Dame won four consecutive games, all on the road (opponent's home floor) since Jan. 7-19, 1991, when the Irish won at Butler (80-64), DePaul (81-66), Loyola-Chicago (66-55) and Marquette (91-73) in succession during Notre Dame's first full week as a ranked team in program history.

    New Kids On The Block
    It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame's freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.

    With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class -- forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.

    Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame's 19-7 record. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least three times (Novosel-8, Solomon-7, Watson-3), with both Watson and Novosel also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Watson - Dec. 1 & 8; Novosel - Dec. 29 & Jan. 12).

    What's more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 15 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame's go-to defensive stopper, averaging nearly one steal per game in her 18 appearances this season.

    Notre Dame's knack for quick player development should come as no surprise -- the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.

    Spreading The Wealth
    Notre Dame has seen nine different players lead the team in scoring this season, with six of the Irish leading scorers also registering a career-scoring high at some point this year -- Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19), Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown (21), Natalie Novosel vs. Rutgers (19) and Becca Bruszewski at South Florida/vs. Syracuse (20). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish eight times, senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted six team-high scoring games, and freshman forward Erica Solomon, who tossed in a team-high 14 points on Feb. 3 at No. 22/24 Pittsburgh.

    The only three players on the Irish roster who have not taken a turn leading the team in scoring thus far are injured sophomore forward Devereaux Peters (out for season with torn ACL in her left knee), freshman guard Fraderica Miller and walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19.

    For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with Miller and Christiansen aiming to join that club.

    More On The Balance Beam
    Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in eight NCAA team statistical categories (as of Monday), led by a No. 26 ranking in scoring offense (73.0 ppg.).

    At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings -- junior guard Ashley Barlow is 44th in the nation in steals (2.54 spg.).

    A Start We Can Believe In
    Notre Dame's 14-1 start was the second-best 15-game debut in school history. The only time an Irish squad started better than this year's club was 2000-01, when Notre Dame opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program's first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll, rising one spot from the previous week's rank. It's the 36th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 176 weeks during the program's 32-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 tied for 24th all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Irish earned their 36th consecutive ranking in this week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, rising two spots to No. 22. Notre Dame's season-high poll position of fourth on Jan. 6 and 13 was the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 5, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 3. Notre Dame has appeared in the coaches' poll for 167 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 176 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 24 people on this list, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).

    Nostradamus In High Heels
    With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.

    After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.

    The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program's first national championship.

    Game #26 Recap: Syracuse
    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader had 23 points and eight rebounds, sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 20 points and No. 23/22 Notre Dame raced out to a 17-point lead in the first half on the way to beating Syracuse 90-79 on Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.

    Junior center Erica Williamson added 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Irish (19-7, 8-6 BIG EAST). Junior guard Ashley Barlow had 13 and fellow junior guard Melissa Lechlitner 12.

    Nicole Michael led the Orange (15-12, 4-10) with 17 points and Chandrea Jones had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

    The Irish looked like they were going to win in a blowout, opening a 24-7 lead early. But a 13-0 run by the Orange late in the half, highlighted by a four-point play by Tasha Harris, tied the score at 36.

    Notre Dame led 38-36 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 5-0 spurt. The Irish took control with a 12-4 run, opening a 57-45 lead when they made four free throws as Juanita Ward was called for a foul and a technical.

    Noting The Syracuse Game

  • Notre Dame posted its highest point total since Nov. 23, when it earned a 102-54 win at Boston College.
  • The Irish also had five double-figure scorers for the first time since that BC game and the third time this season.
  • Notre Dame notched its best field goal percentage since Jan. 10, when they shot 53.8 percent in a win over Georgetown at the Joyce Center.
  • The Irish matched their BIG EAST season high with 52 second-half points, having also scored 52 in the final 20 minutes vs. Georgetown (the overall season high is 53 second-half points at BC).
  • Notre Dame's 24-6 first-half blitz was its best scoring run since Jan. 13 at Marquette, when the Irish reeled off a 20-2 spurt late in the first half.
  • For the second time in three games, Notre Dame fielded two 20-point scorers, having also done so exactly one week ago at South Florida (with the same two players - Schrader and Bruszewski); prior to that USF game, it had been more than two years (Dec. 6, 2006 vs. Purdue) since the Irish had rolled out multiple 20-point scorers in the same game.
  • Notre Dame improves to 10-2 at home this season, marking the 12th time in the past 14 seasons the Irish have posted double-digit home wins.
  • For the third time this season, Notre Dame played twice in a little more than 48 hours, and in all three cases, the Irish have won the back end of that quick turnaround (also Nov. 25 vs. Georgia Southern and Dec. 30 at #20/19 Vanderbilt); the Irish will have one more such quirk in the schedule, with their regular-season finale next Monday (March 2) at home vs. West Virginia coming two days after the trip to Providence.
  • Notre Dame tied its season high with eight blocks, a mark it attained twice before (most recently on Dec. 13 at Valparaiso).
  • Notre Dame rises to 22-2 all-time against Syracuse, including an 11-0 mark at the Joyce Center, where the Irish have won the past nine (and 10 of 11) by double figures.
  • The Irish now have scored at least 70 points in 19 of 24 series games, with this being their highest offensive output against Syracuse since Jan. 26, 1999 (a 94-61 win at SU's former home, Manley Field House).
  • Meanwhile, the Orange top the 70-point mark for the third time in the series, and first since March 3, 2002, when they upset the Irish, 84-79 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at Piscataway, N.J.
  • Notre Dame's 22 series wins are tied for the third-most against one opponent in program history, topped only by 28 wins vs. Marquette and 23 vs. Georgetown.
  • Notre Dame is 44-4 (.917) all-time against New York schools, including a 24-0 record at home (21 of those wins coming by double digits).
  • For the fifth time in the past six series games vs. Syracuse, an Irish player has tied or set a new career scoring high, with Bruszewski tossing in a career-high-tying 20 points (a standard she first set at South Florida one week earlier).
  • For the second consecutive game vs. the Orange, Williamson posted a double-double, having logged 14 points and 11 rebounds in last year's win at the Carrier Dome (Feb. 16, 2008); she now has four career double-doubles (half vs. Syracuse, which is not far from her former hometown of Rochester, N.Y.), including two this season (the other was on Jan. 10 vs. Georgetown with a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds).
  • Williamson's season-high 11 rebounds were the most for the Irish center since last year's Syracuse game.
  • Williamson also tied her career high with five blocked shots, having first done so in her college debut on Nov. 10, 2006, vs. Central Michigan; Williamson is the first Irish player with five blocks in a game since Nov. 9, 2007, when Devereaux Peters had five rejections in her debut game, a 98-50 win over Miami (Ohio) in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT at the Joyce Center.
  • Williamson recorded her 100th career blocked shot (now with 102) and breaks out of a tie with former teammate Melissa D'Amico (97 from 2004-08) for ninth place on the Notre Dame all-time blocks list.
  • On her 22nd birthday, Schrader scored one point for every candle on her cake (plus one to grow on), pulling her within six points of becoming the 25th 1,000-point scorer in school history.
  • Barlow moved into sole possession of 22nd place on the Irish career scoring list with 1,047 points, breaking free of a tie with Mollie Peirick (1,034 from 1994-98); next up for Barlow is Carrie Bates, who tallied 1,060 points from 1981-85.
  • Barlow tied her career high with six assists, a mark she has reached five other times (most recently on Jan. 10 vs. Georgetown).
  • For the first time since Dec. 20 vs. Loyola-Chicago (and the fourth time this year, including the Gannon exhibition), Notre Dame reached the 88-point mark, resulting in a coupon for a free Big Mac for the 5,640 fans in attendance; Lechlitner hit the "Big Mac Basket" with 44 seconds left to put the Irish over the top, the first time in the two-year history of the promotion that the junior point guard has delivered the burger ball.
  • Peters, Mallory Out For Season
    Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters' injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame's win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Mallory underwent successful corrective surgery on Jan. 6, while Peters did the same on Feb. 6, with both players now beginning their respective rehabilitation programs.

    Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA's hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a "medical redshirt") that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team's scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).

    Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.

    Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
    With the injuries to Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame added junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen to its roster on Dec. 19. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has appeared in five games, averaging 0.6 points and 0.2 rebounds in 1.6 minutes per contest.

    A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players' section of the PDF version of these game notes.

    Half And Half
    During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 162-16 (.910) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 90 of their last 100 such contests.

    This season, Notre Dame is 16-2 when it is ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, and 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13.

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 193-13 (.937) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    Notre Dame is 9-1 in such games this season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and DePaul (second game). The lone loss came Jan. 24 at Villanova (55-48).

    ...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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 123-4 (.969) 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 has scored at least 80 points in nine games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.

    Now That's A Home Court Advantage
    One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 172 of their last 195 games (.882) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 98-17 (.852) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.

    The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee 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 Joyce Center, posting a 322-84 (.793) 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.

    Crowded House
    The Dec. 7 home game vs. No. 17/20 Purdue was sold out, representing the sixth women's basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game sold out.

    On Jan. 27, Notre Dame drew 10,082 fans for its game against Rutgers, marking the largest weeknight crowd in school history and the eighth-largest overall audience in the program's 32-year annals.

    The Feb. 8 WBCA Pink Zone game vs. No. 25 DePaul attracted 10,011 fans, making it the ninth-largest crowd in school history and a record-tying third gathering of 10,000 fans or more this season (matching last year's record).

    A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version of this notes package.

    Irish Have New Home On The Dial
    On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.

    Notre Dame On The Small Screen
    Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including five games 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 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.

    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 134 televised games, including 84 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

    Shootaround With Beth & Debbie
    For the second consecutive year, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) is featuring a weekly national women's basketball podcast entitled "Shootaround With Beth & Debbie". The 30-minute show, which is available for download each Wednesday during the basketball season through the WBCA web site (www.wbca.org), is hosted by national women's basketball television broadcasters Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli. It features in-depth analysis of all the latest happenings in the world of women's college basketball, as well as interviews with some of the game's top coaches -- in fact, Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw was a guest on one of the podcast's first airings early last year.

    ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
    Notre Dame's Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year's NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.

    All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).

    Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.

    Notre Dame Welcomes NCAA Pinnacle Of Fitness Challenge Program
    The NCAA announced the details for the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge program which will energize middle school age children in nine cities across the United States and allow them to compete for a chance to win the national title in St. Louis during the week of the 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four.

    The Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame is one of the nine sites for the competition and will host its first Middle School Challenge at halftime of the first-round game of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship that will be played on March 22. An additional Middle School Challenge will take place on March 24 during halftime of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship second-round game at the Joyce Center. For tickets call (574) 631-7356 or go online to www.UND.com.

    The Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is an NCAA Division I women's basketball initiative of healthy living and education that will challenge and improve individuals and their communities. The 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is expected to involve 100 middle schools in nine selected cities, with 74,000 middle school students participating.

    The cornerstone of the program is the Middle School Challenge, which will educate and challenge students to improve their level of physical fitness through leading active lives, goal setting and developing life skills. The program will reward youth for improving their health and wellness and will be conducted at sites that will host a first- and second-round or regional round of competition during the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.

    The Middle School Challenge will begin with each of the competing middle schools conducting in-school physical fitness assessment and testing. The top-10 students from the competing middle schools will compete in progressive on-court competitions at the sites during the regular season and again during the championship.

    Competing middle schools and individual students will be recognized through school rewards that include fitness support funding for equipment, special events and awards. The winning middle school from each region will be awarded the opportunity to compete in the NCAA National Pinnacle of Fitness challenge on center court at NCAA Hoop City Refreshed by Coca-Cola® during the 2009 Women's Final Four. There, one middle school will be named the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge champion.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its "Big Mac" promotion for 2008-09, 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.

    It didn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark four times -- in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19), Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20) and Syracuse (90-79 on Feb. 24).

    Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.

    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 -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.

    This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have largely taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville. Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner had the most recent burger ball, hitting a runner in the lane late in the win over Syracuse on Feb. 24.

    Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
    On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.

    The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.

    Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.

    The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.

    Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.

    For more information on the new Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, see the inside back cover of the 2008-09 Notre Dame women's basketball media guide, or go on-line for a virtual tour at www.UND.com/purcell.

    Next Game: West Virginia
    The Irish will wrap up the 2008-09 regular season Monday with a rare weekday afternoon (3:30 p.m ET) game against West Virginia at the Joyce Center. It will be Senior Day for Notre Dame, with the Irish honoring their two senior managers, Caitlin Madden and Brad LeNoir, in a pre-game ceremony.

    WVU (15-12, 4-10) has had an up-and-down season following the graduation of seven seniors from last year's 25-9 club. The Mountaineers are playing host to Syracuse Saturday before heading out to South Bend for Monday's regular-season finale.

    -- ND --
     

     

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